Creating lasting memories through senior bucket lists

Exploring how various students' use bucket lists to take advantage of their final semester in high school

Stuti Upadhyay

It was a Friday night during first semester when senior Randy settled down with a jar of Nutella and an array of schoolwork and college applications he had yet to complete. Randy was FaceTiming his friend to keep him company while they worked, but the two were feeling particularly unmotivated. Romanticizing about a less hectic time in second semester, the friends decided to begin a bucket list for all the things they wanted to do as second semester seniors. The pair started brainstorming at around eight and worked well past midnight, their list becoming increasingly ridiculous.  


The next morning senior Kayden woke up to a notification, “a document has been shared with you.” The document, created by Randy, was titled “Stuff to do at [the source’s address]” and Kayden explains that he “freaked the s— out” as he scrolled through the list of over 100 bucket list activities, one of which included sending “a hooker to Kayden’s house.”


Since that Friday night, the boys continued to add ideas — the list is now at 135 items. They began showing their list to more friends but kept editing access limited to only six close friends. Many of the items on the bucket list are unrealistic (vacation with Donald Trump) or completely illegal (set something on fire). 


“Half of the stuff is not doable, but it’s just jokes to us — we just wanted to write it down and make a joke out of it, so it started like that,” Randy said. “And then we got to 100 and then we showed it to a lot of our friends and … then I think a few [of] them were doable, like [a] day trip to LA and stuff. It started off like that, and it just went from there.”


While Randy and Kayden’s bucket list is a relatively extreme example of a second semester senior bucket list, it isn’t uncommon for seniors to make bucket lists of things to do before graduation. Senior Tedman Chai made his bucket list right after submitting his final college application in December, citing his desire to make the most out of his last months with his high school friends.


“I think over the last four years, there have just been so many things I’ve wanted to do,” Chai said. “And every single time it’s always been, ‘Oh, but I have a test next weekend or I’ll get to it over break,’ and it just ends up never happening. But now if there’s a test next Monday, it’s just like, ‘Yeah, whatever, it’s fine.’ I’ll just enjoy life while I have the time and really check off all the things that I didn’t get to do.”

Chai’s senior bucket list, akin to Randy and Kayden’s, is collaborative with a group of six friends and is constantly updated as the group thinks of new ideas. According to Chai, inspiration can come from anywhere: YouTube videos, others’ Instagram profiles, Groupon, friends’ experiences or just random ideas. 


“I saw a video of someone [making a fort in Costco],” Chai said. “Just the idea of holding a secret fort in the middle of Costco, that sounds pretty fun, right? Maybe steal some free samples, make a full restaurant out of it.”


Unlike Randy’s list, which contains many items that are relatively extreme, Chai’s list mostly consists of restaurants, cafes and destinations to visit. Chai has several different groups of friends he does these events with, but regardless of the group, Chai explains that a list has enabled him to have more fun.


“I’m someone that really values spontaneity,” Chai said. “But at the same time, sometimes if I’m home, and I just have nothing to do, I’ll just default to Netflix because I don’t really know what I want to do. But this way, I can kind of have that balance between knowing what I want to do and being spontaneous at the same time. So it works well for me, and I think that it may work well for other people too.”


Kayden explains that spontaneity is a significant part of their bucket list too. 


“One thing about the whole bucket list thing is like a lot of the things I say are jokes,” Kayden said. “But then …  it ends up just coming true. Everything I’ve said, I said it as a joke and then we just end up doing it.”


For example, the friends once took a spontaneous trip to Oakland, California in the middle of the night.


“It was the last week of school before finals,” Randy said. “No one was sleeping. Everyone had s— to do, everyone was up. And [Randy] was at my house. We’re both doing work together. And around 4 a.m. we finished our work. So as a joke, I was like, ‘Randy, let’s go to Oakland.’ And then he just looked at me and said, ‘F—, we’re gonna do it.’ We snuck the Prius out of the garage while his mom was sleeping and we randomly called the first three people we could think of and two of them picked up … and we went to Oakland.”


The boys explain that so far, the only item on their list that wasn’t spontaneously executed was their trip to Los Angeles. The idea first sprang up when they were driving to San Francisco to take pictures with their friend’s new DSLR camera. While they talked during the long car ride (five friends all of whom collaborated on the bucket list), Randy jokingly suggested a day trip to LA, and to pass time, they began brainstorming how they could make it happen. One month later, the boys made their idea a reality. The five boys left Cupertino at 6 a.m on a Tuesday morning, all of them using the excuse that they were hanging out on senior ditch day.


The boys’ LA trip included visits to Malibu beach, a vegan hamburger place for lunch, Griffith Observatory for sunset and a feast with duck and other delicacies at a restaurant in Santa Monica. The boys ended the trip with a drive around Rodeo Drive and a visit to one final viewpoint. Randy, who drove the boys in his Prius, explained that gas cost less than expected and the boys faced relatively little traffic, reaching Cupertino in five hours at around 5 a.m.


Although the trip itself went smoothly, Randy explains that two of the boys’ parents discovered that they were in LA and were quite angry. In fact, when Kayden’s mom woke up to a note explaining that they were in LA, she was so angry that the boys almost had to turn back. Nonetheless, Kayden says that his parents’ concern is valid, and that the boys are only able to complete so much of their bucket list because of their parents’ flexibility. 


“My parents are very chill and understanding, and I can tell them that I’m going to be going out for a while … and they’ll be a little bit understanding of it,” Kayden said. “A lot of the time it depends on our parents on [what time] we can go out.”


