So at around 5:50 AM today, Eastern Standard Time, I hit 80. I'd been pushing as hard as I could for it over the last couple of days; I want to hopefully do Naxxramas before it becomes badge run territory. Although I know I've been a lot slower than everyone else I know, it feels good to have finally made it.
It took me nearly 18 months to reach 70, all told. Mirsh is still my only 70+ toon; my second highest is my old main, a Mage, who I only recently got to level 40. I still remember the day I hit 70, as well; I came close to finishing in Nagrand, before moving out and doing some very painful last quests in SMV. I loved questing while I was levelling for the most part, but those SMV quests were terrible.
On that day I can remember commenting in General that it felt like the game was over, and I didn't like that at all. I love playing this character; both in-game, here, and on the forums...she's an alterego for me, now. Someone else answered me in General back then though, assuring me that it never really ends; that there's raiding, and end game PvP, and lots of other stuff...it goes on.
I think I can honestly say that I'm mentally ready for the raid game now, as well. When someone in gchat a few minutes ago said congratulations, I answered him that the reason why I'd wanted to get to 80 is because World of Warcraft isn't a solitary experience for me any more; and I don't want it to be, now. I either group with people, in terms of Heroics, or soon, raids, or I find that I lose the motivation to stop playing.
Ippon used to say to me that I had snowflake syndrome, and that I wasn't willing to do what was necessary to conform at least to some degree, and fit in, in a social environment. At the time, he was right, and although that was painful, it was feedback that I needed to hear. Although I haven't stuck with it permanently, trusting my instincts that eventually Survival would be a good choice for raiding in WoTLK, the amount which I've tried to adapt to Beast Mastery in recent months tells me that I am now willing to adopt an appropriate level of mental flexibility. I will still be myself and retain my own identity, but I think I'm a lot more open now to listening to people when they tell me to try alternatives that might be good for me.
I wasn't ready during TBC. All through that expansion, I still wanted to go off on my own, and do the quests in Nagrand or Zangarmarsh, or simply some solitary air farming in SMV. As Illidan said, "You are not prepared!" I wasn't.
Now, however, I genuinely do want to take this game to the next level. This isn't unexplored territory for some people, or maybe even most...but it is for me. I'm looking forward to it.