She was 19. I was 17.
We were watching a movie downstairs at my parents’ house, as one does at that age. It was dark, only the light of the flickering big screen TV illuminated the room. We were snuggled in the corner of a big green suede couch.
That’s when it happened.
My very first kiss.
My first kiss with the girl who would become my first girlfriend, who would become the first person to exchange “I love yous” with me, who would become my first prom date, who would become my first breakup.
Do you remember your first kiss? Do you remember your first car? Do you remember the first time you broke a bone, or got in a fight? Do you remember the first time you said “I love you”? I do — it was at the senior prom while “I don’t wanna miss a thing” by Aerosmith was playing. Because it was 2003, and what else would be playing?
Do you remember the first time you lost someone who was close to you, or the first time you FOUND someone who is now close to you?
I’d venture a guess to say that you do. Do you know why? Because firsts have an impact on us.
Firsts change the course of our life. Firsts are something new, unique, out of the ordinary — that we have never experienced before. It might be something as small as the first time you tried sushi, or something as big as the first time you flew overseas, but each of them has the potential for an equally large impact on your life.
How can sushi have a big impact on your life, you might ask.
What if you try sushi for the first time, find out you love it, and begin frequenting your favorite sushi restaurant. Then, one night, you end up meeting the love of your life at the restaurant, who you eventually marry. Man, wouldn’t you be glad you tried that sushi?
We tend to remember milestones in our life. Things like I’ve mentioned above. Your first car, or house, or kiss, or the first time you had sex. I remember mine. Different girl, same couch.
But the small “sushi firsts” can be just as impactful. The problem is, so many of us get caught up in the routines of our lives that we have fewer and fewer firsts as the days pass. We begin to form grooves in the paths of our repetition. We drive the same route to work, sit at the same desk, eat at the same place for lunch, watch the same shows at night…
And, we wonder why we’re not fulfilled.
Humans are an inquisitive, curious animal. We are not meant to sit in one place and find satisfaction from it. If we were, we would all still be congregated in the same little corner of Africa we all originated in. But we’re not. We explored, we discovered, we expanded, we learned, grew, and evolved.
That’s what’s in our nature. That’s what’s in your nature. So, is it any wonder that so many people feel stifled and stunted in their emotional growth? I’d argue that it would be surprising if we actually felt fulfilled in stagnant lives.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
When was the last time you broke the cycle of your life? When was the last time you upset the pattern that has governed you for so long?
Better yet — when was the last time you even realized this was an issue?
There is an old story of two young fish who are swimming in a stream. They swim in the opposite direction past an older fish, who asks them: “Hey, how’s the water?”
One of the younger fish turns to the other and says: “What the hell is water?”
The point is, sometimes we become so immersed in our surroundings, that we lose sight of what they actually are. Your surroundings are not just your town and your streets and your favorite restaurant or bar. Your surroundings are not your office and your house. Your surroundings are anything you want them to be. They’re a plane ticket to a city you’ve never visited. They’re a happy hour at a bar you’ve never gone to. They’re a drive down a street you’ve passed every day for years but never driven down.
What’s the one common denominator to all of this? The answer is: It’s you.
You see, I stopped being envious of people who moved to places I want to move, who are in the physical shape I want to be in, or who achieve success in their field that I want to achieve. Do you know what I started doing instead of getting jealous? I started learning from them.
I started understanding that the decisions they’ve made are the very things that have shaped their lives. They took a risk and moved. They wake up before the sun does for the gym, while I’m still sleeping. They hustle and work and grind while most of us are enjoying a cold one on a Friday night.
They’ve chosen the life they want to live. They didn’t settle for it.
And do you know what fulfills many of these people? It’s not the houses or the cars or the abs or the gadgets. Those things are fleeting and material. It’s the experiences.
The places they’ve gone, things they’ve seen, sights they’ve absorbed, foods they’ve eaten. People they’ve met. Relationships they’ve built.
How many things do you think they’ve done for the first time?
Each of our firsts sets us on a different path. It opens our eyes to a new part of the world — or better yet — a new part of ourselves. When we experience something we’ve never experienced before, there is no predicting how it’s going to change us. There is no predicting what it’s going to make us realize that we do (or don’t) want. There is no predicting what direction it’s going to take our life in.
The only thing that’s predictable, is routine. A routine is a hundredth, a thousandth, a millionth time you’ve done something. It is far from a first.
Do you know what’s UNpredictable? Life. Death. The amount of years each of us is going to get to live. Literally the only thing we can do in this life is fill it with as much love and voracity and passion as we can. As many people and relationships and experiences as we can stuff into those years. As much light. Ambition. Contribution. Value.
As many firsts as possible.
Start small. Drive by the lake. Try a new restaurant. Eat a new food. Talk to the quiet person at work or in class. It could set your life on a path you never saw coming.
After all, there’s a first time for everything.