Stuck at 30 [unedited]

I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve been somewhere between really happy, complacent, and not happy for some time. it is an odd feeling- likely due to underlying mental health “illnesses” that dictated aspects of my life long before I could have deciphered the impacts mixed with the ebbs and flows of a romantic relationship filled with a love so strong that any turmoil that arises seems to overshadow it and the settling in of a new life and a job without an end date … or so I hope.

So, I turned 30 last week. An age I’ve wanted to be since I was 23. The age where I could rightfully, so I thought, get upset when underestimated on the excuse of my young age. A milestone birthday.

I know you can never predict your future. I know you should never predict the happiness you will ascribe to a certain event or a certain accomplishment. I know better. I know myself. I also know I’m good at fooling myself when I want to.

30 is an accomplishment. 30 is something I earned. 30 is the moment I move on from 20-29 and toward the future. Its the third round, the third act, third take.

When we learn something or try something new for the first time, we almost always need hands-on, constant assistance. We fumble and fall, and it is expected and forgiven because of its newness. We are expected to be unable to succeed at the new endeavor on our own. We are learning, observing, listening, getting frustrated, building the foundation for something bigger later on – even if we don’t realize it at the time. The act of learning and growing is seemingly solely based on self, centralized on the task at hand, and we often forget the coaches and teachers who are equally important in forming that foundation.

When we try something the second time, the training wheels are still on – just in case – but we have more confidence. A false confidence for most. We want to try our craft on our own for the first time, but the instructor is still necessary, just in case we forget the motion , the stroke, the word, the key, the rhythm or the words. We take action knowing that if we take the wrong one, we will be corrected, or perhaps ask for help… that is, if you’re that type.

On the third try our coaches, teachers, instructors, mentors – whoever it may be- tend to take a step back. How will you progress if you are not given the opportunity to make a mistake and self-correct? If you miss the basket, chances are you know why. If you don’t, you either keep missing until the day you don’t or you bury your pride and ask for the answer. The third try is tough as hell, but also fucking fun. That feeling when you make the shot on your own or get an answer right without any assistance. When you bake a cake and this time, this third time, no one helped you and it turned out beautifully… the highs Are such highs. Similarly the lows.. the lows feel so personal. Especially if in this third round you succeeded at first and then suddenly can’t seem to succeed again, no matter how hard you try. Indeed, you may discover on this third try that you don’t know why you are trying at all- that this craft, this skill, this sport – that one you thought would bring you joy, would not. No matter how hard you tried. You may build resentment at your teacher, instructor, coach or mentor for leading you astray. You may continue anyways- after all, you’ve come this far. Or, you may start over with something knew, knowing that skills are transferable. That third try, it’s key. It’s tough as hell. It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. And towards the end of it, it can also be draining. By the end of it, it can feel like you’ll never stop being a rookie. By the end of it, you might even forget the joy and freedom that comes with the relative newness of experience.

Most of us converge on our paths during our third tries. But, no matter what direction it takes us, completing that third try means something because it is earned. The solo struggle, the perseverance, knowing when to swallow your pride and start anew- whatever it may be – you did it on that third try. You suffered through the highs and lows, and after that third try, you can move forward with pride, knowing that whatever has been accomplished, whatever is next, whatever you learned – you truly learned through experience. When you speak on the matter, you can talk knowing that you are talking with authority, knowing you earned the right to. Even if others don’t see that authority, you know when it’s there. If you choose, you can provide tidbits of advice and guidance to those still in their first, second and beginning of their third tries, because we know the difficulty of making it through and how hard it is to learn through experience. You earned it.

On your fourth try, others notice. Others know. They know, or should know, to resist the urge to jump in to correct you when you struggle and that whatever your base knowledge is, whatever your habits are, are likely here to stay. Though minor movements or approaches may be tweaked, by the fourth try, it’s up to you to be willing to change and it’s also up to you to decide that you don’t want to. Either way, you earned that right. You may have had the skill and experience to do the exact same thing on the third try, but others probably didn’t listen. By your fourth try, you hardly remember your first and second attempts, and with the memories of your third try, you forge ahead with hopes of more consistent, yet enjoyable, attempts in the future. Each effort seems less like a singular event and more like a habit or a routine. You have figured out what works for you and adjust as needed. You have pride in the work you have put in. Unlike the times before, you can assume, for the most part, that you’ll only get better with time. Unlike the times before, when you make it this far, you know your future will be full of successes in your craft because you have learned how to make the craft your own. You’ll have set backs and hiccups, but you realize that along the way, during those other pesky attempts, you didn’t just learn something new… you learned how to adapt and how to accept setbacks and celebrate successes. You don’t have to dwell on the present. You are moving towards the future.

I turned 30 last week. I started my fourth decade. I have my attempts – successful and not as successful- under my belt. I have the pride of knowing I earned what I have accomplished. I have the joy of past memories and the hopes of new ones. I have experience to point to when I am doubted or have self doubt. I am prepared for the future.

I knew that by my fourth try at this thing, I’d be excited to show off, a little sad about what I hadn’t accomplished in rounds 1-3, but mostly excited to move forward with the invaluable experience i had acquired. I had made it here, with the help of others at first, then on my own, and now, with the comfort of knowing that if advice is needed, it would be asked for instead of forced.

What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t have predicted, was once I made it here, I would be stuck. Stuck in a reality where I was ready to move forward, armed with the joy of experience, but with a world on pause.

So, I guess I’ll sit it out a while. Stuck at 30. Hoping that by the time I get to try this thing again, I will not have digressed. I will not forget the lessons I fought tirelessly to learn. I will not lose the joy of knowing I earned my right to be here. I’m stuck at 30 when I thought I would be celebrating advancing to the next round.

I always thought that the celebration meant showing off what I had learned to those who got me through rounds 1-3. I couldn’t wait for the newfound feeling of respect round 4 would bring me and the pride I would bring those who taught me.

I’m stuck at 30 and I would give anything in the world to go back to the day before everything stopped. Go back to that moment and instead of anxiously awaiting my upcoming days filled with others’ admiration of my accomplishments, reveling in the moments spent with those helping and teaching me. Because we’re stuck, apart, and what does it even matter if I made it to round 4 if they’re not there when the world hits the unpause button?

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