My starboard seatmate
After a full weekend of work that included many hard conversation-filled days and nights, I was ready for space to capture some thoughts on paper and get started on the pile of emails that needed to be sent.
I boarded a plane to return home, only to find that the plane was not working correctly. When flying you don’t want to hear, “the engine is not starting properly.” These words seemed like a good enough reason to choose to be re-routed through a southern state in order to go north.
As I squeezed into my last minute, middle-seat assignment and brought out my iPad to begin working, Jim, my starboard seatmate began a conversation. A conversation that would continue for the next hour and five minutes, with hardly a breath taken.
Jim has led a fascinating life. His bucket list is quite lengthy and holds things that I have honestly never imagined were even a possibility nor have I considered as worth pursuing.
- “Feed the sled dogs at the start of the Iditarod race in Alaska,” – Fascinating.
- “Cave diving in Iceland to see the crack in the platonic plates of the earth,” – Sounds cold and I am not sure I wanted to know that were cracks.
- “Walked the trail that Christopher Columbus took from Italy to ______,” – Quite honestly I can’t remember the other city, but it sounded impressive.
As I glanced at my still open iPad, I realized my ambitious flight plans for working were slowly ebbing away and I had a choice:
- Listen (no, he never once asked me a question) or,
- Shut him down (my razor precision for doing this was definitely an option).
I looked into his brown eyes and began to ask questions. What made him choose this trip? How did he manage to find a guide to take him into the caves?
Comparing my life to his
As he talked, my life adventures seemed small in comparison, and I realized I was beginning to compare my life to his. A sense of measuring began to form in my brain of what “adventure” really is.
- Do I lead a boring life?
- Do I not dream big enough?
“I bought a bike in Columbia to ride the trails of (sorry I don’t remember this famous place), and I almost died. I wonder if my wife would have missed me.”
Suddenly I was snapped out of my trailing mind and asked, “who do you enjoy doing these adventures with?”
“No one,” came his response, “it’s my bucket list.”
After I left Jim and was sitting on my next flight I realized something. We all have our own bucket list (verbalized or preverbal) and we put on that list what is truly important to us. And while my bucket list isn’t written in draft form, divided out by continents, and time zones — yes, Jim’s is — this conversation has caused me to reflect on what I value most about the adventures I have experienced.
The most important part of life is not what I do, but who I am with.
So, if I actually did have a bucket list it might read something like this:
- to see others
- to listen to people
- to value the story being created through relationships, and
- to honor the process of life.
I will most likely never dive into an underwater cave or pet a white tiger, but IF I ever do, I want to do it with someone I care about in order to share the moment — not be the sole owner of an event.
Thank you Jim for sitting beside me today, for sharing your life with me, and allowing me to see you, to listen, and to recognize the value of this moment and what I could learn.