Motivation is powered by Vocal creators. You support Courtney Aileen by reading, sharing and tipping stories... more

Motivation is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.

How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.

How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.

To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.

Show less

My Bucket List: Five Years Later

So Much Has Changed, But Also So Little

It is a well-known fact to those who know me well that I have always been hyper-aware of my own mortality.

I can recall being as young as the age of seven, lying awake in my bed at night a year after my grandfather had passed away. I could not fathom how he was gone, when it still felt like he was right there with me. I sat there wondering what death was like, inquisitive but fearless, until I began to imagine simply not existing.When the thought of living a life that could come to a permanent, definite end crossed my mind, I panicked. What if I lost all of my memories, and the life I had lived for so long before that time would simply vanish and have no meaning at all? 

I know it may seem far-fetched because I was so young, but it was truly from then on that I decided to make sure my life had meaning. That one day, if I was gone and my experiences were the one thing that could keep a part of me alive, I would make sure they were worth remembering. 

As an adult, of course, I developed beliefs that provided me with the comfort of knowing that my soul will continue on its journey long after death. But no matter what, I never lost sight of the desire to feel complete. So, during one of the most difficult times in my life, I developed a bucket list. I discovered it tonight, hidden in old files, and was struck an overwhelming sense of gratitude. 

Without further adieu, my bucket list from 2012, with today's notes:

In no particular order of importance (until the last 10 at the bottom).

35) Be in the best shape of my life.

This one I have to smile at. When I wrote this, I was in the best shape of my life, but I never appreciated it. I judged every part of my body, picked myself apart in the mirror and never felt comfortable in my own skin. 

Now, with much less tone, stretch marks and a three-year post-partum stomach that is nowhere near as flat as it was, I can honestly say I am happier with myself than I ever was before. My body is strong, my health is good but my mind and self-esteem are stronger and more important than anything!

34) Do something I am terrified of doing, and feel accomplished for having done it.

Well, this I have definitely completed...take your pick! I was terrified of delivering a baby, check (thank God for epidurals). I was terrified of raising a baby alone, check (still terrified of raising a teenager). I was terrified of divorce, check (that one felt really, really good). 

I was terrified of falling in love ever again, check. I am terrified of a lot of things, and will be terrified of many more, but I will always feel accomplished for setting my fears aside for what I want. 

33) Climb a famous mountain.

I haven't even hiked the tallest point in my state yet, but this one is still coming!

32) Learn how to drive a motorcycle.

Does a motorized scooter count? And does it count if you had to buy it because you wrecked it during the test drive, then fixed with your own bare hands, crashed it again because your apartment complex's neighborhood geese tried to attack you, and had it stolen weeks later? No?

31) Camp out at the only place that calmed me when I was 16.

It may have been in the middle of a thunderstorm, completely unprepared with little food or supplies, but that night when the rain stopped, I bathed in the lake I used to stare out over in my most difficult of times and I felt calm again. I can consider this done. 

30) Get baptized.

My parents chose to let me choose for myself, and I have been mulling this one over for a long time. Maybe someday, if I decide to. And if I do, it will most definitely be a river baptism, because those are beautiful.

29) Sleep under the stars next to the ocean.

I have sat under the stars many a time, but never had the privilege of sleeping there. Soon.

28) Drive a convertible.

Eh, I'm happy driving my little Kia, because I never thought five years ago that I'd ever even be able to own a new car. But hey...if you give me a convertible, I probably still won't say no.

27) Live somewhere where I can swim every morning.

I am still surrounded by a lot of houses and no water. But someday.

26) Travel as much of the world as I can.

When my son is older and mature enough to not throw the holy grail of all temper tantrums in the most sacred of ancient places I cannot die without seeing at least once, we'll give this a go.

25) Look out across the bay of San Juan del Sur one last time.

Completed. Maybe, many years from now, I'll take a trip down memory lane. But for now, any potential vacations will be about new starts.

24) See the Northern Lights.

This is definitely still on the list. Absolutely mesmerizing.

23) Pay back every personal debt I owe.

I am 99% sure that there is no one I owe anything to anymore. I hope. 

22) Get just one more standing ovation from the entire audience in a theater.

This will definitely happen, just maybe not in the area of music like before.

21) Hike Machu Picchu.

When I don't have to strap a 33-pound child to my back because his legs are too stubby to climb for that long, this is first on my trip list.

