Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bucket List

If you follow this blog, you know by now that this is not the place to be if you are expecting frequent, regular posts. I think I average about two a year!

Since I last wrote, in September, I have had a few noteworthy things happen, which I will discuss before getting into the main thoughts of this post. The most noteworthy is that I have received my Locomotive Engineer certification. I began the Engineer Program last June. It started with three weeks of classroom training, at the BNSF Technical Training Center, in Overland Park, KS. After those three weeks, they turned me loose to drive trains, although not by myself. For the next five months, I got to work with different engineers, who taught me all the important things about running different kinds of freight trains. Turns out it is a lot more involved than just making it go fast or slow! At the end of that five month on the job training, I went back to Kansas for a final review and exams. There were three exams, all multiple choice, and two graded simulator runs. The passing grade for everything was 90% or higher. I passed everything on the first try, and returned home afterwards. Once back home, I had to do one final checkride with the Road Foreman of Engines. He apparently thought I did a satisfactory job, and signed my card at the end. Since passing the checkride, I have been qualified to work as either an Engineer or a Conductor.

In February, Sarah and I celebrated our first anniversary. It is hard to believe that we have been married a year. It is also hard to believe that it has now been more than a year since we spent a week on the Nieuw Amsterdam. That voyage was wonderful, but far too short. Hopefully we will be able to go on another cruise later this year or next year at some point. We do enjoy being at sea very much, and going to new places.

Anyway, I got thinking about "bucket lists" the other day after a couple recent conversations I have had with friends, acquaintances, and some coworkers, many of whom have commented on some of the unusual things I have experienced, even in the relatively short time I have been on the planet. One coworker in particular was quite envious of how much time I spent on and around the ocean growing up. He has lived his whole life in Montana, except for vacations, despite his love for the ocean.

For those who have never heard the term, a "bucket list" is usually an informal, and often unwritten list of accomplishments a person wants to have in a lifetime. The qualifications for a bucket list item are rather vague, but they usually consist of things that are not routine or day to day. There does not need to be any significance to them to anyone other than the person making the list. Often they include places a person would like to visit, certain achievements they would like to realize, and various other goals. Most bucket lists items are addressed with an attitude of "when I get around to it," so for many people, placing something on their bucket list means it will probably wait until they have nothing even a little bit more important to do and no other immediate desires for their free time. Usually bucket list items do not include day to day chores and tasks, current projects, or items to be purchased.

What I go thinking about is all the "bucket list" items I have already checked off my bucket list. For a person of 25, I actually have done a surprising amount of "bucket list" things. For example, as a kid I always wanted to go to the Olympics. Well, in 2010, I worked at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and got to go to several events. As long as I can remember, I have wanted to go to the Panama Canal, and I did that just a few weeks before the Olympics, also in 2010. Now I'd like to go back to the Panama Canal, it was quite fascinating. Ever since I was very young, I wanted to be a train engineer, which, as I described above, I am now. It is not nearly as glorious as I imagined as a kid, actually it is considerably more of a mental exercise than I ever imagined, but that is another goal accomplished. Many of my coworkers know that I'm the guy who lived in Alaska for a couple years, and almost every time I go to work, Alaska comes up in our conversation. Many of them have talked about wanting to go there to visit, fish, hunt, see the Northern Lights, or any number of other things. I want to move back there, and I know several of my coworkers and friends will be jealous if I ever manage to make that a reality!

Of course, there are many things I still want to do. I still would like to visit Europe. In fact, I could probably put together a fairly extensive list of just things I want to do in Europe! And I am sure when I do eventually get there, I will find there is enough to do and see to keep busy for several lifetimes. I also want to return to many of the places I have been, such as Panama, Newfoundland, and British Columbia, just to name a few. Even more locally, there are places I would like to go see and explore, such as the old railroad right of way between Terry and Miles City. I want to go to Medora, to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I've been through there on the train and eaten dinner there, but I'd like to go see the park. The Beartooth Mountains are another spot nearby that I'd like to go see again. Beartooth Pass is quite incredible. It is one of few places on this continent where the road goes over 10,000 feet above sea level! From Beartooth Pass, Yellowstone Park is not too much farther, and there is plenty to see and do there. It would be easy to spend weeks in the park. I'd also like to get up to Glacier Park, in western Montana, again. I have not been up that way since 2008.

I have often been asked how I have done what I have done, for being as young as I am. My response is always the same. I tell people that you just have to get out and do the things on your bucket list. Obviously, you have to eat and so you have to work, at least a little, but most employers give vacation allowances and days off throughout the year. You just have to sit down and decide what you want to do, and then make the plans to make it happen during one of those vacations. There are tons of cool things to do out there, but if you want to do things like go to the Panama Canal, you need to plan for that. Don't go on vacation to Billings, MT, if you really want to be in the Bahamas! Start planning early to make what you really want a reality. Of course, there is always a little bit of luck involved. It is highly unlikely that I would have gone to the Olympics in 2010 if I had not been browsing for jobs and stumbled upon the driving job I had there. But at the same time, it is not all luck. I was lucky enough to have a job in Alaska for as many summers as I wanted, but before I even heard about that job, I was making plans to go to Alaska for a month in 2009. The job came along a little later, and I got to stay for several months instead, but either way, I would have gone to Alaska in 2009.

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