Sparring questions are tricky because they’re very situational.
I know you’re around Philly, so gambit is wide open. So sparring could be doing partner drills where you’re both trying to make the other work for success or it could be a glorified gym fight.
The shortest answer I can give is: Kill your ego. Kill it before you put yourself in a position that someone kills it for you.
You have to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you doing it to get an adrenaline rush as soon as possible? You can get that by getting better safely over the long haul. Or are you doing it because you want to “fit in?” or “Prove yourself” at your new gym? Or is it because it is the next logical, manageable, and rewarding goal of your training?
Even with the best daily minute by minute paid coaching in the world, you’re responsible for at least 80% of the results. In almost every other amateur situation, it’s closer to 90-95%. You can’t rely on a sparring partner or coach who you barely know or your own optimistic appraisal of your own abilities to keep you safe.
At your age and injury history, your number 1 bar priority should be avoiding layoffs and keeping yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to put in the daily work.
Everything else is at the bottom of the heap.
It’s like those middle age middle belt BJJ guys who never become black belts because they get mashed up trying to “humble” every wrestler half their age that steps on the mats.
“Protect YOURSELF at ALL times!”