Senior Shyli Akhare explains that even if a senior bucket list isn’t as extreme as Randy’s, one’s parents play a big role in what kind of items a bucket list can have. Akhare has been making bucket lists in a notebook for several years now. She makes one every summer and one for every semester. Despite the numerous bucket lists Akhare has made throughout high school, she explains that her second semester bucket list is special because of the freedom her parents are now willing to give her.


I think it’s a little different, especially since I’m 18,” Akhare said. “Now my parents are a lot more lenient with where I’m going, who I’m with and stuff like that. My parents encourage experiences a lot … So I have bigger things I want to do just because I have the freedom now to actually do them.”


As opposed to Randy and Kayden’s list, which contains plenty of far-fetched and sometimes even illegal items, Akhare intends to complete each of the 20 to 25 items on her list. Her list primarily consists of fun experiences with her friends, such as concert venues, trips to San Francisco, a 10-day course with no technology, road trips and more time with friends. 


“So January has been pretty eventful,” Akhare said. “I went to three concerts I got to check off my list. And then every weekend, I’ve gone to Santa Cruz. So far, one thing on my list was I want to take advantage of the beach more because [it’s] just really nice and it’s so close by. … everyone’s really friendly, and most of the concerts are [in Santa Cruz] so you kind of just meet people and then [you] can go to dinner or something like that.”

Senior Shyli Akhare creates bucket lists every couple months, but she believes this bucket list is her bucket list is more extravagant this semester because she has more time and freedom from parents.

Akhare explains that she tries to cross off one item each weekend. To her, completing the items gives her motivation to get through the week. Despite her desire to complete one item weekend, she also makes sure her lists falls within a reasonable price range because she pays for practically all of her endeavors. 


Chai, Randy and Kayden all agree with Akhare’s view that cost is an important limiting factor when considering bucket lists. While most of Chai’s items are relatively simple, Randy and Kayden say spreading out their events and pooling money helps them control expenses. For example, for their LA trip, they calculated how much the trip was expected to cost and then brought money accordingly. Within the friends, however, they mostly don’t keep track of who owes what, but rather pitch in based on how much money each person is able to bring.


Yet another concern the boys state is that everything on the bucket list may not be fully legal. For Chai, he explains that some of his items fall into a sort of gray area. For example, he faked a PG&E bill to get into Aviso Park. Many of Randy and Kayden’s items are completely illegal. 


“One day, Randy and [friend] came over to my house right there, we’re just hanging out,” Kayden  said. “And then he said, ‘OK, I’m bored.’ And then I’m like, ‘Let’s go pee on the field.’ I said this as a joke. I was expecting a laugh and then [going to] do something else. No, 30 minutes later, we were on the MVHS field. And we’re peeing on it. It was amazing. We made sure to drink plenty of water beforehand.”


The pair explains that when considering whether an illegal action is worth it, they ask themselves two main questions: “Will we get caught? What are the consequences?” If they think they will most likely get away with no consequences, the group moves forward. Once, the group did a burnout in the parking lot (done by holding the break and accelerating at the same time in a rear wheel drive with traction control off), generating lots of smoke and burn marks on the road (considered vandalism).

). Another time, the two boys drew genitalia in the student parking lot. Even when their actions are illegal, the pair explains that they never intend to hurt anyone or cause serious damage. In fact, they felt so bad after the genitalia incident, and also scared of getting caught, that they came back that night with mops and soap to try and clean up. Their desire to not cause problems for others is what deterred them from dying the MVHS pool as a senior prank. 


“One of my friends told me that someone did it many many years ago,” Randy said. “And they got expelled because it costs like thousands of dollars to drain the water [and] put new stuff in. In terms of getting caught, we don’t think we would, but at the same time that’s just not funny at some point because it would just cost the school money, and there’s no humor — It’s just gonna be [stressful] for everybody. That’s not the whole point of doing fun things, right? We’re not bad people. We would never do that.”


Although they may do some “stupid” things, Randy and Kayden explain that they would never let the list seriously jeopardize their grades, anger their parents or endanger them. The pair emphasizes that at the end of the day, the purpose of the list is to have fun and bond, claiming that “it’s not the destination — it’s the journey.” Akhare echoes a similar sentiment, explaining that the bucket list fundamentally comes down to making the most of their experiences and capitalizing on the fun experiences available near them.


“It’s actually pushed me to like follow through with my plans,” Akhara said. “I feel that a lot of the time, I’ll go [on] my computer and be like, ‘Oh, I want to go to this and like, I want to go here,’ but after that excitement fades by the next day, I’m too lazy to plan it. And then I feel like when you have a bucket list, it’s exciting checking things off your list — you feel accomplished, even though [it’s] just a fun task.”


Randy says that their bucket list has achieved this purpose, even if it may be in odd ways. 


“I know, for a fact, I’m gonna be grown up one day and I’ll be going through my Google Drive, and I’m going to see this list and be like, ‘What the f— Kayden? What the f—?,’” Kayden said. “I will probably want to delete it because I would never want my kids to see this.”


Still, Randy appreciates what the bucket list has done for their friend group, explaining that their group has developed and grown much closer because they are experiencing fun things together. 


“Definitely last year, our group, we couldn’t call it a family — it was just people we would randomly hang out with,” Randy said. “This year, it came naturally so that we have a spot where we meet up at brunch … We have our own group now and we go out to lunch at the same places — it’s actually become like a family. It’s not all due to this bucket list, but a lot of it is. It really helped bring us together.”


In fact, Kayden considers the list to be some of his fondest high school memories. 


“I don’t think I’ve had so much fun in my entire life in all my years of school,” Kayden said. “This one semester, the past year, has been one of the best times of my life especially because we have such a close-knit and tight group of friends.”