10 Things I Want To Do Before I Die
Recent circumstances have proven to me that I have nowhere near the number of life experiences I want to. As I contemplate all the things I have done in my life—and all the things I have yet to do—what better way to explore the themes and passions that motivate me than to put them into words?
So here are 10 things I want to do in my life:
Go to Russia:
Travelling has been my most liberating experience, my most sure-fire path to self-discovery. It’s opened up my world, and changed me for the better. I’ve travelled alone to seven countries, but I spent the majority of my travels in Estonia. I want to see more of the world, and Russia in particular is somewhere I’ve been drawn to for most of my life. My fascination with Russia began long before I wrote The Purest Form of Chaos, but writing a series of novels that are partially set there has increased my desire to go to Russia. I’ve long been interested in Russian history – I’m obsessed with revolutions, and the inevitable collapse of power structures, and these themes are a recurring feature in Russia’s history. There is also a pull that I can’t explain by logic or personal taste; I have wanted to go to Russia since I was nine years old – I sometimes wonder if I lived there in a past life. Now that it’s also the setting of my novels, my wish to go there has increased. The first half of The Purest Form of Chaos is set in Russia, and the second half in Estonia, but the sequel will be predominantly set in Russia. I would love to visit Moscow at some point during the writing process. I want to get inside my characters’ heads, see the world through their eyes. The way I write about Estonia has changed now that I’ve spent so much time there, but Russia is still only a concept to me; it is not yet an experience. In some ways, this works well in The Purest Form of Chaos, because Phoenix and Persephone both experience Russia at a distance, in their respective ways. It is Phoenix’s homeland, but she has always been a prisoner within it. To Persephone it is foreign, a place where her autonomy is limited. But for Melinoë and Irina, the protagonists of book two, Russia is familiar and ordinary in a way that it wasn’t in The Purest Form of Chaos. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, and I don’t want to write a novel through google searches and YouTube videos of the streets of Moscow. I want to write something more grounded in reality, without a screen separating me from the world I am constructing.
Live in a foreign country for at least one year:
Last summer I ran away to Latvia for a week, after spending two months working at a hostel in Estonia. My memories of Riga are a picturesque montage of walks along the riverbank, the contrast of my tanned skin against my blue-and-white floral dress, and afternoons spent sitting on a bench overlooking the canal and writing at length in my diary. Every morning, I would go to Miit, a vegetarian café where the music that played always seemed to be from the soundtrack of a romantic comedy. I would sit by the window, and watch the faces of the art nouveau architecture across the street gleaming in the sunlight. I wondered if the faces were generic, or if the artist had a muse, if they’d loved someone enough to mould their faces onto buildings all across the city. I would drink oat milk cappuccinos, and write in my diary, and lament the fact I had nothing to write about. Because the one thing that was missing from my time in Riga was a life. In Estonia, I had had a job, and friends, even the occasional nemesis; I had had a novel to finish, a purpose. In Latvia, my days were idyllic but empty. I built a life in Estonia—a temporary, tempestuous life, but a life nonetheless—and it changed my experience of travelling. Suddenly a week wasn’t enough, being alone wasn’t enough. I want to live in a foreign country for long enough to build a sense of community.
Learn a language:
This naturally follows from the desire to live abroad. I have New Zealand citizenship, so theoretically I could live abroad (does it count as a foreign country if I was born there?) without learning a second language, but the countries I have consistently been drawn towards are in North-Eastern Europe. I’ve wanted to learn Estonian for several years, but there aren’t many resources online, and even when I was in Estonia, I didn’t make the most of the opportunity to learn the language. The extent of my linguistic expertise is that I can 1) order a soya cappuccino, 2) read a list of ingredients and deduce whether or not a product is vegan. I learnt random words by observation, but never enough to string together a coherent sentence. I would also like to learn Russian, and I think it would probably be the more valuable language for me to learn, because it’s spoken a lot more widely than Estonian. Perhaps I have a long life ahead of me, and can find the time and willpower to learn both.
