As Curiosity touched down on Mars’ surface last week—marking the fourth NASA unmanned surface rover to explore the red planet since 1996—I was struck by how few firsts my generation has experienced.
Sure, Generation Y has lived through some momentous and empowering firsts, from the United States’ first black president to the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage to Cory and Topanga’s first onscreen kiss, but when compared to the series of subsequent firsts lived by my parents’ generation, the Millennials’ cut seems pretty paltry indeed.
Take my father, for example. Born in 1953, this man has lived through cultural first after first after first, from the civil rights movement to music to breakthroughs in technology. Just considering the space race alone, the Baby Boomer generation was awarded one first after another for decades.
- Oct. 4, 1957: USSR launches first artificial earth satellite.
- May 5, 1961: Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space.
- July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the Moon. The moon!
Compare that line-up to my generation’s most memorable firsts:
- June 2, 1992: Lisa Frank releases her first line of Trapper Keepers.
You get my point.
Living as a 26-year-old New Yorker with quite a few life experiences already under belt, I’m often struck with the same feeling on an individual scale: that the vast majority of my notable firsts are already behind me. First kiss? Hey there, middle school boyfriend. First drink? Hey there, Smirnoff Ice in some parents’ basement. First lady? Hey there, Michelle Obama.
Fortunately, this summer spent training for my first marathon has afforded me the opportunity to once again experience firsts on a nearly weekly basis. And it’s a glorious feeling.
On Friday night, I forwent a night on the town to run my first ever 14-mile run. I changed at work (note: applying body glide to your inner thighs while sitting in your cubicle may or may not be OK by HR standards), set my watch and made my way to the East River. And then I just ran.
My route took me down to 14th St., over the Williamsburg Bridge and back, up 1st Ave., back to the East River Promenade into Spanish Harlem and then home.
It wasn’t particularly fast and it wasn’t particularly pretty, but clocking in at a full 0.9 miles longer than my previous record, it was particularly new. And with 15 miles on the schedule this Saturday, working up to 20 by the first weekend of October, I can bask in the knowledge that this well-lived runner has at least a handful of more firsts in her immediate future.
And once these new firsts are behind me? Well, then I’ll just have to learn to take pleasure in seconds. Because if life has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the second, or fourth, or fiftieth time around is even better than the first. And this 26-year old fortunately has a lot of fiftieths still ahead.
What notable first is coming up for you? Leave me a comment telling me about it, and then come back and let me know when you’ve accomplished it. If you do, I’ll toast you with a Smirnoff Ice, in some parents’ basement.