A friend sent me a video this weekend of his daughter taking her first steps. It was as adorable as you would expect; the wobbly, chubby legs propelling her forward, arms raised for balance, a burst of momentum carrying her through the last, fumbling step and into her father's arms. A symphony of squeals, cheers, and laughter filled the room and a person at the coffee shop wondered what I could possibly be beaming at on my screen.
Our young lives are filled with firsts. Better, our young lives are fueled by them, as each discovery and accomplishment powers the next adventure. First steps and words, first day of school and soccer match, first new tooth and lost tooth. My wife created an "I Can Do It!" book for my son and filled it with artistic reproductions of achievements small and large. We stopped adding to it about the time he started school, but sometimes I want to track it down and add a new section of firsts like driving and concerts, job interviews and college applications, replete with construction paper collages and colorful crayon descriptions.
Seen through this lens, firsts seem like the very core of a well-lived life. As we step into adulthood, firsts can be buried beneath never-ending lists, queues, and notifications about what we should do next. These provide a satisfying sense of accomplishment, but not the confidence and perspective that comes from a first art class, first time voting for the other party, or first visit to another continent.
The energy and rush of excitement that is reflected in those moments is irresistible, even if you're watching from hard chairs in the auditorium and waiting at the finish line. Firsts breathe life into us, whether it's you or someone you love experiencing it.
I want to chase more firsts in my life, and stand beside my friends as they run a marathon, start a business, adopt a child, or step on stage for the first time.
Firsts push the boundaries of who we are.
Last week's dispatch asked, Do you have a favorite way to peruse the past?
My favorite way of perusing the past is to sit around a long wooden table, with quality people I've known for a long time, recounting stories of shared and individual experiences. The table covered in corks and cards, faces brightened up by wine consumed and laughter.
One of my favorite ways to peruse the past is through an app called the little memory. The little memory is a place for recording short daily memories. The app prompts you to "tell your future self" about a little joke or time spent with friends in less than 300 characters, and when you finish, a notification slides down: "one more memory, one more future anniversary." As you compile memories, you'll begin to see past memories appear "exactly one month ago" or "exactly 6 months ago." What was mundane at the time is now a milestone, a special glimpse into the past. I often can't believe the passage of time, thinking, "was that only 3 months ago?" or "wow, it's already been a year?" In any case, I always feel a little thrill to see what I wrote in the past contained in a mini, daily time capsule.
My favorite method of perusing the past must be through stories, heard and told. Few human experiences rival the bonding and revelry from a group of friends or family reminiscing, embellishing and bringing the past to life with stories. History books and timelines are indispensable and informative, but nothing conveys our sense of shared humanity so much as the jovial spoken word.
True perusal for me only happens when I reading my journals. So thankful for every day that I remembered to journal! But recently, I've been using the Timehop app. Quite a fun way to look at recent history. It imports my posts from various social media, and reminds me what I did "X year(s) ago today." Simple, but I've enjoyed that a lot.
I love to browse Twitter favorites. They make me laugh, when they're jokes; discover new things, when they're links I never went back to; or jump to a moment in time, when they’re thoughts of someone else that echoed mine. The latter are the most fascinating, because they’re the story of my evolving being, how I used to think, what mattered at the time.
When I was in graduate school I spent the summers working for a camp in Durango, Colorado. After each summer of fun, I'd collect them into Flickr and print off a photo book. I know the photos will live on Flickr as long as I kept my account, but it was and is good to have a physical copy of these memories -- as I find myself flipping through the pages every now and again, always ending with a grin on my face.
The fact that nobody is doing what you imagine doing is the beginning of your idea, not the end. People want to read things that haven't been written, see things that haven't been made, and hear things that don't yet exist.
Online Communities by Caterina Fake:
Gone are the Olden Dayes of the Independent Web. But never gone is the miraculousness of connecting with people remote from our houses, but close to our hearts. Each online community decides what it is going to be, and in the end, reflects the people that participate in it. The internet is made of people. Like Anne Frank, I believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, people are good at heart. And always, on the internet, I am astounded by people’s insistence on being generous, compassionate and kind.
Living the Quiet Life by Leo Babauta:
In the quiet space that you create, in this world of noise and rushing and distraction, is a new world of reflection, peacefulness, and beauty. It’s a world of your own, and it’s worth living in.
Connecting and Disconnecting by Whitney Hess:
Because we’re hunched over our computers, hunched over our phones and tablets, our heart centers are facing down — towards our devices. Our backs are to the world. And this posture is negatively affecting our own views of self-worth and our capacity for self-awareness.
What do you wish you could experience again for the first time?