I’ve recently had to re-evaluate my life and realise that, while there are others who see me as a confident, middle-aged man, that narrative doesn’t bear any kind of scrutiny. Instead, it’s liberating to realise that there is a kind of anxiety which is a two-edged sword; it can propel you forwards and hold you back, depending on how you treat it.
I’d assumed, in my simple two-plus-two way, that people who choose jobs like this found it easy, even enjoyed the thrill. I’m heartened to discover that they, too, feel frightened, their confidence an illusion. And I’m delighted that the shame associated with nervousness, a trait we’re expected to grow out of, has subsided enough for it to be discussed so openly. It’s no coincidence stage fright and its shivering sisters are being talked about now, at a time when even the most confident-seeming people are feeling nervous about re-entering the world.
The pandemic has helped clarify concepts that previously felt abstract. “Nervousness”, we see now, is not just a childish affectation but a rational reaction to situations that feel dangerous, a feeling experienced by many, and often. Similarly, we are being forced to reconsider the idea of “hope”. Rather than a simple heart-fluttering optimism, hope has been revealed to be both necessary and a bit of a slog. A decision, made daily upon waking, to seek out good news and drag ourselves towards it using our nails, our knees, whatever clawed instrument we have to hand. It prevents us from sinking so deep into the porridge of modern life that we no longer have the energy to look ahead.