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The Evolution of My Bookish Bucket List

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Jessi Lewis

Staff Writer

Jessi Lewis has her MFA in fiction and an MA in Writing and Rhetoric. She was one of the founding editors of Cheat River Review and now works to bring her own fiction, poetry and essays to eyes each month.     Twitter: @jessiwrit

In the process of living my 29th year, I’m recognizing a couple things about what it means to be leaving my 20s. First, lots of people still act like I’m just NOW accepting old age, though they don’t realize that I’m practically there already. (I love tea, walking very slowly in the woods, and old Christmas movies, so…) Others believe that thirty is actually still pretty young. Still others act like turning thirty is something of a relief because the twenties are a decade of being unsure, low on money, and unfit for adulthood and childhood simultaneously.

Instead, I like to judge my twenties based on a series of bucket lists I wrote. All of them, of course, were lists of things to do before I was thirty, so I’m running out of time. Some of the tasks on there I did (learn how to make risotto), some of them I did not do because they’re kind of goofy (go skydiving with Mom) and some are sad failures I really should have done (go iceskating with Mom like we used to), though I haven’t read any of the books that were on there. They were all classics that I had leapt over somehow, of course, and I’ve talked about these before.

I guess I’m just in a different world now, because I’m unsure why at 22 I felt guilty about not reading Beowulf. Why?

I’m building a new bucket list for things to do before I’m 35 because I love finding these time capsules as I go on in my life even if I don’t always meet my goals. Items that are on there now:

  1. Stand up paddle board in the ocean—because that would be fantastic.
  2. Do a handstand—because I want to empower my shoulder muscles and core.

And the list will go on. It will be a list much like the prior ones—filled with practical things, impractical things, and a few future regrets. But, I have to ask myself, what about books?

the buried giantI have to decide what it is I’m missing from the books I’ve overlooked. How have I not personally grown in my reading life in my 20s? I know that when I heard Kazuo Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize that I was missing out. I loved The Buried Giant, but somehow ignored the body of the rest of his work. The difference is, I didn’t wait a few years to scratch it off my bucket list. I ordered a few of his books because technology is amazing and I’m now 29, so I just do stuff when I think it’s good for me.

They should arrive in the mail any day.

So now, I’m left wondering: If I write a list of books to read before I’m 35, will I just go buy ALL of them? Will I even read them once I have them?

What this really comes down to is not what I should read, but how I read, and while I don’t necessarily take bucket lists too seriously, there is a simple theme here about the empowerment of my reading. I’m coming across too many questions here. So, I guess I should practice more of my own book preaching? Or maybe the answer to this is to be more introspective?

It feels like I’m making plans for the future too complex, too demanding, and without the meaning I need. That feels like something 22-year-old-me would do—find value in something that actually lacks measurable value. Who wants to waste time when time is all we really have? For right now, anyway.

I guess, I’ll just keep my bookish bucket list vague and just go read Ishiguro.

New bucket list entry: Read fifty important books every year that I choose on my own, separate from work assignments. Every year, I should somehow get to decide what “important” means.

I guess that’s how you empower yourself in your 30s—trust yourself to find value in the book world.