Lady Vagabond has risen and come into her own
Singing hai-ay-ay-ay, the open road is home!
-S.J. (“Sooj”) Tucker, Lady Vagabond, album: Sirens
I am now an educational interpreter! There’s a law in Colorado, USA, where I live, that prohibits me from saying that I’m an ‘interpreter’ until I have NIC certification (National Interpreter Certification). I can lawfully say that I’m an educational interpreter, however, because I’ve passed the educational interpreter test (called the EIPA- Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment).
If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I was a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 13 years. Back when I started this blog, I was extremely frustrated and burned out from my job, mostly because of the defunct system, and I was looking for an escape. I wondered what else I could do for a living, and I realized that I love to interpret. From time to time, I interpreted when other interpreters weren’t available, and I really enjoyed it. I set my sights on interpreting as my new future career. Recently I found a little souvenir from a past ritual, maybe from 2012 or 2013, a small paper on which I wrote what I wanted to move away from and what to manifest in my life. On one side I wrote what I wanted to move away from: being a Teacher of the Deaf, and on the other side, I wrote what I wanted to move towards, and I had written “Interpreter: Freedom!”
2012-2013 was my roughest, most stressful school year since I had started teaching (and that’s saying a lot). I started saving my money starting in 2012, so that I could be (mostly) jobless a while and go to school, and still pay my bills. In the Fall of 2013, I started community college classes in an Interpreter Preparation Program (IPP). I graduated in May of this year with an associates degree in interpreting!
This past summer, I struggled with not having any work yet and the emotions that brings. I had expected at least a little bit of work and many interviews (being the Pollyanna-like positive thinker that I am). I didn’t pass 2 screenings, and did pass 3 others, so I got signed on with two agencies and was set to start work with video relay service (VRS) work in the Fall. That gave me hope, and I was constantly ready for that call from an agency- I gave the agencies lots of availability, even overnight and weekends, thinking ‘Pick me, pick me! Give me at least something!’ I had clothes on a hanger in my car and paperwork I’d need if I worked for one of the agencies ready to go. To this day, I have only been called by one of the agencies once and I had to turn that job down. Little did I know at the time that I was waiting and ready on pins and needles for nothing. (Isn’t a lot of life and stress wasted like that?) Meanwhile, while I waited for the call, text or email that I was checking constantly, I sent out a gazillion emails to community colleges in my area, attaching my resume and a link to my portfolio. That resulted in getting signed on with two community colleges for the Fall.
Despite all the stress, waiting, and listless emotions, there are two wonderful and magical experiences I had this past summer: the first that stands out is interpreting at a Spring festival. I interpreted at it last year and this year in an official capacity and have attended as a merchant several years before that. Last year and this year, I learned all of the music for the concerts that I could get my hands on, practiced every moment I could, and the highlight was interpreting for my favorite musician: S.J. Tucker! I also interpreted for Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir, the best moment of which was interpreting the Jabberwocky, which was so much fun! I used to have that poem printed out and pinned by my teacher desk, to lift my spirits with something odd and fantastical during my day.
Open interpreting for Sooj (SJ Tucker) and Betsy Tinney
The second wonderful experience I had this past summer was interpreting for a wedding which had many Deaf people in attendance. The people involved were so wonderful, happy, relaxed, smiling, and friendly, and I got to interpret with someone I respect. Those two experiences were indescribable. Both experiences, as I look back on them, are sparkling with merriment and softening to the heart.
And throughout, my boyfriend that I spoke of two blogs ago has been so deeply loving, and we grow closer all the time. Life is good simply because I’m with him!
So, overall, the summer was a little rough, and mixed with wonderful experiences. I tried to enjoy it and relax, but I also felt like I was mooching off of my boyfriend who I live with, and watched my savings dwindle more and more. I prepared myself to ask my parents or my boyfriend for money, thought what I could sell, what else I could do to earn money, and tried to get other jobs, and scraped by, waiting for August when my jobs would start. My savings that I had lived off of for 2 years diminished to only $20 this past July! Thankfully I had rent money coming in, which barely kept me afloat until my jobs started, and I made it to August with only some debt to my boyfriend, which I’ll have paid off shortly. It was a perfect timing kind of thing, and I thank whatever powers-that-be that look out for me, if they do at all, that things worked out the way they did! I thank my lucky life and parents and boyfriend. I’m also thankful for my smart brain (and that my brain had the chance to develop into a smart one), which helped me earn some money through tutoring during the summer as well. I am truly so blessed.
