Updated: Aug 18
In the year or two leading up to my 40th birthday, I decided to go on a deep dive into my life, and really pick it apart. I don’t know that I recommend it. It wasn't an especially enjoyable experience, but for me, it was unavoidable. I’m a thinker. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
I like to think I’m not alone in the constant evaluation of myself. Didn't Socrates say, "The unexamined life is not worth living?" I think it’s something lots of people do. We live our lives for a while, then stop and evaluate it, judge ourselves, often too harshly. The cycle continues.
HOW DO WE HANDLE LIFE CHANGES?
Change is hard. We don’t always get it right the first time. It’s a process, often a very long process. How do we handle losing a job, losing a loved one, getting dumped, falling in love, getting injured, getting older?
For me, I thought I had a good handle on the changes in my life. My kids are all off to college, being amazing little young adults. I feel like I did a good job, but at the same time, I feel sort of obsolete. Is this a normal feeling for midlife? Have I done all the amazing things I'll ever do? Is there anything left? How do we stay optimistic?
HOLDING ON TO OLD VERSIONS
It can be so tempting to look back. Look back at when we were younger, thinner, healthier, more vibrant.
I stumbled across an interview segment with artist Janelle Monae on the Angie Martinez IRL (In Real Life) Podcast. She was talking about being in her “thick season.” Referring to her figure. She said the perfectionist in her used to try to fight life changes, but she’s embracing where she is now.
These excerpts from the interview really resonated with me.
“Sometimes [when we’re evolving] we want to go back to our old versions of ourselves.” -Janelle Monae
This isn’t just in terms of our bodies, it could be when we had a big accomplishment, when we were in a relationship, when we were super happy, when we lived in a certain city. Janelle’s perspective really inspired me.
“We here. This is where we are. We’re not utilizing life to try to be an old version of ourselves, no matter how celebrated that version of me was. I’m here. I’m here.” -Janelle Monae
ALLOWING OURSELVES TO BE IMPERFECT, TO MELTDOWN, TO EVOLVE WITH GRACE & PATIENCE
If there’s any advice I get from my friends, it’s to be more open. Don't try to look perfect. I want to, believe me. I am so far from perfect, and I have lots I can share about that. It’s very conflicting. Like a pendulum, some days I don’t want help, I want to run around and conquer the world, all by myself. The next day, I want to hide behind my husband. Maybe it's those "I just want to hide" days I should share?
These quotes from the same interview were really powerful.
“That’s not why I like you, because you’re perfect. I like seeing how you got up from that… the coaching you had to give yourself… It’s not in the perfection that I’m moved. It’s everything that went into the moment where you fell down, and you decided to get the fuck back up."
"And you let me see that. Do you understand how powerful that is?"
"Those are the things that we need to see, we need to know the behind the scenes of what it took for you to get there, when you were not at your best, what were you telling yourself.” -Janelle Monae
It’s a big ask, letting people see those moments. We all have them, it’s what connects us.
EXAMPLES IN TENNIS
Look no further than our favorite sport to find examples of people who have discovered new versions of themselves.
There are so many players who have struggled with challenges, mostly in the form of injuries, but how they’ve managed to reinvent themselves is so inspiring.
How did Andy Murray evolve from one of the big four in men’s tennis, to an older Andy Murray with an artificial hip? Very slowly. If you’ve never seen his documentary- Andy Murray: Resurfacing, I highly recommend it. I love watching Andy play and hearing his interviews. He is the perfect example of reinvention and continuing to live his life as a player in a new way, with love, patience, and gratitude.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know how much I love Dominic Thiem. I first saw him play at Roland Garros in 2018. Perhaps it was the combination of being in the euphoric state that being in Paris for the first-time causes, and Dominic’s beautiful tennis game, that made me such a loyal fan. Injuries on your hitting arm seem to be the most detrimental to tennis players, and Dominic’s wrist injury is no exception. I’ve watched his comeback from afar from the beginning; however, this last March I saw him play Adrian Mannarino live at Indian Wells. He was amazing! Hitting flawless one-handed backhand winners, the forehand looked great! He took the first set 6-4 the second was close, but he lost it 4-6. The third set, he was up in both the set and the tie break, but lost. I was so heartbroken for him, and this was one of so many close matches he’s lost on his comeback journey. I’m sure he would love to get US Open Champion Dominic Thiem back, but he’s slowly finding the new version of himself. I loved seeing him in the final at his home tournament last month. He didn't win, but it's progress, and he looked so happy!
Typically we see players towards the end of their careers searching for ways to adjust to change, or just getting older. Players like Serena after having a baby, Juan Martin Del Potro after injuries, Rafa, and Roger have all had to come to terms with less perfect versions of themselves. Fortunately for us fans, they have been beautiful examples.
Younger players aren’t exempt from injury, or change. I find their examples equally as inspiring.
One of the most impressive players I had a chance to watch this summer in Mallorca was Corentin Moutet. I didn’t know much about him, but I watched him play Roberto Carballés Baena, who is good friends with my Coach Alejandro. Corentin has always played a two-handed backhand, but after a wrist injury earlier this year, he’s had to switch entirely to one-handed. Can you imagine? Having to change such a big aspect of his game at such a young stage in his career.
“I’m not thinking about it. I just do a one-handed backhand as if I had never played a two-handed backhand in my life. That’s just what I try to do. When you don’t have any other option, you do what you can.” -Corentin Moutet
What an incredibly mature outlook. There’s a four-part documentary series on YouTube that chronicles his injury, called Iceberg. It’s in French, with English subtitles. I thought it was a really good watch.
I love Coco Gauff so much. There’s so much talk about her forehand weakness, and she’s obviously very aware of it. She’s had so much success despite it, but how will she handle her career going forward? Will she take time off to work on it? Will she find a way to become Coco with a strong, or at least strong enough forehand? Like everything else she’s done, I’m sure she will impress us all with her maturity and class.
Lastly, Emma Radducanu. Is there part of her who wishes she was Emma before winning the US Open? Maybe. She’s been away from the game for a while, and just had surgery on both hands. I’m sure what we’ll see in the future is a new version of Emma. Like Naomi Osaka and Amanda Anasimova, one of the smartest things Emma's given herself is time. Taking time away from the spotlight, the pressure, and the expectations is such a healthy first step.
Like most changes in life, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. If we learn to allow change, adapt, and embrace new versions of ourselves, that’s when we’ll see growth. I don’t think the best version of me is in the past. I actually know it’s not. The best version of me is in the future. The version I'll embrace for now, is in the present. I also know that I’m still working through the changes that have happened over the past few years.
I appreciate you all so much! Your kindness is not lost on me. I love that you’re a big part of my journey toward discovering a new version of myself, and hope you stick around. Who knows, maybe someday we'll all feel more comfortable showing our behind the scenes, when we're not at our best, and we'll be examples of how to "Get the fuck back up."