A Future of Firsts

Tomorrow is the last day of 2013. I just had my last Christmas, and will soon have my last New Year’s Eve, as a singleton. I only have about eight months left in the last of my twenties, which will end, of course, with my last birthday as an ummarried woman.

Wow. All these lasts. (sigh)

Unsurprisingly, after writing and thinking about it a number of times, “last,” as a word, now looks strange and unfamiliar to me. Such weird spelling. Feels weird too, when you say it out loud, over and over again. I mean, look at it, say it: last.

What does “last” mean again? For sure, it is an ordinal word. It could mean what comes after everything else, what is latest, or what remains. It could also mean the end.

What a miserable word—“I finished last,” “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…”—if not, acrimonious—“This is the last time I fall in love,” “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…” (Redundancy intended.) Of course, it can also be motivating—“Last two minutes,” “This is my last chance”—but it usually motivates too late.

There is, however, also closure in the word “last”—the kind of closure that comes after a long wait, the kind of closure that lets one begin anew. As in, “This is the last of my twenties,” or, “At last, my love has come along…”

It is the last sense of “last” that applies to all the lasts I recently had and soon will have. These lasts are heavy with the weight of everything that precedes them: failure, regret, loneliness, anger, and selfishness—in a word, my twenties. (Haha!) As soon as these lasts pass, I will be free to be surprised by a future of firsts—weightless in its incalculability, boundless in its possibility; “the perfect stranger,” as an older colleague would say.

How does that aphorism go again? From Confucius, I think. “We each have two lives; the second begins the day we realize we only have one.”

The new year, 2014, is a continuation of my second life, a life that began when I started my own “happiness project.” It is not a horrible thing, then, that 2014 begins with the closure of lasts. It is, after all, also open to a future of firsts.

Cheers, folks! Happy New Year! Ü

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