On a recent flight from Beirut, there was an impeccably dressed young woman, late teens or 20 at the most, who was flying into Doha to visit her uncle. It’s her first flight. And she is excited. She has dressed up for the occasion. Her phone camera at the ready. If I were a nicer person I would have offered to swap my window seat. Instead I offered to film the landing and take off. 

She smiled through a confusing seatbelt buckle, and played around with the inflight entertainment. 

I am closing in on 49. And I realise that those exciting firsts are far and few between. Apart from a new city or country, there are few other firsts that brings joy. 

This year especially had more than a few unwanted firsts. 

The first time I saw death up close

The first time I pondered the ‘peri-menopausal’ word.

The first time I was admitted to a hospital without a baby to take home at the end of my stay.

First time someone my age with black dyed hair thought I was as old as his mum. [Asshole got away with a stinky stare… ]

First time you leave home without a hug or a kiss.

The first time you keep big joys close to your heart because for the first time you don’t know whom to share it with.

My firsts these days are a reminder of my age and gender and my hair and my saggy bits. 

My firsts are now about estrangements and being alone, about coming to an uncomfortable truce with my body. 

All those glorious firsts that I failed to mark or celebrate enough… I crave a redo of some of them.

The people you hoped to have your many firsts with start dwindling, life takes a detour, plans that were not laid but were assumed go off course.

Then a few days after Beirut I was on another journey, and another and another… 

In the midst of all that, a DHL packet lands home – my first Master’s certificate, with an unexpected distinction. 

The firsts maybe far and few between, but I continue to live like I don’t have many left.

In between all the flights and drives, I grabbed hours and minutes of joy wherever I was. 

Middle of a conference, on the road between interviews, in strange countries and stranger terrains, sharing confidences with people I’ve never met and may never again.

Some firsts were reckless and risky, be it a trek I was unfit for but still ventured on to meet gorillas, or putting my trust in people without enough evidence to merit it.

2022 like my life in general has been incredible — spectacularly fulfilling and exciting, even when strangling doubts threatened to take over. Especially then.

Why we mark a year as a milestone, I don’t know. But it gives pause to take stock. I don’t have any expectations of the years to come; just that the adventures continue and my inhibitions are held at bay. And as I noted at the end of the pandemic year, so I will now too. This daughter of no expectations will persist