At least I'm fucking trying, what the fuck have you done? –Minor Threat, "In My Eyes"
I just wanted you to know that this is me trying –Taylor Swift, "this is me trying"
Remember this: Try –Nemik's manifesto, Andor
Just weeks before the pandemic kicked into high gear in the US, when it was already locking down China and ravaging Italy—let's face it, when it was already here too—I was sitting among 10,000 people at an arena in Chicago, every single person shouting at the top of their lungs: TRY.
Every professional wrestler has a gimmick and for Orange Cassidy, it's that he doesn't give a shit. Dressed in washed out denim and aviator shades, Cassidy's demeanor is that of a permanent shrug. On this particular night, February 29, 2020, he was fighting a wrestler named Pac whose nickname is "The Bastard" and he wrestles like one. Orange Cassidy really needed to try.
I've been trying my whole life. When I was 19 I started a magazine, I had zero idea how to do it. It was about trial and error, about trying. It lasted for 13 years. When I went on to teach, it was the same thing: trial and error, figure it out. I've started companies, raised money, each time it's starting at zero, starting at trying.
This is not to say it always works out, that trying leads to success. By a wide margin, it usually doesn't. I have more L's than I can possibly even remember. But each thing I try, whether it lands or not, I've learned something about the thing I was trying and I've learned even more about myself.
These last few years have been hard for trying. The act of surviving in a global pandemic, in the chaos of climate change, in waves hands in all directions, taps a lot out of you. Out of me. Frankly, I've felt stuck for much of the last three years. Not just a little stuck either, but full-on wheels-stuck-in-mud-unable-to-find-purchase. A feeling of endless, useless churning. There came a point sometime last year where I realized that I'd basically stopped trying at all. As someone who's always been able to fall back on trying, that realization was like staring into the void.
I've written before about how I keep a journal and how I use it to reflect, and I will tell you that there were some dark times reflecting back at me in 2020 and 2021. That void was very much on the page and in my head. And I can tell you that it didn't feel like it would ever lift.
But, slowly at first and then quickly, it did. I wish I could point to one thing that did it—that would be so convenient and easy wouldn’t it—but instead it was a fog that lifted over the course of 2022 and I didn't totally notice until it was nearly gone. By the end of the year, I was trying new things again.
And now it's a couple weeks into the new year and I've had meetings with folks I haven't talked with in years about new ideas and new projects. I'm learning new skills on my own, building new things from scratch on the web and leaning into some personal projects a lot more. It's a new year and so much is uncertain, but one thing isn't: 2023 for me is about trying.
Three years earlier, 10,000 strong at a wrestling show, there was a lot we didn't know about our future, but on that night those of us crowded into Chicago's WinTrust Arena knew one thing: TRY. We shouted it in unison, thousands strong, our voices hitting like a wrecking ball. We shouted ourselves hoarse and then we shouted some more. TRY.
At first, our cries were unheard by Orange Cassidy. His lackluster offense didn't land, The Bastard Pac rag-dolled him around the ring. But then—of course there's a "but then," that's the art of wrestling—he heard us. He leapt from a turnbuckle, and instead of limply falling back to the mat, Orange Cassidy launched himself into Pac, into a flurry of offense, shocking Pac and sending all of us into a frenzied ecstasy. He lost the match, a fact so insignificant to the story they told that I hadn't remembered until I looked it up just now, but it didn't matter: Orange Cassidy tried.
Published January 14, 2023.
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