We live a thousand lives in one lifetime, from playing Barbies on the covered front porch in that small Indiana town, to riding bikes to the mall beside Duck Creek; from longing for love and true acceptance, to sending those tiny babies off to kindergarten with deep prayers, shaky knees, and a slight bit of thrill.
One season of my life I spent as a sign language interpreter at a high school. I interpreted what the teacher said into sign language, and if the Deaf student had a question or a presentation, I was their voice. After a few years, I became the interpreter coordinator at a local university and it was my job to hire, fire, and schedule interpreters for all Deaf students on campus. I put in at least 40 hours of interpreting, advising, and scheduling during those years. That was my life.
As it is with many jobs, simply having a degree in your field isn’t enough. If you wanted to be considered a qualified interpreter (not to mention a respected one) it was important to earn at least a basic level of competency.
Being the good girl that I was, I couldn’t settle for basic competency and so I set out to take the exam to become nationally certified. It was not a simple process. I had to pay a lot of money, schedule a time way in advance, and then travel 6 hours to Atlanta. Then, I had to take a written and a performance portion of the test. Then I had to wait several months to find out the results.
I finally earned my national certification. All that work! Worth it! Now I was set.
Interpreting was my job, I had worked hard to become one, and I was good at it. For years I earned the appropriate number of continuing education units that were required to keep my certification current.
Then I had two babies at one time.
I still worked hard as an interpreter, but not nearly as often. Agencies would call and I started to turn the jobs down so much that eventually, they stopped calling all together.
If we only lived one life in a lifetime, then you might say my life was over. But of course you know that isn’t true.
At the same time I began saying no to interpreting, I began to say a small, timid yes to writing, a shadow-love leftover from my childhood life that I still held dear but didn’t know it.
Then, I had another baby. And I led a small group of high school girls. And I served beside my husband in our church. And I started a blog. My kids grew and so did I.
Last month, my national certification – the one I spent years to earn and maintain, the one that legitimized me as a professional, the one that earned me respect and importance even if only in my own eyes – expired because I didn’t earn enough CEUs over the past four years to keep it up.
And I didn’t even care. I don’t consider myself an interpreter anymore. Now, I’m a writer. When did that happen?
What about all that money? All those hours? What about my degree? Those questions have forced me to think of another question. Why must we always insist that the destination is the most important measure of success? We put so many worry hours into our future only to discover that it keeps changing.
My years pursuing and practicing the job of sign language interpreting were not wasted. They brought with them necessary gifts for my life: the gift of listening for the purpose of understanding, the gift of learning how to do the work, the gift of becoming comfortable in my own skin.
That season prepared me for this one. But at the time, I was sure that season was all there would ever be. I was sure I would be a sign language interpreter for the rest of my life. I was sure I would hold onto that certification no matter the cost.
What you are doing now may not be what you’ll be doing this time next year. Those things you care so deeply for now may seem small a month from now. Might I boldly suggest that the season you are in carries hints of what you’ll be doing next? This season is a kind companion, escorting you to the next one. And then the next. We would be wise to sit back a bit and enjoy todays adventure, whatever gifts and sufferings they may hold.
Neither the accolades nor the critiques are worth anything. Don’t force something as valuable and sacred as the definition of your life to fit onto the small, flat, earthly paper of a degree or a certificate. They will come and they will go and they are important. But they do not get the final say. For in him we live and move and have our being – then, now, and forever.
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What gifts have your past seasons brought you so that you can live this one more fully present and alive?