Grow my hair long:
You thought this list was going to be about self-improvement or broadening my life experience? You forget a fundamental fact about me: I am incredibly vain. Being conventionally attractive is not the be all and end all of human experience, and I know that my worth isn’t tied to my appearance. But I want to have the full range of human experience, and that includes the small things. My hair has never been longer than a few inches past my shoulders. A couple of months ago, I bought a long purple wig to wear to a superhero-themed murder mystery party. I looked like a different person. I had long hair flowing down my back, hair I could twirl around my fingers as I fluttered my eyelashes, and I felt different. My life has been a constant struggle to feel beautiful, and I’ve learnt to find beauty on my own terms. Something I’ve learnt as I got older is that it’s okay to change your appearance. It’s okay to dye your hair or grow your hair, or lose weight or get tattoos, or do anything that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. So long as you aren’t hurting yourself or anybody else, it’s no one’s business what you do to make yourself feel at home in your own body.
Reach peak physical fitness:
Surprisingly, this one is not about vanity. I am fascinated by myself, by my own strengths and perceived weaknesses. I want to know what my limitations are. I want to know how powerful I can be, whether I can be consistently disciplined. I want to know what my body would look like if there was more muscle than fat, not because I don’t love myself the way I am, but because I’m curious. I want to experience as many different versions of myself as possible, and that’s not something I can do purely on a mental or emotional level.
Sometimes I just want to do things for the hell of it, without some deeper meaning. I want to look different, be different, and see if people treat me differently, see how my appearance shapes my experience of the world. My life is a social experiment—all our lives are, it’s just a matter of paying attention—and the only way to test my results is to change the variables.
Write something important:
I don’t have a particular desire for fame. In many ways, I feel like my identity/personality/general self holds me back from being a successful artist and creator. If I could go back and find a way to let my writing exist free from my persona, I think I would do it. My existence, my personality, my life… it all becomes a tool for self-censorship. It’s Schrödinger’s authenticity: every time I intentionally write openly, I am trapped in a cage of self-awareness that steals a certain degree of my intended authenticity. Every time I am writing about myself, I am not writing about my actual self, I am writing about my perception of myself, and they are not the same thing. My novel, The Purest Form of Chaos, is different, because it is not about me. If there is 60 percent freedom in my personal writing, there is 90 percent freedom in my novel. I still self-censor, but not to the same extent. Because I’m not trying to balance the weight of my own identity. If I dream of being a best-selling author one day, it’s not because I seek fame. Fame is useless to me; I seek influence. I want to write fiction that expresses the truth – what this “truth” may be, I have yet to discover. I want to write a novel that changes people’s lives. I want to write a TV series that is unforgettable, or a poem that captures something unique and human and beautiful. I don’t want my life to be in the public eye, but I want my work to be. I want to write something that goes down in history. I want to add value to the world, in the only way I know how.
Learn about robotics:
A theme I explore in The Purest Form of Chaos is where we draw the line of what we consider human. I’m fascinated by the idea of robots, and sentient AI. When I was in Estonia, I met a man who worked in that field, and he said AI is a lot more advanced than people realise, to the point that robots will soon have self-awareness and the ability to feel emotions (it’s been about 8 months since that conversation, so I can’t remember if he said it’s already at that point, or just close to it). The thing about being home-schooled until I was 15, is that I never really learnt much about science. I had one year of GCSE science classes, and that is it. I often wonder how different my life choices would be if I had had a more varied education. Would I have chosen to study the arts if I had had the training to study science? I am such an analytical person; I observe and study the people and patterns in my environment. Yes, that is par for the course as a writer, but it also implies an aptitude for scientific study. I try not to regret the parts of my life I can’t control, but there are times when I think about all the different people I could have been. Who would I be if my parents hadn’t left New Zealand? Who would I be if I had gone to school from a younger age? I can’t change the past; I can’t undo the life I’ve had up till now – and I don’t know if I’d want to. All I can do is look at my regrets, and use them as a tool for sculpting my future. I’m interested in robots? Then I can learn about robots. I want to speak Russian? I can study Russian. There is no one holding me back. I am an adult; I can be anyone I want now.
See the Northern Lights:
I don’t know where this particular one came from. Maybe I just like pretty things, maybe I want to see the closest thing nature has to magic. I’m mentally drawing connections between the various things on this list, and so far, I seem to be driven by two key desires: a fascination with myself, and a fascination with the world. I want to know everything and see everything and be everything. Sometimes that doesn’t mean learning a new skill or pushing myself to my limits, sometimes we need to simply stop and let ourselves be a witness to the miracles in front of us.
