On Weathering Storms and Embracing Change

The recent weather-related tragedies in Oklahoma have been of particular interest to our family, given that my youngest brother has lived in Tornado Alley for nearly two decades. The world has borne witness to the incredible stories of strength in the face of adversity, and continues to watch in awe as communities pull together to begin the long process of rebuilding.

Just after the storms killed so many in the town of Moore, my brother and his family came out to visit us in California. I couldn’t help but ask him how he copes with such a huge risk so close to home because his town is just minutes away from the hardest hit areas.

“Well, Sis, we just watch the weather and if we’re lucky enough to have heads up when a storm’s comin’, we make sure to get outta Dodge,” he answered me, shrugging his shoulders, grinning, and speaking in his adopted southern drawl.

This took me by surprise at first, and the more we talked about how he and his fellow Oklahomans prepare for and live through Mother Nature’s fury, I couldn’t help but marvel at his practical and positive attitude in the face of adversity.

This story brings to mind what our courts may be asking us to do in California in the coming weeks and months. As many states and judicial systems have surely also experienced, budget times are tight, and it follows that employees of the court may be asked to assume this same practicality and positivity in the face of what may prove to be changes we cannot stop from coming.

One of the things I admire about our profession as interpreters is that such a large number of our members are willing to stand strong and protect us from any negative changes to our working conditions. Try as we might, however, there is never any guarantee that the storm won’t tear through our side of town and impact us. That said, it will be crucial for us to remember that change is not inherently bad and that there are people and entities that are actively seeking and welcoming the modernization of court interpreting precisely because of their forecasting abilities.

How we prepare for tight times, both individually and as a profession, will dictate how well we’re able to go on once that storm hits. Even despite the greater good in the movements stemming from inevitable change, I know that if changes are imposed upon me personally (affecting my employment stability, for example) I may not be so keen on embracing that change at first. Actually, this is a great time to read up on how to handle changes in our lives.

In fact, organizations such as NAJIT and InterpretAmerica are working to spread the positive energy of what seems to be a bright future. Looking at the programming of the InterpretAmerica Summit nearly all the sessions deal with this issue of change one way or another. They seem to be anticipating a future that would mean a whole new landscape for the interpreting profession, so paying attention and being at the table when the inevitable occurs is a must.

Regardless of what may be brewing on the horizon, ensuring that our fellow interpreters are getting the message of preparing for and then embracing change is understandably complex. When we consider everything from our own value as an employee to how well we live within our means at home, the time we take preparing financially and mentally for change is never wasted. Even if we stand strong until the last minute and do all we can to weather the storm, there may be a moment when we have to take evasive measures. Ensuring we’ve protected ourselves against tragedy makes a whole lot of sense, both in our personal lives and in our careers.

It’s a simple matter of being proactive rather than reactive. Instead of waiting to see if there will be workforce reductions or technology impacting our workday, it behooves us to seek ways to be involved in the changes happening in our own courts. If we’re asked to tighten our proverbial belts, our having taken the time to share how we envision things working best will not only help us, but it will also allow us to stand tall and perform our duties in the most professional ways we can.

Whether or not a court, or a position as an employee or independent contractor, is affected by tight budgetary times, I call upon each of the individuals in the whole of this profession to take a hard look at how we adapt to change. I think we will all benefit from purposeful positive outlooks in our colleagues, and perhaps it will be much easier for the decision makers to listen to our ideas and concerns if we’re smiling instead of snarling.

Let’s take the stance that change is part of the beauty of life, and invite it to come full force! Being proactively prepared doesn’t just mean preparing to be defensive or how to sacrifice in the best possible way; it means getting ahead of what’s coming down the pike and figuring out all the ways we can adapt so our working conditions are strengthened, our opportunities increase, and our competency broadens.

To bring this discussion full circle, I would remind everyone that in the face of disaster, we must take charge of our destiny. For actual disasters, remember that the Red Cross and the National Association of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) have disaster kits and ways to volunteer to help victims. Most counties have a crisis preparedness program or kit available for download. Ah, and don’t forget that little disasters like a computer crash deserve taking the time to make backup copies of all our documents.

Take a minute to look at these links for even more resources on adapting to change:

10 tips for dealing with change in the workplace

Workplace Coach: Change is coming — you need to change with it

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  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 09:42h, 07 June Reply

    Thanks for the reminder, Jennifer. I live in a hurricane zone and we start our preparedness early on by buying extra bottles of water and canned food each week starting in February; we have a box full of batteries of all sizes and a collection of flashlights, including the hand-cranking ones – they are fun. I have my computer on automatic back-up mode, but I have forgotten to scan my documents recently – new passport, for example.

    Time to get busy again.

    • Jennifer De La Cruz
      Posted at 23:37h, 08 June Reply

      Excellent point, Gio! I have a colleague who makes it a habit to scan everything once she receives it. It helps to have a scanner right next to the computer!

      Hi, David! Thanks for the link. The similarities and differences are surely subjective, but I definitely agree that bowing down is not where we need to be. I think our industry leaders are helping the profession be proactive. Sometimes as individuals, however, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater efforts and, sadly, bow down when faced with tough choices. Thanks again!

  • David Mintz
    Posted at 12:13h, 07 June Reply

    Jennifer, your cheerful attitutude and good intentions are commendable, but there’s a fundamental difference between tornadoes and austerity economics: the former may be partly anthropogenic, at least in terms of frequency and severity; but the latter is _entirely_ anthropogenic, and there is a great deal more we can do about, other than bowing down and “embracing change.”

    There is a more extended commentary here: http://vernontbludgeon.com/blog/archives/2013/06/think-before-you-embrace-change.html

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