There's nothing like jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet and plummeting to earth at 120 mph to make you pause for a little introspection. That's what happened when I went skydiving a few years ago. It's a stretch to call it a near-death experience -- I landed safe and sound, although my underwear may have been a little worse for wear -- but it did cause me to look back at what I had accomplished during my time on earth, and in all honesty, I was disappointed.
Afterward, feeling inspired, I vowed to start squeezing more out of life. And for awhile I did. I traveled, took more adventurous risks, and accomplished some professional goals. Then, as it so often does, life sort of got in the way, and many of my lofty goals fell by the wayside. But now inspiration has struck again, prompted mostly by yet another birthday -- those damn things just won't stop coming -- and I'm once more making big plans for the future.
It seems I'm not alone. A spate of books, including 2 Do Before I Die, No Opportunity Wasted and Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die, has been published recently which explore the idea of "life lists" -- essentially a list of goals you want to accomplish before your time runs out.
We took that premise to the streets, and asked a variety of Charlotteans for their own life lists. We talked to politicians, attorneys, artists, blue-collar workers, executives, and even a dominatrix. Some found the process of coming up with a list a profound experience, while others were a little more blasé about the whole thing yet still enthused.
Hopefully this story will inspire you to come up with your own list. Who knows, it may just help kick-start your priorities and bring a new focus and direction to your life. Remember, anything goes, from the easily attainable to seemingly impossible: Climb Mt. Everest. Run with the bulls in Pamplona. Travel to another country. Have a ménage a trois. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Mentor a child. Finally set the clock on your VCR. The main thing is to get your list down on paper, and keep it where you can see it. Once your list is complete, you'll find that it's a pretty good indication of not only who you are, but also who you want to become.
Pat McCrory, Charlotte Mayor
• Be elected governor (of the US Virgin Islands) (resident of St. Johns).
• Play drums with Paul McCartney (to the song "Maybe I'm Amazed").
• Sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom (with my wife Ann).
• Teach my dog Mic to sleep on my wife's side of the bed.
• Play golf fours at Pebble Beach with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and George Bush.
• For one night, go to Comedy Zone for a stand-up act about the humor of being Mayor.
• Help capture Bin Laden.
• Read a headline in the Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing or Rhino Times that is accurate and positive.
• Be an ex-President.
• Be elected for a sixth term as Mayor of Charlotte.
Gypsy Star, Drag Queen, dressmaker at Morris Costumes
• Organize my home -- specifically, my shoes.
• Open my own dress shop and clothing label.
• Write a book.
• Find an interesting man who understands me.
• Acquire the four animals a girl needs -- a mink to throw over my shoulder, a Jaguar to drive, a tiger in bed, and a jackass to pay for it.
Molly Barker, a four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete and founder of Girls on the Run
• Take a year sabbatical with my two kids and travel to and serve in impoverished areas of North and South America. (They have no clue how good they've actually got it in our small suburban world.)
• Write a screenplay and see it on the big screen.
• Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my children.
• Successfully grow and maintain dreadlocks.
• Learn to drive a Harley Davidson and ride cross-country on it while the Man of My Dreams drives his Harley beside me.
• Go an entire month without talking (while altering nothing else about my daily life) and writing about it.
• Learn to play the drums.
• Write a series of books that redefines success -- in other words, challenge current definitions of success as defined by the two genders.
• Own a house on a beach that includes a huge hammock as its centerpiece.
• See Girls on the Run grow to become a well-known, well-established and well-respected global non-profit that is seen as an expected rite of passage for girls in their pre-teen years.
Ahmad Daniels, founder of Creative Interchange
• Continue the work I and others began at the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, where our lobbying efforts resulted in the UN concluding that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was in fact a crime against humanity.
• Have greater success in assisting the Black community in general and Black men in particular to recognize the humanity of Black gays and lesbians.
• Bring more attention to the significance of on-going discussions on repairing the damage and redressing the injustices (reparations) Black people have undergone as a result of the Maafa (great destruction) that took place during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, centuries of apartheid (Jim Crow) and the residuals of both that continue to daily impact the Black experience in America.
• Pass on to the multitudes the words of Dr. Frantz Fanon: "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it."
• Leave behind a life filled with having consciously and uncompromisingly fought battle after battle based on principle and conviction.
• To have met and married a woman who is as dedicated to Afrikan people as I am and just as willing to make any and all necessary sacrifices to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
• Learn that when life presents its myriad challenges I'm never alone and that the Creator and the Ancestors are always there with the answer.
Bill Diehl, attorney
• Be the lead singer of Journey.
• Sail my sailboat around the world.
• Weigh 170 pounds.
• Play in the NBA.
• Have the lead in a movie.
• Be a force to stop hunger and AIDS around the world, but mainly Africa.
• Combat as a member of the United States armed forces.
• Represent pro athletes.
Tina Sturdivant, single mother, Piedmont Courts resident
• Get my own house.
• Have my two sons go to college and be successful.
• Have my own car.
• Get a job.
• Make sure my family is always OK.
Dr. Karen Frank, hypnotherapist and firewalker
• Visit all seven wonders of the world.
• Volunteer at the Olympics.
• See my daughter graduate from Medical School and my Dad be there to be part of it.
• Live with no regrets.