Guest post: Uncertainties, new beginnings, and things in between

Welcome back to our guest post series!

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming a great friend of mine, Mariana Sasso, translator, who is currently venturing into the freelance world.

Please note this post was written before the pandemic, so the running part applied to the pre-coronavirus reality. However, all her tips are great for our current reality.

Welcome, Mariana!

Source: Pixabay

When push comes to shove…

When something unplanned, unexpected, or incredibly awesome happens to us, like embarking upon an impromptu or unplanned trip to a fabulous place, or meeting someone fantastic for the first time, I’m sure any of us would be more than glad to experience these things with open arms. But, when the winds of change bring us “Lord Voldemort” instead of “Mary Poppins” (and by that, I mean: unemployment, disease, debt, last-minute emergency surgery, or the death of a loved one, for a few examples), it is not uncommon to feel like our world has crumbled like a tower of cards, or that the floor has vanished from under our feet – and, after going through what can only be described as an emotional tsunami over the past four years, I know this all too well and first hand.

Today, as I slowly pave the way of emotional recovery and search for a new and rewarding job, Caroline suggested that I make a list of things that might have helped me occupy my brain (hello, Black Sabbath) during this hiatus in my life. I loved her suggestion right away and hope that this can help – if not exactly inspire you in your own life (because, let’s get real: you won’t find anything revolutionary in my list below) – at least, make you feel comforted in knowing that we are all on the same boat, and that everyone has to struggle and fight in life, more often than we’d like to admit, in spite of what unrealistic social media posts would want us to believe. So, here’s my small (yet prolix) list of things I have been doing while I prepare for the next stage in my life:

Catching up with my reading: I guess you’re going to agree with me when I say that, after our souls were offered in sacrifice to the gods of Instagram, Netflix, Amazon Prime and WhatsApp, the number of books we all read has decreased exponentially, am I right? Personally, I’ve never gone too long without turning a page, but, after I got my first smartphone some years ago, I feel like my brain has been screaming for help, buried under a thick layer of dust and spider webs hanging from its four walls. So, now that I have been “in-between jobs” (which is a fancy way to say “unemployed”), I figured this could be the ideal moment to tackle this predicament with a twofold plan of action: 1) I stopped beating myself up for being a lousy reader, and accepted that I had to stop shaming myself for not reading books anymore if I wanted to have some self-respect and move on; 2) I did the only thing that would solve my not-reading problem: I chose something short to get me back on reading, instead of a long novel, for example. My go-to writer in these cases is David Foster Wallace. This American writer was very prolific in his production of short stories and essays, which have inspired me in my own writing and helped me learn new ideas, linguistic structures and vocabulary. Also, I can read one essay or short story per day, which is not much, but gives me a sense of achievement and continuing progress, which is a more than welcome feeling. Of course, the number of brilliant authors suggested here would be never-ending, but starting by David Foster Wallace’s short stories and essays has been working wonders for me.

Catching up with my physical health: As a freelance translator, I spend most of my hours just sitting on a chair, and the longest distance I walk on a daily basis is the one that connects my office to the bathroom or the kitchen. Here, once again, I know for sure that I am not alone in this, right? Our modern world has been perfectly designed to make us perform the highest number of tasks without having to move more than three fingers (hello, smartphones and all the apps). So, if I didn’t make a conscious effort to actually stand up and start moving, now that I have been spending so much idle time at home, I would only prolong this unhealthy state of sedentarism. So, “for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run” (hello, Forest Gump). However, in my case, it was actually a little walk – I just did exactly what Forest Gump did in the movie: I stood up from my chair, opened the door to the street, and started walking. I just went, walked around the block, and came back home. I didn’t allow me to get caught up in thoughts of buying a new pair of sneakers, changing into leggings or gym suit, or setting a playlist up for the journey. For me, all these preparations, however important and healthy they really are, were only making me find excuses not to do any exercise at all. So, I decided to just stand up and go! Eventually, I was exercising every day, for as long as it felt relevant and pleasant to me – no charts, no rigorous schedules, no self-beating for not overachieving, no self-blaming or any other reproaching feeling. Now, I exercise because I love my body and want to make it feel good, healthy and prepared for when I start working again, and not because I have to or because I need to punish myself. Important: The idea here is to be inclusive of all types and shapes of bodies, including those with disabilities. No one needs to do more than what we can do to be healthy, and doing the best possible with what we’ve got is more than awesome!

Catching up with my mental health: I cleaned up my Instagram feed, so that I would stop seeing unrealistic images of body types and lifestyles, that, exactly because they were unrealistic, unreasonable, and unsustainable, were only making me feel like an underachiever. I started following only people (especially women) that I find inspirational in how they grab their daily bulls by the horns and in how they make me feel like getting up and joining them in doing the best I can with the tools I have on that day. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I am able to add a checkmark in front of every bullet added in my to-do list. Other times, I fail miserably and just have to deal with it. Either way, I make a conscious effort to respect myself and walk hand-in-hand with… me! I don’t always love myself, and I very often tend to fall prey to the trap of self-loathing, but I have been trying to make a conscious effort not to give up on myself. I am just hanging in there a day more, and, together, myself and I, with self-respect and patience, we can get to the end of the tunnel.

Catching up with my studies: Do you sometimes also feel like you know nothing, that you are a fraud or that you are lucky someone actually hired you? I hear you, my friend. Impostor syndrome is no joke, and it can hit you hard. So, what I decided to do is brush up my English skills the best way I could at the moment. The first thing I did was study for certification tests (like TEOIC, TOEFL and IELTS, for example). There’s plenty of either free or paid material online that we can download and study for a few minutes, or even some hours, depending on our purpose. I feel that it has helped me a lot, especially on my writing and reading skills. Another thing I did was to purchase an online English course with native tutors. This way, I practice for a few hours a week with a native teacher, who can correct my mispronunciation and help me knock some rust off my speaking skill. However, these courses can be quite costly, in which case there’s always the possibility of reaching out to a fellow translator or English teacher and establishing a partnership for tandem studying and mutual improvement. Another thing that I find has helped a lot improve my writing skills is keeping a daily journal. I just sit and write, at least one single sentence every day in my journal. Simple as it may sound, this can be a very challenging and productive self-improvement effort.

Catching up with social responsibility: Here’s where we look out of our “miseries” and see how much the world needs our active presence and involvement. I won’t make a list of things, people, institutions or places that would desperately need our active engagement, because it varies so much from place to place, country to country, and people to people, but I will say that there’s no better time to start volunteering than when your schedule is mostly free and flexible. All it takes is the first step; reaching our hands out just a tad, and a path of self-discovery, self-healing and extremely fruitful and enriching interactions will open right in front of us.

Now, to conclude, because I’ve come a long way in my grieving/sabbatical period, and because I feel a lot better now, I find myself in a place where I would like to wave my hand high at people who might be going through challenging or even devastating situations. I am not here to try and spread pearls of wisdom or dispense unrequested advice, but, rather, to remind you that things can, and will, eventually get better and that, with a huge help from our friends and family, and maybe a significant amount of medical treatment and medication, which was exactly my case, we can all get through tough times. Meanwhile, during this process, we can catch up on things that, for whatever reason, have been neglected along the way. You can count on me if you need encouragement or help. Together, we go farther!

Sobre a autora

Mariana Barontini Sasso has been a technical translator of English and Portuguese since 2008.