I was doing some lamenting early this year about how it seemed many of life’s “firsts” were behind me. After all, I would never try sushi again for the first time, or kiss my boyfriend for the first time, or see the roller derby for the first time again. In a harsh and gloomy place, I was really feeling like some of the best and momentous of life’s experiences were behind me -and I can tell you, that doesn’t lend itself for a particularly sunny outlook on the future.
I decided to do an experiment and start a list on my phone. Any time I did something for the first time or tried something new, I would add it to the list.
For example, January 26th 2014 is the first time I ever ate Puerto Rican food.
(It was also the first time I ever got sick from eating Puerto Rican food -and unfortunately not the last!)
No one thing was too big or too small for the list. I had firsts ranging from the first time I ever enjoyed pulp in my orange juice (I must be growing up or something) to wedding dress shopping with one of my friends (and getting a killer deal) to inventing the insult “wool turkey” (as in, “shut up you old wool turkey!”).
I even saw the biggest spider I’ve seen in 28 years in the Pacific Northwest on July 27th.
I think what I liked most about this project was that sometimes unpleasant things can also be firsts, and spinning something unpleasant (like, say, a colonoscopy) into my list of “firsts” somehow made these moments seem like they were serving a purpose and that I have been moving forward. When it feels like I am moving backwards (or not at all) sometimes it can be helpful to see the list of accomplishment (no matter how silly) that got me to today.
What I didn’t realize when I started this project was that it would not only document my exploration of new places, new foods, and new experiences but also fuel me to try more new things than I normally would. Even if it was a bust (like lime yogurt) I could at least add it to the list… and in the periods when I hadn’t added anything to the list for a while, why not wear something new? Or try vitamins? Or reach out to someone I might not normally talk to?
It can be easy for me to get locked into a place of sameness, orbiting those few things that make me feel comfortable. What I learned this year is that there are ways to step out of my comfort zone that don’t require me to move to Bangladesh or shave my head or wrestle an alligator. Yes, I mean, those things are good too… but recognizing that we are all growing in tiny ways constantly can be a great reminder that I’m not just sitting here “doing nothing”.
This is a great project for anyone who has been feeling stagnant, or trapped in a life you may feel you have little control over, and it is a pretty easy one too. There is really no need to commit to “once a day” or “once a week,” because exploration should happen naturally (and you will notice these things often happen on their own), but if goals help you follow through there certainly is no harm in it. All I did was start a list on my phone and write down the date and a (very) short explanation of what occurred. Later you can look back and marvel! Seeing as we are approaching the new year, if you are interested this is as good a time as any to start!