How Making a Post-Breakup Bucket List Changed My Life

It was just after my 29th birthday. I was going through a horrific breakup, had moved back in with my parents and started a new job that was beneath my skill level – taken in an attempt to repair my now destroyed relationship. I was depressed and feeling sorry for myself. I spent as much time as I could either sleeping or partying with friends, trying to numb everything.

A new friend from work told me turning 30 was hard for her, and that creating a list of things she wanted to accomplish before her birthday really helped her cope. I didn’t really have the same feelings about turning 30, but I was looking for any distraction from myself. So I started making a list.

I told my brother and sister-in-law about it the night after I finished writing it. My brother was determined to cross something off my list right then and there, despite it being his birthday dinner. We finished eating a fantastic lobster dinner, and then promptly shot-gunned a beer. Only 29 to go!

Having something to really focus on that I was excited about helped me. I wasn’t solely focused on my breakup and feelings of betrayal, but something positive and fun. My friends were no longer dragging my ass out of bed; instead, they were planning with me and helping cross things off my list. When my best friend saw that I had added “keep a plant alive for 6 months” to my list, she dropped off “the easiest plant to keep alive ever.” I was barely able to keep that thing green, but I did it. My other friend, a teacher, signed me up to help out with field trips for her class when I said I wanted to volunteer with kids.

I got a call from my best friend from university who is now living out West. She wanted to help with my list, and suggested I go out to visit her, a trip I had been promising to make for 3 years. We planned out what items on my list we could cross off, and the next day I booked my flights. In those 2 weeks I did multi-day hikes and spent a week camping with zero cell reception while hiking a mountain.

And then something started to happen. I felt myself opening up more. I started doing things that weren’t even on my list. I started to pull those around me closer, encouraging them to run alongside me as I crossed things off. Things I always wanted to do and hadn’t, or hadn’t done in a long time and had been meaning to do again but made excuses. I picked up my camera again, a long forgotten hobby. I was grabbing my life by the horns and steering it into the direction I wanted. 

And the more I said yes to things, the easier saying yes became. When asked by an almost-stranger if I would go to a concert because they had an extra ticket, I agreed. I entered a bowling tournament despite not having bowled since my 10th birthday. If someone wanted to join me, great! If not, I wasn’t afraid to venture on my own. 

And then asking became easier:  I asked a boy I was talking to on Tinder if he wanted to go skydiving on our first date, even though we had never met. I flew across the country just to see Motley Crue in concert.  I hiked to the top of a mountain in the middle of the night just to watch the sunrise.

I’ve always made excuses, mostly that I didn’t have time or resources. But when I think about it, what a load! I had just decided my desires weren’t a priority. 

I had done the resolution thing to no avail. “I’ll lose 15 pounds,” “get into shape,” “give up caffeine.” I was never able to accomplish any of them because I lacked the motivation to do them. I like drinking coffee and hate going to the gym. The only reason why I ever made those my resolutions was because I thought I should. I never actually wanted to do them, when I think about it.

With my 30 Things List, I was very specific and it was from top to bottom things I WANTED to do. It made planning for those things almost as fun as crossing them off. And crossing them off was the most fulfilling thing I had ever done.

So, how did it change my life?

I stopped settling. I no longer gave the time to things that I didn’t absolutely want to say yes to. It was either 100% “Fuck yes!” or it was no.

I left that job that wasn’t challenging. 

I stopped dating boys I didn’t really care about just to fill my days.

I started focusing on spending time with my family and friends.

I traveled. 

I planned out my free time to do things I wanted to do.

I am proud of myself and had the best year of my life accomplishing what I had set out to do: to get out of my comfort zone and start saying yes to myself before anyone or anything else. And now, I am no longer working off a list, but following my heart, fully and completely, for the first time ever. 

The truth? I never finished my list. I got to 27. But I am more than okay with that. 

Related Posts

blondewoman

How Burnout Affects The Brain

People have been experiencing burnout for ages, but the first research papers on the stress-induced state started to appear around the 1970s and 1980s from

girlstanding

What Are The Different Kinds Of Burnout?

According to the definition from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, work-related stress is the only cause of burnout. In their words, “burn-out

womanonlaptop

Is It Burnout Or Something Else?

Are you tired or is it burnout you’re experiencing? How can you know the difference? Burnout can look different depending on the person, but there