When I thought of the number 31 as a child I always saw Ron Barassi, playing AFL for either Carlton or Melbourne, wearing that number on his back. All of his highlights would be in black and white. He would invariably be crashing through a pack, or trying to demolish an opposing player. Barassi was (and still is) the personification of the traditional Australian male. A man who leads authoritatively, aggressively, and as a man who you would hate to disappoint. A man of words and deeds.
31 always seemed to be so far away to me. My first memories of growing up were when my father was that age. At that time, he had struck me as just like Barassi, a looming towering figure who would always lead the way, and someone who you would never want to disappoint, because that meant you were disappointing yourself. The difference between Barassi and Dad was that the footballer would grab his disciples by the throat, figuratively or literally and berate them, whereas Dad might initially bark at me like a football captain, but at the end of the day he'd always give me a hug, teach me a lesson, and tell me how much he loved me.
Now I'm almost 31. I cannot make foolish mistakes hiding behind the shield of young adulthood. Life's plans are in place. Responsibilities must be fulfilled. Obligations met. I'm a fully fledged grown up. A third of my life is done... and yet it isn't.
I still don't know what it is like to have a proper intimate relationship. Previous attempts have been painful and diabolical. I've spent the past decade and half begging for necessities that seem to come so naturally to other people. Friends are getting married, having babies, becoming domesticated... and I feel like I'm in an ironic game of Musical Chairs. The table is filled with people sitting in seats. The chair is empty at the head of the table. But I can't use a chair. Instead I have to pull out the chair and fit my wheelchair under the table so I can join in the fun, only the chair is too heavy to move.
Is there a point, an age, or a time where you have to change your modus operandi if one part of your life doesn't work the way you want it to?
If so, how do you change a part of your life, but keep the other elements that you like intact?
Or do you just accept that it is broken and it cannot be repaired?
I thought these questions would be solved sooner. This frustrates the completist in me. The guy who has a detailed road map of where he wants to be, when he wants to get there, and how he wants to do it.
This fragile part of my life, the truly broken part, doesn't have 'a how to booklet' that goes with it.
31. Welcome to true adulthood.