All of August, I was stressed with starting new jobs, facing multiple fears related to doing my job well and not wanting to mess up people’s lives through mis-interpretations, and swimming in the new ocean tide called interpreting. I tried out my fins and found out they work and work well! I knew where to go, what to do, but it was all a little bit new. I’m thankful for my many years with a toe in the Deaf community and to the patient and sweet Deaf people I’ve known, to help me to interpret and navigate now. I’ve also noticed that what I’m doing now has connections in the past, one thing flowing to another, experiences and people I know are tying in to what I’m doing now. Thinking of it makes me feel tingly, that maybe we ‘aren’t alone in the universe’ after all.
Now, it’s September, and I work at two community colleges and video relay service (VRS). In case that term is foreign to you, I’m adding a footnote at the end to describe VRS. I have been earning money again and am able to contribute to my little bubble of people that I live with. I hesitate to call them family, but they are kind of my family now, more and more: my boyfriend and his daughter, who recently entered adulthood and lives half of the week in his home. In my people bubble there are occasional chats with a roommate and his little son; he and his son are a bit on the fringes of the bubble.
And in addition to the people-bubble (or is it my family? not really yet, but….), there’s the thought of ‘is this my boyfriend’s home? Is it my home as well?’ Technically yes, it’s his. However, he tells me I should think of it as my home as well- well yes, I live here. But mine? His home? Our home? My boyfriend’s home, that I live in. What should I call it? That’s the stage of our relationship now: what is merging for us, and what is apart? I’m smiling at myself- navigating that whole new world in my thoughts: ours, his, ours, mine or his, or ours.
Only recently, I’m finally feeling more relaxed, getting used to all of what I’m doing, and like Sooj’s song, I’m coming into my own. For much of August, and maybe much of this summer, I didn’t feel like myself. I felt lost in the ether, not sure who I was, where I was, or what I was doing. I was nervous about interpreting, nervous about myself, not satisfied with who I am. I was scared to let go of being scared just in case I would mess up because of false confidence. Now, with a little bit of successful experience, I am relaxing into interpreting. There are still moments of ‘oh oops, misunderstanding of meaning,’ or ‘oops, wrong sign, this is the sign,’ and that may continue for a little while or forever. But I’m more relaxed and happy with my stage in the process, and especially starting this past week, happy with life.
I have also joined Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir, which I interpreted for at the Spring festival I spoke of last year and this year, and am singing alto. That, too, has been a challenge, though a more happy one, that I’m starting to relax into and being more happy with. I love to sing! Before joining the choir I mostly sang with Sooj’s recorded voice while driving, and sang chants and pagan songs with friends while camping. Now I’m adding chamber choir music to what I sing, and am enjoying the mental challenge of finding the right pitch and reading music while enjoying the vibrations singing creates in my head. I’m also thrilled with the feeling of being part of a kind of hive mind as the choir sings together.
So, there’s my update after many months’ hiatus of writing! Surprise, you get a new blog! Perhaps I’ll expand on some themes I touched on just a bit in this blog in future blogs.
Video Relay Service (VRS): Nowadays, Deaf people and people who use sign language to communicate use something called a Video Phone (VP) to make phone calls (in the US and other developed countries). A VP is much like skyping or talking through the web via video, though this is through a phone line connected via a kind of webcam to a television screen, or they can use a cell phone or computer as well. VPs require high speed internet to work. The VP owner has a phone number that people can dial just like a normal phone number. When someone who doesn’t have a VP calls a VP phone number, the call gets routed to a VRS, and that person hears a sign language interpreter speak to them. The call is then connected to the Deaf person’s VP in addition to the interpreter. The interpreter has a headset and looks at a computer screen, and sees the Deaf person signing. The interpreter voices to the hearing person what the Deaf person says, and then, as the hearing person speaks, the interpreter signs what is said to the Deaf person. VP owners can call other VP owners without an interpreter and have a ‘face to face’ conversation in sign.