When I left home in Alaska at 18 to go away to college, I was not able to take much with me and have not spent a lot of time there since. So when I left, I boxed up my “important stuff” and stuck it in the attic. Two decades later, my parents got sick of storing my stuff and brought it down with them when they came to visit. To Katie's chagrin, I took those taped up boxes and shoved them in a closet where they have sat for a few more years. When we moved out to do our big renovation, I didn't have time to deal with them. But when we moved back in, it was time to open them up.

So I gathered the kids around and we went through a time capsule of my life. A lot of it was really fun. I was probably throwing away 95% of it but then they started claiming things. Favorite toys, books, and stuffed animals found their way to my youngest daughter's room. Hockey jerseys and my baseball card collection were grabbed by my son. It was a really fun couple of hours.

It is a fascinating experience to look back and see what you thought was important a quarter of a century ago. Let me share a few examples of some odd stuff I found.

  • A copy of The Anchorage Times from January 16, 1991, with three-inch tall letters in the headline.
  • Every “participation trophy” I ever received.
  • All of my notes from a half dozen high school classes and at least one junior high class.

One of the funniest experiences came from a picture of me at 12 or 13 years old on a successful Dall Sheep hunt with my dad. My 13 year old asked me “What are you doing with that sheep?” What a different life they lead than the one I had as a youth. I don't know if she thought I was snuggling with this full curl ram or what.

One of the more interesting finds during this experience came from some folder I had to put together “About Me” at the end of 8th grade. My 16-year-old thought it was fascinating to find a list of “Life Goals” I completed as part of this project. She said, “You were really ambitious.” That's probably true, but she was also impressed with how many of the life goals I had actually accomplished. You'll probably find the life goals list as funny as I did. Here it is:


15 Long Term Life Goals

List things you would like to achieve during your lifetime, things you would like to do, places you would like to see, and things you would like to learn to do.

life goals list

  1. Become an Eagle Scout–Check!
  2. Play in the NHL. Ha ha. That one isn't going to happen, although I did make the varsity team in high school and was the leading scorer on an intercollegiate club team in college.
  3. Ski in Europe. This one still hasn't happened yet, although I have ridden ski lifts there. It's hard to leave Utah to ski anywhere, but I bet I knock this one out eventually.
  4. Fly a jet. This one probably isn't going to happen either, but who knows.
  5. Visit most of Canada's major cities. Did I mention that Alaskans feel a little less American than those in the “Lower 48”? I could still knock this one off. I've got Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, but lack Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa to name a few. I'd still like to do this one.
  6. See the Calgary Flames play hockey. I've seen the arena, but never seen a game. Maybe I could tie it into a heli-skiing or ice climbing trip.
  7. Make more than $80,000 per year–Check!
  8. Travel to Hawaii–Check!
  9. Go to California–Check!
  10. Own my own business–Check!
  11. Ski in Utah–Check!
  12. Own a large house–Check!
  13. Learn to waterski–Check!
  14. Climb Mount McKinley–Check!
  15. Have 3 children–Check! Nobody tell #4 about this list please.


5 Short Term Goals

  1. Visit Disneyland–Check! (It wasn't short term, though. I was in medical school at the time.)
  2. Become a Star Scout–Check!
  3. Float the Gulkana River again–Check!
  4. Hit a home run in baseball. I think I might have had an in-park home run at some point in my life, but I'm sure I never hit one over the fence.
  5. Visit Utah–Check!

Not bad, 14 out of 20 on my life goals list and I'm only 45. I think there are a few interesting lessons here.

The first is that planners accomplish stuff. If you plan a trip, eventually that date will come and you will go on the trip. If you never plan the trip, the trip never happens.

The second is that what was important to you in one decade of life will not necessarily be important later in life. I only left the State of Alaska four times before leaving for college. Traveling was clearly pretty important to me back then. Now, having practiced medicine on four continents and visited nearly all of the states, it is much less important to me.

The third thing that I thought was funny to look back on was my view of what being rich was–making a lot of money and owning a large house. I clearly had at least some financial ambition, however misguided it might have been. Before you scoff at the $80,000 figure, bear in mind $80,000 in 1990 is the equivalent of $195,000 today.


An Existential Crisis

Seeing that list actually helped me to feel a little better. You see, going through my stuff made me feel kind of horrible. We spend so much of our life acquiring so much stuff. But seeing how little I cared now about my most precious possessions from 25 years earlier was pretty sobering to me. I suspect I'll feel the same about my current possessions in another 25 years. It's a good reminder that hearses don't have trailer hitches and your experiences and relationships are going to be worth a lot more to you than your stuff. Seeing the list of life goals reminded me that I have had a lot of wonderful experiences and gotten to know a lot of wonderful people including those four kids in addition to acquiring a bunch of worthless stuff.

What do you think? Do you have a list of “life goals?” What is on it? What are your thoughts on your precious possessions from decades ago? Comment below!