Daily Prompt First! Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.
Firsts are supposedly for young people, but as a 60-something, I’ve experienced more firsts in the last few months than most humans experience except as infants. The list of FIRSTS for this experience is quite long, but here are a few “firsts.”
5 1/2 months ago I taught my last class. Last? Well, it was my “first” (and only) last class and I knew it. I drove home in a state of mixed relief and shock and knew I was about to embark on my FIRST day as a retired person. Lots more firsts were involved with that. I had my firsts applying for both Social Security and my teaching pension. In August, I saw the town in which I now live for the FIRST time. At my CA house, I saw, for the FIRST TIME how a leach field for a septic system is ‘built’ (dug).
Beyond that, I had my first half-way-across the country trip with my three dogs in a rental van. It was the first time I drove a van. It was a first trip from which I would NOT return. It was my FIRST time leaving behind a life completely and alone and wandering out into the world to seek my fortune. For the FIRST time I stayed in a mountain cabin while I looked for my FIRST purchased (not an apartment) home in Colorado. For the FIRST time in decades I have no credit card bills. For the FIRST time I am cooking on an electric stove. For the FIRST time I have an old furnace in the floor. In December, finished my first semester in more than 30 years NOT teaching. I’m in the middle of my first winter break (since I was 6 years old) from which I will NOT need to return to school. For the FIRST time, for the FIRST time, for the FIRST time…
Firsts are pretty easy. It’s the work involved AFTER the first that makes life, really. I guess I got up and walked when I was 13 months old (fine with how things were on the ground, I guess). After that? I had to keep doing it. After a while, I forgot the “first” and was completely wrapped up in winning a race, hiking a trail, getting to class, walking on the beach with a friend, playing catch with my dad.
That said, except for ONE outcome, I do not know where all the firsts in my life these past few months will take me. I do know that the continued pursuit of “firsts” is adventure.
I’ve lined up a few “firsts” for this year. One is an online writer’s workshop with a school in Denver. I’m honestly dreading it, not because I think I’ll learn my writing is shit or that people will not like it, but because I’m only minimally interested in the opinions of others. As far as my writing goes, I just want to know two things. 1) Is it so riddled with mistakes that it’s unreadable and/or is it overwritten? AND 2) Do you want to read more?
As far as the writing of others is concerned, I am very hesitant to be too “helpful.” Peoples egos are (naturally) heavily entangled with their work (mine, too) and while a lifetime of teaching English has made me pretty adept at tact, I’m still unlikely to remark on anyone’s work if I don’t think they are actually serious about writing. Besides, who am I? Personal taste is ALWAYS a factor. One woman who expressed interest in translating Martin of Gfenn into German said to me after she read a chapter, “I prefer Henry James.” Well? I don’t. To her clean, spare prose is bad writing. To me Henry James is, uh, bad writing. Lots of bad writing is very successful out there in the world, too.
A writers workshop, online, will be a big first for me but maybe, now that I’m a writer, it’s something I should do, an experience I should have. It’s one of those things about which I made a judgment long ago (I mean LONG ago) and never looked back. I’ve undertaken it FIRST to give some structure to my writing life and second to see if there would be a benefit. I will do it — it was too expensive for me not to be as involved as possible. Because I have a work in progress, I even volunteered to go FIRST.
Another “first” is that I’ve registered to attend the Historical Novel Society Convention this summer. It’s not cheap and the expense daunted me, but it is in Denver, and when, again, would I be able to go without adding airfare to the expense? The activities look interesting and beneficial and I have a novel in progress. It’s a first — a first step into the world saying, “I write historical fiction,” not “I write in my spare time.” Both of these — the workshop and the conference — represent the FIRST time I’ve invested in myself as a writer.
As the song says, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”