The People of the Firsts
Throughout our lives, there are rites of passage that we pursue with the fervor of of zealots seeking a higher power: the first job, the first kiss, the first step. However, there are also those experiences that we are repeatedly warned against, try to avoid, or even fear: the first run-in with the police, first break-up, first experience with drugs (and hey… sometimes those things can all happen in the same night, amirite?). The feeling can’t be too different for each of us… Apprehension comes first, assuaged by trust, a yearning for acceptance that surpasses fear and uncertainty, someone bugging you incessantly to the point of a proverbial breakdown of will, or, of course, the raw power of unquenched curiosity. Either way, something drives us toward that unsure path. Something and, often, someone. When you look back at those pivotal firsts in your life, both good and bad, who was there with you?
It can be difficult to look back and remember the individuals as they were in those specific moments. Relationships are fluid. They ebb and flow, rush in like a tsunami, only to suddenly evaporate. <<Climate change joke>>. Often, our last experience with someone tempers our memory of them, rather than our first memory of them (or our memories of firsts) or the actual emotional environment of most of the relationship.
I think that this, in a way, damages our human experience. Yes, I know that you are always having that “let it go” bullshit shoved in your faces, but think of all the joyous feelings that you’re missing out on by simmering in your grudge-juice–or, more importantly, the funny stories! If–and that’s a STRONG ‘if’–you can be objective about a situation, it’s easy to view it positively. Hell, you definitely come out with more information than you had when you went in.
Rather than the value that you have assigned the situation itself (probably based on your emotional temperature towards the people involved), I propose that we examine the actions of these important individuals and how they drove us into uncharted territory. I have broken these people into three groups based on the amount of effort they put into creating your first experience: Positive, Neutral, and Negative.
People in the positive group added something to your experience. They sought to guide you through something that they viewed to be important to your human experience. Now, these situations can still go very, very wrong, mind you (There are a lot of injuries that people can attribute to their first Megan excursion)–this is more about excellent intentions solidified with an effort to make good memories. A personal example of this is when a couple of my dear friends took me to Vegas for my first time–No, that’s not the first I’m talking about. It’s the first time I saw the true depth and passion (and incidental humor) of the Hanger that runs through a certain gentleman’s veins. Intense stuff. Experience delivered.
The neutral group consists of the bystanders, witnesses, and accessories. These individuals did not take an active role in the first experience, but did help to create the environment in which the experience happened. They may have their own stories regarding the situation, but they didn’t add anything to yours. I think the best example of this is the friend who drove you home from that drunk bender night that you have no recollection of even seeing (Not that I have ever experienced this… I just… uh… have heard thi… *walks away from the implication*).
The Negative individuals are those to whom you gave something during the first experience, but from whom you received no effort. It is likely that this had absolutely nothing to do with their values or goodness as a person, but because you were making a decision to do something for someone, rather than for yourself. Again, the “Negative” is in regards to efforts received, not the value of the experience (although, if you came out feeling bereft of validation, it is possible that your expectations were not met). The majority of examples I can think of for this group are related to doing something due to perceived peer pressure, to fit into a situation, or to impress someone. Typically, these instances are pivotal in discovering your personal likes and dislikes. For instance, the first time I drank unsanctioned alcohol, I discovered that I did NOT like tequila, even with a ton of granulated sugar poured into it.
First experiences are the building blocks of our individual personalities. However, more important than the experiences themselves, are the ways in which we let them shape our values and beliefs. I think that we owe credit to the people of our firsts, regardless of the impact that the specific incident or escapade had on our lives.