Here we are. 2021 has staggered to a close and a new year has begun. COVID is still in the daily news, our professional world is still a constant mix of virtual and in-person, and we never did get our “old normal” back. In fact, it seems to me that we’re learning to hold this “new normal” lightly, knowing full well that it can change again at any time.
As professionals, this includes taking the challenges faced in the past two years and using the lessons learned to make us more flexible, more resilient, leaving us better prepared for a world that can turn on a dime.
So I did a little digging. I asked the ATA ID’s Leadership Council members and the blog team what COVID and other challenges in 2021 had taught them, and found some common themes.
Acceptance of what is
“I learned that it’s ok not to be ok. The pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways that I’ve come to see greatness in the little things. The smell of coffee, a warm bed, a smartphone and high speed Internet. Moreover, I am so grateful for the professional virtual community that we’ve created.” – Natalia
Anytime we’re torn abruptly from our comfort zones there’s a tendency to resist. We can become so resistant, in fact, that we become bitter or fail to recognize the options we do have. Acceptance is an essential survival skill in the face of unavoidable change.
“I personally embraced RSI, but from a “hub.” Either I go to my teammate’s home or they come to mine.” – Milena
Investing time and money in technology at a time when work has slowed to a trickle or long-term clients have shut down may seem counterintuitive. But whether it’s setting up an RSI hub, buying better headsets, or getting an Ethernet line run to the right part of the house, obtaining and mastering the tools to meet our clients in the world we—and they—now live in, makes it an investment worth making.
“I worked almost exclusively in conference settings before the pandemic. During the pandemic, it has been medical and court interpreting as well as translation that make up my lost income from conference.” – Maggie
The ability to provide a variety of services opens up new revenue streams, and those different services often strengthen each other. The research we do for a translation may provide the vocabulary needed for a new interpretation client. Simultaneous work in conferences may boost our skills at the defense table. “Multiple baskets for multiple eggs” equals greater security as well as flexibility.
Openness to new modes of working
“I’ve come to accept that maybe, just maybe, remote work gives me access to technological resources that make me a more effective interpreter in some circumstances.” – Rafael
I don’t know about you, but for me, the fact that something is comfortable is often the reason it becomes a rut. There might be more efficient or effective ways to do things, but before we can find them we have to be willing to do so.
“I think I came out of it with more challenges than solutions, unfortunately.” – Andreea
It can be disheartening to see others bouncing back quickly. But “faking it till you make it” often produces burnout. Our individual circumstances are not the same and so our solutions aren’t, either. Being honest with ourselves about where we are is one of the best lessons we can learn from this pandemic.
Protecting the work-life balance
“As a new mother with a little baby to care for, I accept more RSI than before the pandemic. It may not be ideal, but I don’t need to travel a few days or weeks at a time and it gives me the work-life balance that I otherwise wouldn’t have.” – Maggie
For some, it might be regular lunch dates with a friend; for others, a shared work space. Helen even moved from one state to another to improve her work-life balance. Whatever the solution, mental and emotional health is everyone’s concern. Learning to balance life helps us cope with the prolonged stress of a global pandemic and the resulting professional challenges.
“The moment that stood out for me in 2021 was when I was in the waiting room after receiving the first dose of the vaccine. I was strongly moved by this moment in time. I was in awe of the power of science and the resilience of humanity. It felt like a new beginning.” – Yasmin
Take a beat. Step back and recognize the progress achieved, whether in the global pandemic or in your own personal or professional journey. Marking those points of “new beginning” can offer energy and perspective.
Choice of focus
“We can focus on those we’ve lost; on the stress of caring for sick loved ones without risking illness ourselves; on the loss of work and income caused by clients’ budgetary issues. Or we can be thankful that we are still here, that a lot of us were able to get training virtually that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford, that our translator and interpreter community has stepped up to help, and that perhaps we are on the way to finding new and more efficient ways to do our work. After all, a grateful heart is a happy heart.” – Gaby
Gratitude is a powerful force, and gratitude seems to be the perfect place to pause this exploration.
What about you? What lessons will you take into this new year to keep you healthy and agile, both professionally and personally? You’re invited to add to the list, either in the comment section below or on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Let’s continue the conversation and help each other stand strong in 2022.
-Carol Shaw, Editor
The ATA Interpreters Division leadership would like to express our appreciation for all of you, and wish you every success in this new year.
In addition to our email forum and the range of services on our website, such as the Blog and a Resources page, the ATA Interpreters Division invites members to connect with us on social media. Join the conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook!