So apparently, I graduate in a month or two. They tell me that this means I have to leave campus and go be a real person. They also tell me that in the real world I can’t go to work in my pajamas. Ridiculous. This made me wonder what else I would be giving up once I left the College. I picked up an Ephropology poster the other day to check and see what I should be taking advantage of before I go. The poster was made by two alumni, Robbi Behr ’97 and Matthew Swanson ’97, and distributed to first-years by Alumni Relations. Some of the bucket list items seem pretty far-fetched: Take an international student home? Who would want to come with me to Mequon, Wis.? Tube down the Green River naked? Isn’t that illegal? But as I read on, I realized that I had inadvertently done more of these things than I had thought. Do a sunrise hike? Check. Eat at every dining hall? Check (what’s up, Greylock and Dodd). Take a class in a subject you’re bad at? I majored in physics, so triple check. In fact, after going over the entire poster, I realized that, out of a possible 86 activities, I had already done 58. When did this happen?
It certainly did not happen because I’ve been following my own bucket list. While I do technically have one, the only entries are “sled down Sheep Hill, go to the record store, watch Cabin in the Woods in the woods, go to the North Adams graveyard at night and go to Storytime.” I clearly don’t pay much attention to it, because I knocked off the first one over a month ago and haven’t bothered to cross it off yet. Nor have I been following other people’s bucket lists. In fact, I didn’t even know that there was an “official” Williams bucket list until earlier this week.
So how have I managed to complete so much of the official bucket list by accident? Sure, there are some entries that I’m sure almost everybody has done (Read outside? Check. Take part in Mountain Day? Check. Go to an a cappella concert? Check). But sprinkled among those are some events that require extra effort: Go polar bear swimming in December? Check. Spend the night in the Hopkins Forest cabin? Check. Find the tree house behind Cole field? As my frosh can attest to, check, but barely. However, the more I looked over the poster, the more I realized that the reason I had done all of these things wasn’t because a poster told me to. I did these things because they sounded fun.
And I think that’s the message I want to stress here. Before you graduate, it’s almost inevitable that you are going to compile some sort of a bucket list. But don’t do things just to do them. Checking something off of a list isn’t the goal. Making a memory is. Don’t befriend your janitor just to say that you’re friends. Befriend your janitor because you enjoy talking to him and hearing his perspective on life, even if he is a Saints fan (my apologies, Andy [Briggs]). Take that wacky Winter Study class because you want to read hipster magazines. Eat at the Blue Benn because it’s delicious. Teach a Free University class because you enjoy showing people how to make mash ups. There are undoubtedly some experiences that you should have before you graduate from the College. But don’t go for the list. Go for the experience.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that some of the most important things you do at the College aren’t going to end up on a bucket list. Bucket lists represent one-time adventures to do before you’re gone. Nobody would argue that going to a Williams-Amherst basketball game isn’t memorable. But the truly important things I’ve taken away from the College are the friendships that I’ve made here and the knowledge that I’ve gained in and out of class; these are the things that have helped shape me into the person I am today. Just because these things happen every day doesn’t mean you should cherish them any less. Sure, my chance to do all of these wacky things is coming to an end. But so is my chance to walk into my common room and play a pick-up game of Guitar Hero with my housemates.
Moral of the story? Do the things you love with the people you love. Don’t let a bucket list dictate your remaining time here. I will give bucket lists credit for this, though: They can make you aware of awesome things you wouldn’t otherwise know to look for. And so, with that, I offer the avid adventurer a list of the things that I have done (and loved) to serve as inspiration. Consider it an “unofficial” Williams bucket list:
Climb onto a roof. Explore the abandoned factories. Streak in the libraries. Break a school record. Play in a band (bonus points if people make out or break tables while you perform). Tutor. Prank your roommate. Do an independent study. Complete the Sushi Thai Challenge. Build a robot. Play intramural sports in a banana suit. Bike to Windsor Lake. Leave campus for a concert. Get to know North Adams. Start a club. Walk through the night at Relay for Life. Change your hairstyle. Perform in a play. Launch fireworks. Earn a nickname. Learn to kayak. Rock climb outdoors. Lead a Winter Blitz trip. Write an article for the Record. Live.