Writer Without a Clause: My list of Firsts
Yuri Gagarin, First man in Space and First Man to Orbit the Earth
The History of the World: Who Did What First?
Firsts are a big deal. I remember being shocked to learn that the first person to go into space was Russian, not American. He was also the first person to orbit Earth. Those two firsts occurred on the same mission. Here are a few other notable firsts that come to mind. I can't give details because in my Writer Without a Clause hubs, I can't do any research. It's all right off the top of my head.
- The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
- The first president of the U.S..
- The first African-American president of the U.S.
- The first flight around the world.
- The first successful heart transplant.
- The first telephone call.
- The first radio broadcast.
Firsts can be launch pads to further accomplishments in the same field, rabbit holes that lead to new adventures, or choices that change the rest of our lives. Firsts have the potential to be positive experiences. They can also be ominously destructive.
My First Crush and My First Girlfriend
My first girlfriend was not my first choice for that place in my life. I liked a girl before her but was terrified to even talk to her. The technical term is gynophobia. The girl I wanted to be my girlfriend went to the church my family attended. She was beautiful and sweet. Every summer, the children from church would join those from other churches at summer church camp. Toward the end of the week was an event known as "The Banquet." From about age 10 to 14, I never took a girl to the banquet. But that one girl was always there. I tried to muster the courage to ask her but failed every year. Finally, one day when we were about 16, I saw her with a guy and found out they were dating. The reality crushed me. Flashback—when we were about ten years old, we were playing hide and seek with other kids outside after church. I was hiding behind a bush, and "she" joined me. "Who do you like," she said. "I like you," I said. And that was as close as we ever got to a relationship. After high school, I visited her a couple of times at the local junior college. Following that, we lost track of each other.
So if she wasn't my first girlfriend, who was? Right? I met this girl at another church function when I was 17 years old. She was with a friend. Their names sounded similar. My buddy and I got their names and phone numbers. Actually, we each got both of their phone numbers. I finally got the nerve up to ask her to the junior/senior prom. I remember hiding in a dark stairway at my buddy's house and making the call. As soon as she answered, I knew I had screwed up. I was horrified. What should I do? How do I end this call? I had called the wrong girl. My buddy called the girl I had intended to call. I'll cut to the chase here. I took the "wrong girl" to the prom and dated her for a whole year. My buddy dated the other girl for two years. Was that first due to fate? Stupidity? Chance?
My First Drink
I remember my first drink of alcohol. I was 20 years old and had moved to Oklahoma to live with friends. I hadn't realized it before, but they lived to party. I made many efforts to find friends that didn't live like that. One night, I met some people on my CB radio. I'm dating myself, I know. The year was 1978. They were going to a party and asked me to join them. They had alcohol, and I think I drank it all. I was drunk every day for the following year. I moved home and turned my back on drinking for many years. But it was a demon waiting for another opportune moment to strike. I'll cut to the chase one more time. The devil did strike again, and the results have always been the same as the first. That first drink was monumentally disastrous.
My First Short Story
The first time I tried writing fiction was in my 7th grade English class. The teacher had us write a short story, and I was to write about The Little Ships of Dunkirk. During several days in 1940, hundreds of civilian boats sailed from England to Dunkirk in France to rescue tens of thousands of soldiers trapped on the beach with Nazi planes attacking. I don't remember the details of my story, but what I have never forgotten is that the teacher loved it. Through all of elementary, junior high, and high school, I was a less than average student. In third grade, the teacher suggested to my parents that I may be mentally retarded. That was the term they used then. But I had found a teacher in seventh grade that liked something I had written. That first has stuck with me all my life.
What's the theme? The commonly used phrase today is, what's the takeaway? I can think of four takeaway points.
- Almost a first-these are the moments in time when we miss opportunities out of fear. Remember the girlfriend I never had?
- What seems like pure chance or fate. These events seem to be out of our control or even in spite of our efforts to control the things of life. Example: my first girlfriend.
- Monumental disasters-These are choices we make that lead to negative results. We can't take them back, and they may haunt us for the rest of our lives, i.e. alcohol.
- A moment of success-This happens when we get the courage to try something new like writing a short story when we've never written anything more than our name up to that point. It could be anything that challenges us. We can take a long detour or face it head-on and maybe succeed.
Think of all the things in history that would never have occurred if one person decided that trying was too much work, or inconvenient, or painful. The butterfly effect refers to small changes that might have reverberating consequences in the larger world. Our firsts might not be as inconsequential as we think.
© 2020 Chris Mills