My life Outside the Courts

I really have no life. No. Seriously. If I am not interpreting in court, I am translating at home. And if I am not doing some work for pay, I am doing voluntary work… for no pay!!!

That’s basically what my life has been since I became a federally-certified interpreter. Am I complaining? Heavens, no!

I suppose I am one of those people privileged enough to love what they do. I love being in court interpreting. I love the linguistic alchemy of translating.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I was too young to be a “child of the 60s” but I was definitely influenced by the 70s, so I have a very strong sense of social responsibility (and, yes, a bit of a rebel in me, too.) Volunteering is almost second nature for me. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult for me to say no to a good cause. I’m that person who will raise her hand when someone looking for help asks “who can do this?” In fact, there have been times in my life when I have had to force myself to stop offering to help because… well, because I have said yes one too many times.
Volunteering is also something I do because I enjoy the feeling of giving something back, or “paying it forward” (I loved that movie!) There is a deep sense of satisfaction in doing something just because you know it is the right thing to do. For example, over the course of the last three or four years I have been volunteering with animal welfare organizations, helping rescue stray animals and then place them in what is known as a “4-ever home.” I have donated my time and expertise to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society of the U.S. I have also driven an hour or so to one end of the island of Puerto Rico, where I live, just to pick up a dog for someone in Colorado who wanted to adopt her. After taking care of all her medical needs—all strays rescued off the streets need deworming, rabies and several other shots, plus getting “fixed”—bringing her home and falling in love with her, I have put her on a plane to go meet up with her new family. Every time I place a rescued dog in a home it both breaks my heart and fills me with great joy because I know there is one less homeless dog suffering from hunger or some painful disease, and one more who has found a family that will love and protect him. There is always a good to the bad, a sweet to the bitter, a light to the shadow in every socially responsible deed when you put your heart and soul into it. But I do believe the pluses far outweigh the minuses.
I have also been a NAJIT volunteer almost since the organization was created, whether stuffing envelopes or developing educational and other programs for NAJIT members. It has always been one of the most rewarding experiences for me, because I see over and over again what it means to the interpreters and translators who benefit from that time and effort I put in. Volunteering for your professional association is a “no brainer.” The benefits multiply quickly: 1) you get to meet and network with many more colleagues than just the ones you normally encounter at work; 2) these colleagues you meet while volunteering often become your lifelong friends; 3) you get to learn about organizational principles and dynamics; 4) you learn about different aspects of the profession you might not have learned had you not been a volunteer; 5) you get palpable and immediate positive results from your efforts; 6) you get concrete feedback about your contributions as a volunteer that can be applied to your paid as well as your unpaid work.
There are certainly many good things that come out of volunteering, and nonprofit organizations such as NAJIT cannot function without volunteers. This is my invitation to each one of you to find something you really like to do, and volunteer to do that for NAJIT. Maybe you like to talk on the phone and can help with a membership drive. Maybe you like to organize parties and can put together a fundraising activity. Each one of us has a unique talent we can “donate” for a good cause. Helping our profession continue to grow and our association to become stronger is one of those good causes.
And as far as having a life outside the courts… well, the truth is that my definition of “having a life” is a bit different from that of most other people. While it is true that I do not normally go dancing Friday or Saturday nights, or to the ladies’ night at the movies on Wednesdays, everything that I do makes me feel happy and fulfilled, so I’m actually okay with not “having a life.”

3 Comments
  • Kevin Mercado
    Posted at 10:31h, 17 July Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration Janis. Keep up the great work.

  • Audrey
    Posted at 17:30h, 17 July Reply

    Janis,
    That was a very heartfelt message. It is inspiring freelancers like myself. My T & I program is having us choose between a focus of translating or interpreting and I am having problems choosing. I love the idea of translating from home as I have a child but as a teacher of 9 years, I feel challenged and full of endorphins every time I interpret. How did you come to both? If I have to choose translation for my program, how can I work on my interpretation skills? I am confident in my linguistic capabilities but do not know special skills like consecutive or simultaneous interpreting.

    Thanks for your encouraging blog,
    Audrey

  • Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner
    Posted at 14:32h, 18 July Reply

    Thank you for all you do Janis. I am indebted to you as an interpreter and as a NAJIT member. And now the doggies are too!!!

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