It’s become fashionable to make a Bucket List – what you aim to do before you “kick the bucket”. There’s even a Bucket List movie featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as terminally ill old codgers who go on a road trip to check things off their list. Which the late film critic Roger Ebert found so pathetic that it made the list of his 10 Most Brutal Movie Review Quotes.
Ebert knew a thing or two about so-called Bucket Lists. He lived with cancer for more than 10 years before his death in 2013.
Believe me, during convalescence after surgery the last item on your bucket list is climbing a Himalaya. Your list is more likely to be topped by keeping down a full meal, having a triumphant bowel movement, keeping your energy up in the afternoon, letting your loved ones know you love them, and convincing the doc your reports of pain are real and not merely disguising your desire to become a drug addict. To be sure, the movie includes plenty of details about discomfort in the toilet, but they’re put on hold once the trots are replaced by the globe-trotting.
– Review of The Bucket List (2007) on Ebert’s website
So there’s no long list here, bucket or otherwise. My New Old Self has been musing about only one notable thing to do and thought of sharing it with you. It’s a nice simple thing that anyone can and should do. Any time. Preferably soon. And definitely before you die.
It’s about those masses of photos you’ve taken. Plus all those you’ve acquired from friends and relatives. Now that nearly every man, woman and child on the planet has a cellphone camera at the ready 24/7, we are all drowning in photos. Our computers and phones are full of photos. Some of us realize how irreplaceable they are and back them up. (Not all of us, you know who you are.)
But at least we all know exactly where all our photos are and how to quickly find any specific photo we want to look at… Uh, actually not. We have tons of photos saved with unhelpful names like IMAG 9930 in folders called Untitled Album. And the brilliant programs and apps for getting photos off phones and cameras and organizing them on your computer are actually not that brilliant. As you may discover when you find yourself saying “Let me show you this picture…”
It’s scary to think that the entire visual life history of a person or family is on some hard drive or memory stick that hasn’t been backed up for months, if ever. So if it gets lost or crashes – which we know from personal experience is not a huge improbability – all those precious photos will be lost. Among all the blurry shots and silly selfies will be some treasured images never to be seen again.
Interestingly, those most at risk of losing all their photos are not us older people, the ones who seem to always be losing things these days. No, it’s young people.
Why? Well, compare these two scenarios. If your house catches fire and you were born before about 1975, you might be tempted to rush back through the flames to save the family photos. Whether they’re in albums on a bookshelf, in boxes in a cupboard or in some drawer, you won’t have forgotten where you put them.
And when you get to the place where they are, you won’t be cracking your head trying to remember the magic command to open up whatever they’re stored in. You’ll just grab all your irreplaceable photos and run out of your burning house, into the arms of your appreciative family and friends.
Whereas if you were born after 1975 you might not have any photos to save from a fire. Not actual hard copy photographs that you could pick up and move to a safer place.
Now let us return to the promised recommendation of One (1) Thing To Do Before You Die. What I’m going to suggest requires no expense or travel. It involves no strenuous activity. You can try it at home. In fact, that’s the best place to do it.
So here’s what you do:
1. Sit down
2. Look at your photos
That’s it. You can look at them on your computer or plug into the TV screen. If you also have actual photographs in albums or boxes, you can haul them out and look through them too.
Your old photographs may not be as crisp and clear and saturated with colour as your digital ones. But tangible photos offer other aspects to appreciate, like textures and tones. Old photos reveal the limitations of pre-digital photographic technology – early colour, black-and-white and even sepia. And they haven’t been Photoshopped. Which can make them more, rather than less interesting to look at.
The idea is to take some time to look through your photos. The point is to relax and reminisce. You can take yourself back to the moment when a particular shot was taken. You may try to remember how you felt then about the person or place you’re looking at. You could even try to find out more about some of the people and places in your photos by talking or writing to others who were around when the pictures were taken. Which could launch a valuable exchange of memories.
If your time-efficient self is advising you to wait until you can set aside a decent amount of time to look at your photos, ignore this. First of all, when is that day going to come that you have lots of time? Secondly, you don’t need a day, or even an hour. Just 5 or 10 minutes can be an enjoyable break, clicking through some of the thousands of images on your laptop, tablet or phone. And/or paging through albums or boxes, picking up each photograph and peering at it.
The point is simply to make sure that your precious photos don’t languish unviewed. Not while you’re still around to enjoy them.