20) Visit the Giza pyramids.

Okay...maybe this is first on my list. I will not be going inside of them, though...have you seen how tight those spaces are? Talk about a claustrophobia-induced panic attack.

19) Track down my Native American heritage and ancestors.

This has proven pretty impossible to prove. I can track my European heritage all the way back to the 1400's, but an alleged affair isn't typically well-documented! Maybe it was all just a story, and I'm just meant to be this pale year-round.

18) Learn a third language.

I have dabbled in Italian, Russian, Arabic, even a little Chinese. But when you throw Spanish words into the middle of a sentence in another language because it's the only one you know other than your native tongue, people tend to get a little confused.

17) Write a book.

Done! I just can't figure out how to finish it. Do I kill off my characters and test out my ability to make people cry with my story-telling or let them ride off into the sunset? Stay tuned.

16) Get my R.N. and go to med school if possible.

Nope! My direction changed entirely on this one. I am now studying to become an attorney. 

15) Start my own volunteer medical services organization in a third-world country.

Can't say my direction changed entirely when it comes to #15, as I started my own volunteer legal services organization instead. Helping people who are or have been incarcerated to file post-conviction motions turned into filing million-dollar civil rights lawsuits, taking on wrongful termination cases, helping to set people free, being the go-to for legal advice amongst my peers and making amazing connections with some extremely brave and incredible people. 

Taking the skills I have and putting them to use for those in need never felt better. Someday, I hope to go even further with my own shelter for the homeless, both here in the States and maybe in a third-world country as well.

14) Forgive all those who have ever hurt or wronged me.

I can honestly say I no longer harbor anger, grudges or ill will towards anyone at all. I forgave them because I needed to. I forgave them for me. And maybe a little bit for them too, even when they didn't ask for it, because I actually do believe that everyone has the potential for change.

13) Apologize to all those I have ever hurt or wronged.

I have done this, too. For them first.

12) Forgive myself for my own mistakes.

This is something I work on every single day, and I am proud of myself for finally being able to do it.

11) Understand that nothing in life will ever be perfect, and accept it.

This is another thing I can cross off of my list—there is nothing more liberating than knowing that every terrible thing has a purpose, every struggle teaches a lesson and every life event is connected to the next. Everything about life is imperfect, but looking it through a different light five years later makes that completely and entirely fine with me.

10) Say yes to the kind of marriage proposal you see in the movies.

I have been married, but I can't say that I had this. My marriage wasn't quite traditional, nor was my engagement. If there is to be another one, I just hope that however grand or simple the gesture, it makes me cry just as much either way, because I know that time will be forever.

9) Walk down the aisle to the man who will stay by my side no matter what.

This still rings true, maybe even more so than it did before. I never got to walk down an aisle, and the man I chose both strayed from my side too many times to count and was undeserving of a place next to me. 

8) Honor him with everything I have.

This goes without saying. But after giving so much of myself, now I know that he'd better honor me equally.

7) Have a son or daughter.

One and done!

6) Provide a comfortable life for my child, but raise him/her so they know not to take it for granted.

This is still my plan, and as we approach Christmas with one present under the tree and my son now says "no thank you" when I offer him food instead of shoving my hand away from his face violently...we're getting there.  

5) Be financially and emotionally independent.

I struggle, but I am independent on both counts. Only now, I know how important it is to have someone you can count on, to be able to depend on someone when you need a shoulder to lean on, and that it's okay to ask for help when you need it.

4) Enjoy the support of my family, but be strong enough on my own without it.


3) Find God again.

I have found God, just not in the way most people would revel about. I found God in my darkest times, in my broken times, when I had nowhere to look but up. I found God on a mountaintop, looking out over the world and finally being able to breathe again. I found not any one specific God from any one specific holy book, but through people's kindness, through nature, through dreams and experiences and life. I didn't find my faith in a church, but I am more connected to my spirituality than ever.

2) Live my life each day knowing if it were my last, people would remember only good things.

I do my best to leave a good impression everywhere I go. I have my bad days like anyone else, but I hope that whenever it's my time, the image of me in the minds of others is the one I try to create even when I'm feeling down.

1) Feel free and at peace.

Finally, despite my struggles and because of them, I do, and I am.

Now Reading
My Bucket List: Five Years Later
Read Next
Leadership Is a Verb