Expect the Unexpected

Happy April, everyone! Wow. We are one quarter of the way through 2021. It always amazes me how time just keeps on dashing by.

I do love this time of year. Even Montreal is starting to wake up from its winter slumber (though I’m sure there will be a few more snowy days. Spring is always a tease at the beginning). I find myself becoming optimistic for no good reason, as if sunnier days and warmer weather inherently spell possibilities and growth.

I was planning to wax poetic for this month’s post. I hadn’t pinned down a topic quite yet—consecutive interpretation, perhaps. I always have something to say about that. Or maybe something different, something about ethics, or study hacks or…Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. I sat down to write this post and at that exact moment our household received word that we were to be quarantining for the foreseeable future.

Nothing like government-enforced home arrest to dry up your blog-writing inspiration. I’ll spare you the details, but it turns out that a member of our household has been exposed to a positive COVID case, of the new, express, variant iteration. Canada has a very rigorous warning system in place, and we have received our instructions. Take a test, go home. Put your lives on hold, catch your breath and pray.

The thing about COVID (well, one of the many things about COVID) is how truly thoroughly it has driven home the point of our utter lack of control over our lives. Sometimes this is due to government measures to prevent/cope with the problem. Sometimes it is as a direct result of the virus itself. Either way, time feels…less trustworthy. Plans are harder to make.

This lack of control has permeated our personal lives and our professional ones. Interpreting tests have been cancelled or postponed. As Urszula wrote last week, the standards and conditions for our profession have shifted drastically. The very fabric of our interpreting careers has been rewoven. The situation is evolving as we speak, and not always for the better.

Being in control?

So, it is true that the pandemic has changed what we can control. The truth is, though, that we were never actually in control. We do not ultimately dictate what happens in our lives, or in our careers. We can heavily influence our futures, of course. We can follow our passions, study hard, pace ourselves, take care of ourselves. We can maximize our opportunities for success. But we are never actually in control, and the sooner we realize that, the better off we are. Then, we can accept and respond to the reality of where we are. We begin to thrive accordingly.

When I first started freelance interpreting, I had to learn to adjust to a constantly-shifting schedule. A trial scheduled a month ago for next week would be cancelled. A new request for tomorrow would be postponed to the end of the week. Meanwhile, an agency would want to know if I was available right that second for a deposition that was supposed to have started an hour prior. Not being able to dictate my schedule from one moment to the next was aggravating, but it was also liberating. It started me on the journey of accepting where I was in this current moment, while letting go of events beyond my control.

Well, the pandemic has taken that “opportunity” to a whole new level. We do what we can in the moment. We can cautiously make plans for the future. We can hope for the best, and then we can wait and see.

I think the same can be said about life. Certainly, it applies to us this year, anyway, one quarter of the way through 2021. So, I’ll say it again. Happy April! Let’s hope some springtime optimism turns out to be warranted. ☺


Portrait of Athena MatilskyAthena Matilsky fell in love with Spanish the year she turned 16. She chose it as her major at Rutgers University and selected a focus in translation and interpreting. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Honduras and then returned home to begin freelancing as a medical and court interpreter. She has since achieved certifications as a Healthcare Interpreter and a Federal Court Interpreter. She was the recent editor-in-chief of Proteus. Currently, she works as a freelance interpreter/translator and trains candidates privately for the state and federal interpreting exams. When she is not writing or interpreting, you may find her practicing acroyoga or studying French. Website: https://athenaskyinterpreting.wordpress.com/

Read other posts by Athena Matilsky.

2 Comments
  • Vicki Bermudez
    Posted at 16:24h, 09 April Reply

    Among other very good points you made, Athena, one really spoke to me. One of the things I grappled with daily as a freelance interpreter was precisely the aggravation of constantly-changing schedules. Oh yes, I learned to be very flexible, but when I became a staff interpreter, I really, really appreciated the steadiness of my work hours. No more 1 AM calls from a police station, 50 miles away, or 6:30 hospital assignments, sandwiched in-between hours of free time spent at one of the many local libraries I frequented, after a 10 AM assignment in one county and before the next one, at 2:30 in a different county!

    But when I return to being freelance in a couple of years (Lord-willing), I will try to keep in mind the concept of enjoying the opportunity of living “in the moment.” Thanks for sharing that perspective!

  • Fiorella Warger
    Posted at 17:17h, 11 April Reply

    It’s been said: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.”

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