Have an epic romance:
This list is not in order of importance, in case you were wondering.
I am strongly motivated by love – both the need to love, and the need to be loved. Perhaps it also falls under the curiosity motivation strand. I want to know how much it’s possible to love someone, what the limitations are, how long I can love someone before walking away. I want to learn whether unconditional love truly exists. I don’t want some dramatic Romeo & Juliet type story. I don’t want to fall in love so I can write about it – if I were in a relationship, I don’t think I would write about it at all. I want to write about everything under the sun, but sometimes I wonder if—on a subconscious level—it weakens the level of respect I treat someone with if I use them as my muse. If someone were my partner, I wouldn’t objectify them with my creativity. Perhaps it’s the same as what I said earlier, about how I want my writing to exist free from my identity. I think when you know and love someone fully, it’s impossible to reduce them to words and sentences. Love is energy, feelings… Love overflows, and words restrict. I have written many poems about my failed romantic endeavours—some humorous, and some heart-breaking—but it was never about them, it was always about me. I think the truest kind of love is when they inspire you to write poems that aren’t about them at all, poems about silly things that came up in conversation, poems you write to make them laugh or cringe. If all you have to write about is how much you feel for someone, are you really inspired by the connection itself, or just your own depth of emotion?
When I say I want an epic love story, I don’t want drama or lovesick poetry. I don’t want to lie awake at night wondering how much I mean to someone, what the limits of their love for me are. For me, the most epic love is secure love. I want a love that lasts 60 years, a love of equals, a love that makes me question everything except my own worth. I don’t want the kind of tempestuous love that pop culture has told me is normal, I just want someone to look me in the eye and see me for who I am, and to hold my hand for the rest of my life. I want a love that’s in the little things, someone who supports my dreams and laughs at my jokes and can handle my many, many existential questions. I don’t romanticise love. I know it is challenging and scary, and when you love someone you have to witness the ugliest parts of them, because everyone is innately flawed. Love is a choice, and I want to understand what it is that makes people keep choosing each other, time after time.
Become my real self:
Perhaps this is simply a culmination of everything else on this list. The more I experience of life, the more I figure out who I am. The most updated edition of Eliza has only existed for 8 or 9 months. I learnt so much about myself during the time I spent in the Baltic States last summer, and the more I expand my social circle, my world view, my collection of experiences, the more I know who I am. But I still only see it in fragments. There are still sides of me that I’ve only been able to express to one or two people, because I connect with different people on different wavelengths. I can have artist friends, actor friends, writer friends, philosopher friends, and become different versions of myself within those friendships. But what would happen if we were all in the same room at once?
I want a great big artistic community. I want to live my best pretentious art student life (*briefly pauses to cry over the fact I soon won’t be a student anymore*). I want to debate ideas, and discuss the meaning of life – not for academic purposes, but out of sheer love and fascination for this bizarre existence.
There are a handful of people in the world who know me very well, but they all know different sides of me. Even the people who know me best sometimes lose sight of who I am because they get caught up in who I used to be, or who I have the potential to become.
I am soft, and I like bright colours and talking about love. I am also impulsive and brave. Sometimes I feel everything, and other times my heart is stone cold. I am intelligent and witty and a capital-I Intellectual, but I am also so basic. I am all these things simultaneously, and I am always searching for the factor that links them together and makes me one person. Some days I want to dance to pop music and put lipstick on to go to the supermarket, and other days I just really crave a good conversation about Nietzsche. As much as I joke about being pretentious, I’m not pretending. I love philosophy, I have spent my life consumed with a hunger for meaning. I am 22 and arrogant and self-absorbed, and right now I am perfectly okay with that. I want to see who is the next person I’ll become. I want to learn what freedom means to me. I want to discover one person in the world who will relate to (or at least like) every side of me – I have my doubts as to whether that person exists. I want to live in the space between radical self-acceptance and constructive self-improvement. I want to be everything and nothing. I want to live my life as a metaphor, but I also want to just really live my life.