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Summer Bucket Lists

In June 2012, I was newly 18, armed with a fresh diploma, and void of any intense summer AP schoolwork. I was staring down 3 glorious months of possibility before I would head to my college of choice and I felt ready to do the impossible. That’s how I found myself with a SUMMER BUCKET LIST.

Much like the central piece in any good coming of age movie, the 3-page list was written on lined paper in sloppy pencil and religiously stored in a page protector, only removed to pink highlight items that had been completed. Its contents ranged from new skills (knit a scarf) to travel excursions (visit my friend in Central PA) to wacky (make homemade slime) to downright unnecessary (sleep on the back porch for a night).

I moved through those three months with such delight. And as I publicly shared more and more about this SUMMER BUCKET LIST, my friends became delighted with it as well. We were always looking at the list on a bored Thursday afternoon, wondering if today might be the day we invented a new type of pizza, made crayons (ruining a cupcake tin in the process), or flew homemade kites.

Once again, June brings with it the sense of possibility. The first day I step outside without a jacket, I feel the “main character energy” that a little sunshine so effortlessly delivers. And it makes me think of what this summer might look like.

In the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with friends about, among other adventures, camping weekends, restaurant hopping, paddleboarding and kayaking, and getting really, really good at jump roping. I’ve thought about my own passions and pursuits, the books sitting unread on my shelf, the books sitting unwritten in my head. I’ve thought about the care I want to give The Smile Project and the way I want to grow this organization. I’ve thought about what it means to write a list of things and then… just… do the list of things.

The SUMMER BUCKET LIST was, in some ways, ambitious. But it was also carefree and fun. It reminded me not to take things so seriously. It gave me permission to unwind a bit and to savor those last months before college. It allowed me to make memories with friends, some of which, by nature of moves and distance, I would eventually lose touch with. Simply put, it brought me joy. And that alone makes it worth doing.

It’s not too late to make your list for 2023. What do you want to do before the leaves change? Aim for variety in your list. Outdoor activities are important and tempting in these warmer months, but you’ll also want to build in your cozy, home activities for when you aren’t feeling adventurous. Might I suggest board game night or puzzles or movie marathons? Do things that challenge you and that tap into things you’re naturally interested in. For me this might be inventing a new dessert or bringing down my running times.

My suggestion? Don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously. Add silly things like draw with chalk in the public park or play “The Floor is Lava” in your living room. You’re allowed to be frivolous. You’re allowed to have fun. You’re allowed to lean into the things that brought you joy when you were younger.

Is that not what summer is for?

My life may look a little (or a lot) different than it did at 18. But making backyard obstacle courses still sounds like a heck of a lot of fun to me. So I think I will. I think I will do the fun thing. I will embrace summer spontaneity and I will know when the best thing I can do is give my body and brain some time to relax and unwind. And in doing both of these things, I think it just might become a summer to remember.


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