Christopher Wink in blue jacket with arms spread wide on the Great Wall of China

My List

When I was 14, I sat down in my childhood bedroom in rural northwest New Jersey, and I composed a list of 26 things I had to do before I died. This was the late 1990s, so before the ‘Bucket List’ phrase had been so widely popularized, but, yes, this was essentially that. I suppose it was a strange thing for a teenager to do then. But, well, I was a strange teenager.

By my twenties, as I took my first hesitant steps into adulthood (and online writing), I rapidly expanded the list and was trying to exhaustively chronicle my pursuits. I did this by experimenting with blogging and social media. (For example, I launched a WordPress installation for just that, later making it a subdomain of this site.)

I was learning plenty during that process, and I’m thankful for that even today. But somewhere between having a list of 26 amusingly specific items as a teenager to having a nearly 400-item sprawling list by my early twenties, the whole concept broke. If my primary goal as a teenager was to make sure I prioritized having new, challenging and important experiences, then I had accomplished that.

I built the habit of habits. I use annual resolutions and the occasional age-based deadline to drive me to do big things still.

So though I still sometimes share big personal and professional updates on this site (still in proper early 2000s blogging style), mostly this page here is a place to point to that original, quirky list from when I was fourteen.

I feel unburdened from the lifelong list-making. Now I just live the life I set out to have as a kid. But even I’m charmed by my interest in a list as a teenager, so I’m honoring that here.

Here are those original 26 items from the “Life To-Do List” I made as a fourteen-year-old kid (and their status):

  1. Buy ChristopherWink.com on December 3, 2007 — It may seem self-involved, but I suppose in April 2000, when I wrote my original list, the Internet was an amazing concept. I thought owning your own name was about the most futuristic thing I could imagine.
  2. Complete a marathon — I’m less interested in this goal, particularly having felt completing the 10-mile Broad Street Run several times (the first in 2009) was enough.
  3. Complete a novel — Not yet
  4. Complete a Philly Cheesesteak on July 13, 2004 — When I was 14, little did I know I would go to college and fall in love with Philadelphia. But cheesesteaks sounded delicious and Philly seemed a world away. I can remember traveling to Philly when I was less than 10. I was scared to eat one. I recall my father indulging, but not me. I finally got my wish after a tour of Temple University. I’ve had plenty since from all the great locations, but, of course, I started at Pat’s.
  5. Get a tattoo — Not yet
  6. Get an article in a major newspaper on January 13, 2006 — Seems I had an early interest in newspapers. My first article in a major newspaper likely couldn’t have come under better circumstances. As an intern, I wrote a double-byline with Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Vitez for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the third oldest daily newspaper in the country and among the 15 largest. It was a story about anti-violence events held by community groups in Germantown and Center City. It’s no longer on Philly.com, but you can find it here.
  7. Go backpacking in Europe on November 4, 2008 — From Oct. 1 to Nov. 4, 2008, my friend Sean Blanda and I backpacked Europe. We chronicled our experience at WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com. Click here for a map of where we went, see above or read below. The route was subject to change from late buses, bad train schedules, and Belgian strikes.
  8. Go into outer space — Uh, not yet.
  9. Go skydiving on May 15, 2004 — It was my first tiny step into owning my adulthood.
  10. Hitchike on July 13, 2006 — Watch the story of the first time I went hitchhiking.
  11. Learn how to ride a horse on March 27, 2005 — It came from an early mentor-like figure of mine, Ike Johnstone.
  12. Own a firearm on June 2, 2007 —  I was no gun zealot, like many young boys. I didn’t even have much experience with firearms, considering where I grew up. So, the desire to be a firearm owner wasn’t part of a healthy family tradition, nor was it a less healthy, although phase-based, violence obsession. I suppose I instead understood early that it was important for me to experience and be comfortable with a potentially dangerous, but popular, healthy part of the American tradition. In 2007, through the loss of my paternal grandfather, I became the proud owner of four .22 caliber rifles. Surely they are small and unpowerful, but I expect them to be a part of a family tradition I hope to begin.
    I am happy to think of someday teaching my son about safety and maintenance of these low caliber rifles that I got from my grandfather.
  13. Perform guitar live — Not yet.
  14. Perform stand-up comedy on Nov. 2, 2011 — One of the earliest items on my list was to perform stand up comedy. After a lot of hand wringing, I took a spot at an open mic at Helium Comedy Club in Center City. As a first timer, I was given a three minute set and it went well enough that I didn’t even get the red light.
  15. Running with the Bulls on July 12, 2012 — It was the highlight of an incredible eight days in Spain.
  16. See a lion in the wild — Not yet.
  17. See gondolas in Venice, Italy on March 8, 2007 — How worldy of me. Apparently when I was 14 I knew about gondolas in Venice because seeing them was on my original list of 26. Not the most exciting and fortunately I didn’t decide I had to ride in one. While I was visiting a friend in Florence in March 2007, I took a trip to Venice and found it rainy and the gondolas awfully expensive, more than $80 for a 20-minute ride.
  18. See Halley’s Comet (2061) — Uh, not yet.
  19. See the aurora borealis — Not yet. The northern lights in Iceland?
  20. Touch both the Atlantic and Pacific in one day — How romantic of me. I touched them both on one trip.
  21. Visit all 7 continents — Not yet. I’m missing Antarctica and Australia. 
  22. Visit Mt. Rushmore on July 13, 2005 — As part of my first proper road trip.
  23. Visit the Eiffel Tower on October 12, 2008 — I studied French in high school and so was apparently always something of a Francophile. At least I liked playing basketball there too.
  24. Visit the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt — Not yet.
  25. Visit the Great Wall of China on December 1, 2006 — Yes!
  26. Work construction on August 20, 2004 — During the summer 2004, before going off to college, I spent three months working with a Stillwater, N.J-based construction company. It was the first of a string of construction jobs I kept while studying at college. (I wrote a college newspaper column about that here)