Facing and Embracing Your Bucket List

Last November I lost one of my best friends of 34 years to cancer. I have been devastated and it had caused me to reevaluate some aspects of my life, think about “what-if?” scenarios, and consider my bucket list. My clients frequently say, “I have always wanted to do this and now I can cross it off my bucket list” and the impact of that statement has never really hit me before the past few months. I asked my late friend’s husband a few weeks ago whether she was able to accomplish any things that she wanted to do before she passed, and, luckily, they were able to go a resort in Aruba. That was something I knew she had always wanted to do.

I started my photography business when I was 20 years old and I worked almost 5 years without a vacation or entire day off. One morning I woke up and thought, “I need to go to Venice, Italy now.” By noon I had bought a ticket from a travel agent (the internet was still new) and had submitted my passport application. I traveled alone and didn’t know any Italian, but it was something I had wanted to do since I was a little girl and nothing was going to stop me. Without realizing it, this trip was my first bucket list accomplishment.

It was such an amazingly empowering experience.

The years went by and life, career, love, marriage, and children happened. I lost touch of my list due to my new responsibilities and the bills that needed to be paid. I actually believe now, however, that I was avoiding my list because it meant I was admitting to my own mortality. I’m not telling anyone to break their bank and go on a expensive trip tomorrow. I’m saying just think of these goals and evaluate what is important to you. Do not forget your list through the hustle of life or fear of admitting that our time is short. I now realize through working toward these bucket list goals that that my experiences have helped me get through some very hard times. What is a better feeling than working towards a goal and actually accomplishing it?

In 2001, I learned about burlesque performer, Dita Von Teese, who another friend had seen in Boston the night before. She said Von Tesse was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen and her entire act was performed on ballet point shoes. I was intrigued and started to follow this woman’s career. She is an entrepreneur, New York times best selling author, lingerie designer, advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and her imagery is beautiful. I completely respect her talent and confidence she portrayed. Some people might call her a bit risqué but I see her as in control of her sexuality. She is known for her quote “You may be the juiciest peach in the world but sometimes people just don’t like peaches,” which is the advice I tell myself when someone and I are not clicking personally or professionally. My clients often mention her in their photo sessions. My wish was to see her perform and to photograph her but, she is very selective of her photographers.

When I heard she was coming to Boston, I immediately thought, “I want to see her but... it’s a Tuesday... it’s expensive... it’s a school night for kids... what if there is a storm?... I’ll have to go alone, etc..." I had my excuses ready so I wouldn’t have think of my mortality. I realized, I had to face the bucket list.

My husband bought me a ticket for my birthday. Even though it was hard I put away some extra money and upgraded my ticket to meet her. The package included a photo with her which made me giggle. I was so excited that I only told very few people. Through the next few months of grieving my friend and trying to cope with the current state of our world, this was what I was looking forward to the most. This was what was going to get me through. This was a bucket list moment that was going to recharge me emotionally.

I knew I only had about four minutes with her so what do I say? I practiced asking for over a month. I was worried that I’d be nervous and was going to fumble over my words, which is a problem I have when I am nervous. What to ask her...?

I decided to ask her about her bucket list.
I asked her if there was anything that she had done recently that she always wanted to do which made her feel exhilarated.

She paused for a moment. I could tell this was a different type of question that she was used to from fans. She carefully considered her choice, and answered, “I recently flew to London to see the immersive theatre group ‘You Me Bum Bum Train.’ Their productions do not happen often because they have a 600+ cast and the sets are extremely expensive and beautiful. It was fantastic and I was so happy see it.”

Her show was everything I expected it to be. It was visually beautiful and it rained pink glitter. Dita Von Teese was very humble, seemed genuinely interested in my question, and signed my memorabilia. It was such an amazing and empowering experience. I still got the kids off to school the next day and made it to work on time.

Bucket list item crossed off. ✔️

Krzystyna Caldarone is a professional glamour photographer and vintage enthusiast that resides Lincoln, Rhode Island with her family.