Interpreting and Self-Care

My first semester of college was in 2003. I’d never heard of self-care, nor did anyone I know practice it officially. Unofficially, some people were shopping or eating away their feelings, or maybe taking a bubble bath or relaxing with an alcoholic drink. When I first heard about self-care, I was a college professor teaching composition, creative writing, and literature. When students researched self-care, most articles they found on the topic were about how younger Millennials are coddled (I myself am an “elder Millennial”). They need safe spaces and trigger warnings and crayons to color. It all sounded pretty . . . weak.

But after teaching for eleven years, I found myself engaging in strange (to me) self-care behaviors, such as listening to a cat purring on YouTube to help me calm down after a stressful day. At the time, I was teaching college inside of a prison, so there were many hectic moving parts: incarcerated students, correctional officers, the head of the College in Prison program, and teaching research skills without a library or the internet immediately available. I burned out. Eleven years of students changing due to an information-rich, social-media driven society and no self-care certainly adds up, and I quit. Do I miss teaching? In many ways, yes! Communicating our ideas clearly is the key to writing, which ties directly to my interests in interpreting.

In my interpreting program, the other students range in age from 18-20. I am almost 37. We began discussing self-care in Introduction to Interpreting because the interpreting career is known for burnout. As someone who has been there, done that, potential burnout is scary! From what I’m learning, interpreting can be an emotional job, and you juggle a lot while always being flexible. That’s not to say it isn’t rewarding and amazing, too. It struck me that I could ask my classmates, who likely grew up with the concept of self-care, what they do to watch out for themselves. Here were some of their answers:

  • Take their favorite blanket, wash it, dry it, and the roll up in it.
  • Enjoy silence and lack of communication (e.g. don’t talk to anyone).
  • Painting something repetitive.
  • Cleaning/organizing a small space.
  • Pet animals.
  • Play videogames for 30 minutes.
  • Exercise in a way you enjoy.
  • Hydrate so your brain works best!
  • Work on a small puzzle that you can finish in one sitting.
  • Eat regularly, including snacks, to maintain good blood sugar.

How about you? What do you do for self-care? Let me know in the comments.

ASL and Gender Neutral Signs

Today during my Introduction to Interpreting class, the professor asked us to think about how we might get ready for an interpreting assignment. Do you know where you’re going, where you will park, which room you’re needed in, etc.? Do you know for whom you are looking? The professor gave an example of a client with a Hispanic name that ended in the letter “a,” so she assumed the Deaf person was a woman. And yet she was directed to a man in the waiting room. Though I have no experience interpreting yet (this is my first terp class!), I understand what the professor means when she had mentally prepared herself to meet a female participant.

If you think about it, a meeting may go differently if the Deaf person is male or female. Also, the terp’s gender may change the dynamics too, from what I’m learning. I tried to place myself in the situation. What if this were a doctor’s appointment that involved gender-specific tests (pap smear, prostate check, etc.). Are both the Deaf person and the interpreter comfortable with that? We’re all human, so imagining and preparing for a situation can help us be calm. But, what my professor learned is that while this Deaf client had the feminine “a” at the end of their first name, this person was trans, female to male, but hadn’t changed names yet.

We talk about gender a lot now, and it’s important. But ASL doesn’t have gender; he/she/it are all the same sign. And yet, language changes! I’ve seen videos online from the Deaf LGBTQ community sharing signs (here is one from Rogan Shannon) they use for masculine/feminine presenting, gender expression, and gender fluid. But if terps are not sure what to do, there are some work arounds. For instance, I learned you can now sign the gender-neutral SPOUSE. Instead of putting your non-dominant hand near your forehead (HUSBAND) or chin (WIFE), start at your heart and complete the sign. I love it! Or, instead of asking if someone has a boyfriend or girlfriend, which assumes an individual’s gender and sexuality, sign SWEETHEART instead (which I think is a fun sign anyway). What are your thoughts on gender in ASL? Have you seen or do use the sign for SPOUSE?