Five firsts for 2016
I have a friend who at the age of 29 saw, smelled and heard the sea for the first time. And then, for his 30th birthday, he went ten pin bowling for the first time.
Without patronising him at all (you know who you are), I find this genuinely cute, and there was something special for me about sharing those moments with him.
We tend to think that by the time we get to this stage of life the only firsts we’ll have are Mature Adult Things like owning our own home, entering into our first (and theoretically last) marriage, having our first child.
I have done none of these things.
Today I was making lunch and realised in one random existentialist moment that I was poaching a fish in milk for the first time. Ever.
I love the simple things, but honestly, poaching your first fish in milk is hardly an occasion worth celebrating.
Which got me thinking: is this what my life has come to? Is there, as Solomon laments, nothing new under the sun for me?
What significant “firsts” have I experienced this year?
I’ve racked my brain and found that they are few but fine.
For the first time, I left a job without having another job to go to (March).
A number of people told me, explicitly or implicitly, that I was brave – or reckless. The period of unemployment that followed was great, then it started to be a drag, and there are some things I would have done differently, but ultimately I learned a lot and feel more empowered for having been through this.
For the first time, I went scuba diving (April).
My first time at the Great Barrier Reef hasn’t and probably won’t change my life or anyone else’s. But you betcha it was fantastic.
For the first time, I legally own a car (August).
People tell me I’m a good writer, but I’m probably better at writing off cars than anyone I know. I’ve now acquired my brother-in-law’s Hyundai and all the paperwork actually bears my name. With registration and insurance, this is one of my more expensive milestones to date (remembering I’m not a home owner).
For the first time, I got paid for a piece of writing (September).
Although I never thought of myself as a writer in the sense of being a creative, I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid – I loved poetry and short story assignments at school, and while my fictional output has dried up significantly in adulthood, I am still pounding away 1,200 words a week (well, most weeks) for my novel, I’ve written and edited professionally, and I’m very much enjoying maintaining this blog and occasionally contributing to others. Incidentally, the piece I was paid for was about my first acting stint – you can read it here.
For the first time, I received a handwritten note from my mum (October).
She’s not on WhatsApp, Facebook or email – the infrequent electronic communication I get from her is passed on through my dad, plus the messages are generally functional and rarely given to me in her own words. So it was a surprise when she left me a birthday gift with an old postcard scribed in her perfect little cursive letters. I bawled my eyes out when I read it. Mum – if you’re viewing this on Dad’s tablet or laptop, I want you to know your card is the best thing and I will treasure it forever.
Maybe you’re looking at my list and thinking it’s pretty sad. But the process of putting this post together has been an opportunity to ponder how life can remain fresh even as the years begin to add up; it’s been a way to pause and review, reflect and appreciate my journey; it’s been a reminder that life is a process, it’s movement and there’s always something new to discover.
It’s also a challenge to make sure I live in such a way that I have more “firsts” to enjoy, to see life in such a way that things are never tired or boring.
So let me close by encouraging you to do the same. What significant “firsts” have you experienced this year?