The rickety bridge
“’The thing about growing up with Fred and George’ said Ginny thoughtfully, ‘is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve’”.
Having recently have to delve deeply into the world of Harry Potter for my work (it’s actually pretty cool I can say that in a sentence really), I feel the above quote has been an apt summary of the way I have lived my life for the past six months. Hurtling head first into a new job, new degree, moving out of home and interstate all at the same time, and spending the last six months racing down that heady tightrope of not really knowing what I’m doing half the time but enjoying every second of it, I truly have come to realise the value of pure nerve as a valuable life skill.
The word nerve has a dual definition of “a fibre in the body that transmits impulses of sensation to the brain or spinal cord” and “one’s steadfastness and courage in a demanding situation”. To me, the nerve I’ve experienced has oscillated between the gamut of both these definitions- the panic of walking into a class totally unprepared having jumped off a plane the night before and hoping that your students will be amenable to rap battles; looking into the face of the daunting task that is writing 80 individualised reports while having to finish 2 60% masters assignments while having to attempt to engage restless students after an 11 week term; the intoxicating rush of performing your own rap in front of your most disengaged class of students in the aforementioned rap battle and getting a standing ovation; and the absolute dread of having to check your assessment marks knowing you’re currently on a 51.25% average.
Nerve is partially about resilience, gritting your teeth and enduring something challenging; it’s partially about making calculated decisions where you feel the payoff is worth the risk; but moreover I believe it requires a kind of breathtaking recklessness of decision making that some may think is foolish, but in fact indicates the ability to view loss or pain as a necessary part of human experience and to not be afraid of that. Nerve is getting second degree burns all over your body and getting a plane to a remote location the next day for a week of work because “if you didn’t do the work nobody would”; nerve is booking flight after flight to visit a guy you like based on your burning hope for a joint future when you know deep down he doesn’t care as much about you as you do about him. Nerve sometimes isn’t what people look at and see it as the right thing to do and nerve sometimes makes you feel deeply sorry for someone, but at the same time you have to admire people who face the abyss of where these conscious choices could potentially lead them, and walk across the rickety bridge anyway.
So does enough nerve really make anything possible? To tell you the truth I am not sure. People and situations inevitably exist outside of your control and although displays of pure nerve are admirable in their execution and even venerable if they are successful, I’ve come to realise determination alone is not enough to give you everything you want. My friend who spent thousands of dollars on visitation flights still does not have the guy. You surely can’t work to the best of your ability with second degree burns. Sometimes I feel defrauded at the idea that life isn’t like a video game or the 10,000 hours book which espouses the semi-truth where with enough determination, achievement of goals is a hard fought but possible path for anyone. Anyone who has interacted with a human being before can tell you that in both the personal and professional sphere, humans are wonderful and frustrating and inspiring and devastating and certainly unable to be predicted or controlled. Enough nerve will not make everything possible for you. But to not hope to try- that leaves you nowhere at all.