50 Things To Do Before You Die (As Told By My 18 Year-Old-Self)


When I was a senior in high school my teacher had us write a letter to our future selves. I was 18 at the time. Three years later, around my 21st birthday, she sent them to us. In my letter I included at list of 50 things I’d like to do before I die. I never thought about the letter again after I sealed it and left it with her to send off. But three years later, I was delighted to find it waiting for me in my parents’ mailbox. Here is what my 18-year-old self listed as the things to do in life:

  1. Have a successful first year of college
  2. Go sky-diving
  3. Climb a 14er
  4. Learn to rock climb
  5. Go through yoga teacher training
  6. Stay in touch with all my friends
  7. Go to Amsterdam
  8. Go back to Africa
  9. Drink wine in Southern France
  10. Scuba dive in Australia
  11. Get an apartment with my friends
  12. Learn to play the guitar
  13. Study abroad
  14. Graduate from college
  15. Fall in love
  16. Get married
  17. Have children
  18. Perform in a poetry slam
  19. Pick a major
  20. Keep studying French
  21. Get a tattoo
  22. Drink tea in India
  23. Take my kids traveling around the world
  24. Live on the beach
  25. Get on TV for something cool
  26. Go on an epic road trip with a best friend
  27. Write a book
  28. Publish my book
  29. Come home every Christmas
  30. Get a puppy
  31. Live with my sister
  32. Get a job I love
  33. Win the lottery
  34. Give my hair to Locks of Love
  35. Work in a coffee shop
  36. Work as a server
  37. Be a bartender
  38. Go on a cruise
  39. Dance on a bar
  40. Go to Mexico
  41. Zip line through a forest
  42. Learn to cook
  43. Meet and have a long conversation with a famous person
  44. Go to my high school reunion
  45. Dye my hair blonde, just to see
  46. Volunteer for Habit for Humanity
  47. Go to a bunch of music festivals
  48. Live a healthy life
  49. Have good values
  50. Be happy.

When I opened my letter, I was overcome with emotion. Even though I hadn’t been consciously thinking about this list, in just three years I had already checked off a number of items on it.

I’ve stayed in touch with all my best friends, I’ve been to Amsterdam and sipped wine in France. I studied abroad in New Zealand, and I spent two of those three years as a blonde. I’ve worked in a coffee shop as a server and, yes, as a bartender. I learned to cook, I’ve gotten a tattoo, I picked a major that I loved and graduated from college. So far I’ve been home every Christmas, I’ve been to many, many music festivals and I’ve been lucky enough to have fallen in love, not once but twice.

I still have so much to do. I have places to travel, I have a book to write, I have a soul mate to find. But even though I haven’t checked off every item on my list, it’s amazing to think about the things you can accomplish in your life even in just a few years. I’m sure that I’ll continue to add items to my list. I’m sure there are some things I’ll never actually get to do (like winning the lottery, for example). But it’s always reassuring to know that even when you’re not thinking directly about it, life really is just what you make it.