A Collection of Life Lists, Teenager Style


One of the final assignments in the Grade 12 English class I teach is called You. It consists of two tasks: the first is to write a letter to a future version of yourself, and the second to curate a list of 50 things you want to do in life. The attention the kids pay to their lists never ceases to amaze. I teach at an alternative high school, and our students face a mishmash of hardships - poverty, family issues, legal troubles, addiction, mental health struggles, young parenthood, or maybe just that vague inability to fit in, to participate in a system made of rules that seem haphazard, or worse, rigged for failure.

And yet these kids - often with their smoke-stinky clothes or their yo missss version of a greeting, their sense of the world stacked against them – they still have much to say about how one should live life. Their lists are filled with goodness, with pure dreaming, with humour and empathy and the most wrenching efforts at self-acceptance. They are a heartbreaking, humbling joy to read.

With my students’ kind permission, I’ve taken some goals from each of the lists I received this year to share.

Here they are, verbatim:

Sleep out in nature at least once. Real nature, not a park

Learn more about homeopathy

Quit drinking Order (then of course eat) lobster at a ballin restaurant

Write a whole book of poetry

Throw a crazy ass house party but not at my own house

Reconnect with my father

Plant a tree in that huge crack in the cement in front of my building

Be the first person in my family to get a higher education

Sell one of my paintings to someone who will hang it in their house

Shower in a waterfall

Tell someone I love them, for real

Meet a famous person and tell them fame means nothing

Learn to pick friends who mean me no harm

Give an abandoned pet a loving home

Master a soufflé

Swim in every ocean

Cuddle with a panda bear

Donate money to the food bank

Learn yoga moves

Sleep more

Worry less

Find peace