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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karin Anderson Abrell

Bucket List Shaming . . . it's a thing

For women who want children, the biological clock looms over your shoulder like Cruella de Vil.

Fertility declines by a certain age and the pressure of getting married and having children by your 30’s – 40’s feels like a race against time.

But the biological clock impacts empty nesters, too.

For many of us in midlife, we’ve already begun a reflective self-evaluation process.

I call this the Wonder Years.

We wonder about bridging any gaps between our past accomplishments and hopes for the future.

We wonder about life’s disappointments and regrets.

We wonder about choices we’ve made that might need healing and reframing.

This can be a time to renegotiate the expectations of what we thought was supposed to have happened in our lives with what actually happened in our lives.

We wonder about reshaping our roles and identities to fit a new lifestyle with different responsibilities and desires.

A running narrative of the “Now What?” with an occasional sprinkling of the sentiments from that classic Patsy Cline song, “Is That All There Is?”

And then there’s that Bucket List—our version of the biological clock—the list of all the things we’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time for.

“I better hurry up and take salsa lessons while my hips are still flexible.”

“I need to visit the National Parks while I can still hike!”

“I’ve got to get to Hawaii while I can still travel that far.”

And if we’re single in our older years we may thinking,

“Who will go with me and keep me company on these trips I want to take?”

“Can I afford this on my own?”

In addition, something I’ve noticed since retirement, is what I call Bucket List Misconceptions and/or “Bucket List Shaming:” expectations and judgements from others about what they assume you should include on your bucket list.

Over the past few years people have asked me well-meaning questions like:

What exotic plans do you have on your Bucket List?

What countries are you planning to visit?

What’s the wildest thing you’re going to do now that you’re retired?

Ummm... How do you answer these questions?  

Maybe all I want is a simpler life... maybe I just want to enjoy more nature walks or more visits to the beach or just sit in my backyard and wonder.

Early in my retirement, I used to feel judged and somewhat ashamed that my bucket list was so simple and not as exciting as others wanted it to be.

But I’ve long moved past these feelings and am much more understanding that sometimes people just feel the need to impose their fantasies and expectations of what they think we should be doing at various milestones in our lives.

Everyone has their own journey, their own path to walk.

So, maybe on some level, we’re all timekeepers throughout different stages and ages in our lives. As our lives shift, our lists may shift as well.

But while goal setting at any age can help keep our lives organized and provide us with focused direction, it can also keep us living in the future to some extent.

And too much emphasis on the future and worrying about it impedes happiness in the present.

Embrace living in the here and now, while dreaming about the future.

The same goes for when we’re inflexible with our goals as life changes.

Who says we have to wait until retirement to start our Bucket List?

Waiting for life to happen to us while waiting for all the circumstances to be lined up perfectly keeps us in a holding pattern—and the ticking of that biological clock marches on.

So, make the most out of life now regardless of your age.

This brings meaning, fulfillment and happiness to the time you do have.

Do what you love and remember, “Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.”

By Brunnie Getchell


Brunnie Getchell is an advanced certified hypnotherapist, Master's Level Counselor, LMHC and a Reiki Master practitioner who has practiced for over  twenty five years in a wide variety of clinical settings.

Brunnie's work as a clinician includes experiences in out-patient psychiatric facilities, mental health agencies, school settings and substance abuse treatment centers.  Brunnie's utilization of holistic modalities, in conjunction with her skills as a counselor, provides each client with unique therapeutic experiences.

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