It’s not everyday that Drake is my inspiration for…well, anything, but this morning he inspired today’s post. While listening to his newest album (just to see what the hype is all about) a line in the intro “Tuscan Leather” caught my attention:
I don’t change like credentials, you know you see the necklace/My life’s a completed checklist…
My initial reaction was “man, I can’t wait until my life’s a completed checklist!” followed immediately by, “but wait, what happens then?” If the checklist is complete, what’s the point of doing anything else?
I am a lover of lists. I have a 25 before 25 list, a 30 before 30 list, a reading list, a Connecticut bucket list, a list of things I need to save for, a bucket list with Mr. Forever, a list for making decisions - you name it and I’ve probably listed it. Listing goals helps me organize my thoughts and track my progress. I don’t think I’ll ever stop building my life around lists (seriously, this is on my wishlist!). That being said, the older I get, the more I realize that the best lists are tools that help me get where I want to go and not standards that I measure my accomplishments against. Sometimes I look at my 30 before 30 list and laugh at some of the things I thought were so important to accomplish back when I made it. Will I still try do them before 30? Maybe. But if I don’t, that’s okay.
When we get too tied to a list of accomplishments that we think will make us the person we want (or ought) to be it can be easy to lose sight of the person who made that list and how her wants and needs change over time. When we talk about women having it “all” the conversation often includes a common checklist: high powered job, husband, house, kids. By discounting the women who haven’t checked every box on that list (even if they are perfectly happy!) we buy into the idea that there is some ideal “list” and once a woman has crossed off every element, she will have it “all.” That’s silly! It may be the list for some women but not for others. It may not be the list for you.
I was recently chatting with a friend who wondered why she’s not quite as happy as she thinks she should be. “I just want the life y’know? A house, a husband, kids, the white picket fence and a dog.” “Honey!” I exclaimed, “You’re allergic to dogs!” We both dissolved into giggles but the fact remained that it wasn’t an uncommon scenario. We think up (or society thinks up) a list of what we think we need to be happy or successful or pretty or good mothers, etc., and then we beat ourselves up when we don’t have everything on that list or have everything and still don’t feel happy/successful/pretty etc., without ever asking ourselves if it’s what we wanted to begin with.
A perfect example of this is the modern day wedding. An entire industry is built around convincing otherwise reasonable people that somehow their wedding day will be incomplete if they don’t have any number of items off a list that grows longer and more expensive every year! I love weddings, but after reading A Practical Wedding, I realized that a couple is no less married, and their wedding day is no less wonderful, if it’s planned around a list of the things they actually care about (good food, good music, good friends) without any regard to things they don’t (fancy flowers, guestbooks, favors). Nobody (worth celebrating with) ever leaves a good party saying “If only she’d splurged on the roses!” The same goes for life! If I am a good person, do good deeds and live a generally happy life, nobody (who loves me) will sit at my funeral going, “If only she were more well-traveled!”
Sometimes we judge ourselves against our lists because we think others will as well- but most of the time, they’re caught up in their own lists and only “judging” you to the extent they’re comparing themselves to you (and who has time to care about that?). Focus on living your life and make lists as guidelines, not rule books. At the end of the day, your life doesn’t need to be a completed checklist (sorry Drake), it just needs to be a life well-lived.