The Buried Life
But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us — to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
- Matthew Arnold
Picture this: You’re traveling all over the world with your best friends, crossing out items from your bucket list, carpe diem-ing the heck out of life. You would dismiss this picture, simply a daydream, an unreasonable, unattainable ideal life. “We have classes to attend, jobs to get, money to earn, families to support! We can’t just up and leave everything to go chasing fantasies!” Well, why the hell not? Unlike cats, the aphorism YOLO applies to us, so why do we live life according to a template made decades ago? “It’s impossible for normal people like us, okay?” You’ll reason. What if I told you it’s not?
In 2006, four regular friends got together in a garage in Canada and decided they didn’t want to live a regular life. Taking inspiration from Matthew Arnold’s poem, they made the ultimate bucket list, 100 “impossible” items, and set out to uncover their buried lives. Comprising Dave Lingwood, Ben Nemtin, and brothers Jonnie and Duncan Penn, the Buried Life team centered their mission around one question: What do you want to do before you die? In Jonnie’s own words, “We ended up on the phone together one day because, like most (people) our age, we had no idea what to do with our lives. Overwhelmed by school, work, family and life in general, we wanted to create something new, but we didn’t know what. Everywhere we looked the media was claiming that our generation was fat, lazy and violent. A long look at our friends and ourselves, however, suggested something different. Underneath our generation’s seeming sluggishness lay an often-untapped potential that was, for some reason or another, “buried.” To uncover the truth, we decided to write a list of all the things we wanted most in life, all the things we wanted to experience and achieve before we died, and do them. We promised that for everything we were able to complete, we would help a stranger do something on their list. And every new place we went, we’d ask the question, “What do you want to do before you die?”
With money for gas that they raised by throwing a farewell party, a borrowed RV and a camera from Ebay, they set out to cross off 24 items, including classic bucket list items like “Get a tattoo” and “Go to Burning Man”. As time went on and their popularity increased, they started going for the more “insane” ones. From kissing the Stanley Cup to asking out Taylor Swift, from having a beer with Prince Harry to playing basketball with Obama (yes, you read that right), they did everything we would have dismissed as mere daydreams. And everywhere they went, they helped others cross off items on their bucket lists. They aided a child in getting a kidney he needed for a transplant, reunited lovers who had been apart for almost a decade, and helped a young girl get a prosthetic arm so she could finally hug her parents. If you teared up even slightly at this, you’re not alone. It just is that touching.
Ever since I discovered it, the original bucket list has had a permanent place on my bookmarks bar. I like to look at it whenever I feel like this life stuff just ain’t working for me. If anything, it gives me hope, and I hope it can do the same for you. So go ahead, ask out that cutie you’ve been crushing on, try that exotic dish you saw on the menu, write that story, record that video, post that picture. Or, you know, take that nap, binge that show in a single weekend. Life’s too short to deny yourself actually enjoying it. Let’s go uncover our buried life.