I'm an independent, or freelance interpreter. Last year, however, I was offered a position as staff interpreter at a high school not far from where I live. Steady paycheck, benefits, and I get to interpret. Sign me up.
This new gig meant a big schedule change. I'm not a morning person, and I'm certainly not an early riser, but to make this happen, I had to set my alarm for 5 a.m. every morning. Wow. That is so early. I kind of got into the culture, though. I interpreted US Government, Geometry, English Literature, Art. I got to know the teachers and the administrators. I started hanging out in the library after lunch, even ate in the teachers' lounge. I really began to feel like I belonged, and despite the early mornings, I began to really love this job.
I have a few other assignments that I also love, assignments I had long before the position at the high school. Keeping them meant working some pretty long hours and also weekends, but great assignments don't come along every day, so when we get them, we hang on.
Working every day without a break for months on end is enough to wear a person thin, but there's an emotional factor, too. We interpret for people, and people sometimes come with baggage, and problems. It's hard enough when those people are adults. It's doubly hard when they're kids, and that's where I found myself. Day after day, expending so much emotional energy that every other aspect of my life, like a weedy garden, went untended. There just wasn't enough of me left at the end of the day. My laundry barely got done, and it never got put away, I was getting dressed every morning from the clothes dryer. I lay awake for hours at a time every night. My work began to deteriorate, too, and I began looking at my extra-curricular assignments, trying to decide which, if any, I could let go.
And then it happened. My student's family moved, and in a flash, I lost my job. I went from working every day of the week to ..... crickets.
As I stood at the counter this morning, waiting for coffee to brew, I thought about how different today is from all those months when I was up before dawn and dressing downstairs in the laundry room. And how radically different those months were from the ones before that. I really loved this job, loved getting up and out so early every morning. Each day, I saw the earliest glimmers of light as the sun broke the horizon. Some mornings, I even saw the moon hanging low over the treetops as the sun rose in the east. I felt thankful for the day, grateful to be up and out and alive. Today, I slept until 8 o'clock.
I felt out-of-kilter in those early days that that followed. Maybe herein lies the lesson. Keep your perspective, keep your balance. Life may serve you a big plateful of opportunity, but don't lose yourself. Don't lose what's important to you, and don't lose who you are.
Don't lose yourself. Keep your balance.