Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Bucket List

Before the movie The Bucket List ever hit the big screen, my good friend Deb encouraged me to make a list of things I wanted to do before I died. My list has grown and evolved since my pre-college days. It's even underwent a name change to become my official "Bucket List" instead of "50 Things To Do Before I Die" list. (Someone once asked me what I happened when I achieved all 50 things. Would I just stop trying new things? I decided to change the name so I didn't limit myself.)

Here are some items from my Bucket List. Some have been accomplished; some are a work in progress.
  • Visit all 7 continents (I've been to four.)
  • Run a 5k (I did three last summer. Excited to do more this year.)
  • Sew a quilt (See "The sewing machine is not to be feared." This one may take a while.)
  • Lie in the street and watch a traffic light turn (You know, like they do in The Notebook? I'm fairly certain my college roommates thought I went off the deep in when I laid in the middle of Neal Avenue in college, but they all joined me. It's actually pretty fascinating. I recommend it.)
  • Swim with manatees (What can I say? I love manatees.)
Anyway, my list goes on. I love the thrill of trying something new and having a list to guide me. I'm a list maker, I guess. One item has eluded me to this point, but it's perhaps one of the greatest items on my list. Sit down. Brace yourself. This is perhaps my greatest endeavor. 

Become a contestant on Jeopardy.

My motives are selfish. I think Alex Trebek is hot.

Haha. Just kidding. Alex has nothing to do with it. In fact, I much prefer Will Ferrell as Alex in the Saturday Night Live Jeopardy spoof instead.

My quest to become a Jeopardy contestant started in junior high. I would grab a piece of scratch paper and play along with the contestants, keeping track of my score as I went. Of course, I would always wager everything in Final Jeopardy, because let's be honest, I had nothing to lose. Does this make me a nerd? Absolutely. Do I lose any sleep at night? Hell no. We all have our things. Mine happens to be being a geek. I'm ok with it.

From time to time, I've even gotten serious enough about my Jeopardy odyssey to take the online contestant test. The test is a series of 50 questions, which you have 15 seconds each to answer. You do not have to answer in question form. At the end of the test, you have no idea how you did. You must score at least 50% to be considered. If you score that high, then your name is put into a bank of names for one year, and if the stars align in your favor, then you are contacted to audition for the show.

A few weeks ago, I registered again for the online test. I spent some time conditioning... you know, reading random Wikipedia articles, playing along with Jeopardy, normal stuff like that.

Imagine my dismay when I realized that the online test was scheduled for 9pm on the same night as a Young Farmers meeting when I would be at school. (Don't let the name fool you; "Young Farmers" are in fact not "young." They are middle-aged men who meet in my ag room twice a month during the winter and have educational programs. They line up their speakers, but I also attend as one of my job responsibilities.)

The irony in this is that the Young Farmers are not exactly a group one would consider to be intellectual, Jeopardy-like material.

I was at a moral crossroads. Shaking hands with Alex Trebek is a dream. How could I take the test and also be engaged in the meeting? I didn't know what to do.

Earlier the day I was scheduled to take the test, I mentioned to a couple of my students that my life could be changing forever that day. I expected to be mocked and laughed at, as high school students typically do. (Side note, do not pity me. I lash right back at them with a strong dose of sarcasm.) Instead, they thought my goal was the most awesome thing they'd heard all month. They became interested in helping me achieve it. And so, a plan was devised.

Four of the students attended the meeting that night. I sat in the back of the room with them as the Young Farmers moved through their business meeting. Exactly 15 minutes before I needed to log on to take the test, one of them discreetly handed me a laptop. I nonchalantly logged on and waited for the timer to tick down, signaling the beginning of the test. Things were moving in my favor. The meeting was wrapped up. At 8:50, it adjourned, and the Young Farmers started clearing out of my classroom. It was just me and my students.

At exactly 9pm, the test began. It was intense. I pounded my foot on the ground, as I thought of answers, and they cheered me on. There was yelling, there was screaming, there were groans at questions missed.

At the end of the test, everyone let out a collective sigh of relief.

We talk about goals a lot in class. I encourage them to set goals for FFA, for college, for life. We discuss how they can reach those goals and who can help them reach them. While trying to reach my Bucket List goal of becoming a Jeopardy contestant, I realized an important lesson firsthand: if we don't verbalize our goals to others, they are just wishes. My students helped me work toward one of my goals. Their encouragement was priceless.

Now, I wait for the results. What are the odds of becoming a Jeopardy contestant? Probably just a tad better than winning the Mega Millions. What will I do in the meantime? Continue adding to my Bucket List.

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