“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
“I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll).
In our search to find meaning in our professional lives, we often find ourselves at a loss like Alice, in the Alice in Wonderland story, unsure - at the present moment - who we are or where we're heading. Our mind gets foggy, like the smoke from the Caterpillar's hookah, threatening to misguide our way.
The story of Alice in Wonderland reminds me of the many challenges we often go through; the disappointments, self-doubt, cross-roads. Along the way, we encounter many different personalities, that, in their own way, try to help us in our journey. Sometimes it's clear, sometimes only time reveals the meaning.
Yet, in the end, we always end up coming right back to where we started. Our true selves. Identifying who we are and what we believe in, what makes us happy, what our core values are, what we're really good at. Then, turning right around and sharing it with others.
The journey through Wonderland is unique to each individual, but the message is universal:
✨You know who you are, don't be afraid to be that
Unlike Gabriel García Márquez's, Love in the Time of Cholera, this, my friends, is no love story. At least, not between two people...
It's the year 2020. In one part of the world, just a couple of months before, unbeknownst to others, a sinister virus has emerged. It takes a hold of hundreds of respiratory systems, transferring itself from one human to the next, quickly, easily and at alarming rates. The death tolls begin to rise, hundreds begin to fall ill, then thousands. It begins to cross borders and then oceans. By March of the year 2020, it has become a global pandemic and it is named COVID-19.
These days are unlike anything I've experienced in my lifetime and yet, somehow, some aspects feel strangely familiar. That's likely due to all the movies I've watched having to do with an apocalyptic virus that threatens to destroy most, if not all of humanity. Thus far the closest I've gotten to actually seeing this in real life has been the death of stacked rolls of toilet paper. Nevertheless, these days are in fact strange and surreal. I use to say that my favorite sound was laughter and now if I hear a group of people laughing outside my window, I cringe in wonder why they're not taking this situation more seriously and staying indoors.
My daily routine was like that of many others. Living in California, traffic is a common theme. I learned to despise my drives, complaining every chance I had at the fact that I had to drive so far to get to work, pull an 8 hour day and then drive so long to get back home. Every day, for the past 7 years, I've complained. Until the driving came to a complete stop. No more commutes. Now, I've no idea if there's still traffic on the freeways and what's more, the other day I admitted (out-loud) that I missed my drives! I realized that, in part, it had to do with what I began doing with my commute time in order to distract myself from the irritation that comes with being in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I used this hour to hour-and-a-half to listen to audio-books and educational podcasts. That hour to hour-and-half of what Zig Ziglar called "automobile-university", was what motivated me to look for the possibility in the day. I made lots of plans during countless commutes, overcame obstacles, handled heartbreak, found creativity, motivation and even convinced myself that, I too, had vast potential and skills yet to put into good use. All this within the time it took me to get to and from work.
Our daily routines have been interrupted; halted. We are now faced with dealing with a new norm. A norm for which there exists no precedents. From one day to the next we've been thrusted to learn how to work from home, for others to scramble to figure out from where their next paycheck will come. Businesses have altered their ways of service, some have closed altogether. Streets that just a couple of weeks ago were bustling with people and movement, now are shown as eerie ghost towns. Most of us have chosen to stay home and apply social distancing, not just to keep safe but also in hopes of helping to stop the spread of this global pandemic. Grandparents cannot physically see their grandchildren, elderly spouses cannot physically be with one another if one is in a care home. Those that succumb to this gasping virus, do so alone; a lonely death, in quarantine. The prediction, at this point, is that it has only yet begun.
And yet, amidst the grim, the deaths, the panic-buying, the distancing of physical contact, the losses of income, the disruption of common day life, something else slowly begins to emerge. It's subtle, gentle, swift-moving, yet, visible. It's been spotted in the canals of Venice, in the balconies of Italy, in trips to the grocery store, amongst medical staff all over the world, in 3-D printing machines, on social media, in sewing machines around the world, and even in the appreciation of long commutes. Its name; HOPE.
I realize the severity of our current situation, and yes call me a hopeless romantic, but I do believe in happy endings. I also believe that in times of despair, humanity learns to come together as one and whenever this occurs it creates a charge of electricity that helps to recharge the earth and all of its inhabitants with new surges of hope. Perhaps, in this storyline, HOPE returns to save its beloved; humankind and they bear a child and they name it HOPE-20. And they learn to live, yet again, happily ever after.
I'm inclined to think no one wants to be considered the mole in their organization. Sometimes, however, this "title" falls on people inadvertently. Consider the role of the interpreter. If we're doing our job well, we'll go through our session seemingly unnoticed, partaking in the provider's and client's conversation only when deemed absolutely necessary. And yet, we're ever so present watching every move made, listening to every word, understanding every meaning, analyzing, taking notes, rendering and..."Did that just happen?". Granted, we're absolutely bounded by HIPAA but what happens when there's a flaw in the system and you've just been a witness to it? What do you do when over and over again you notice that things aren't being done according to procedure or misinformation is continuously being shared with the client?
As interpreters, especially if you've been a part of an organization for a number of years, we get very familiarized with a department's procedures, paperwork process and/or systems. Often times, because of how many times we've gone through the process as interpreters, we could probably (verbally) offer the service better than the provider. And so, when something goes astray, we immediately catch it; we see it and when it happens too often; we report it. Or do we?
I've honestly found myself in many situations in which I've had to report back to my supervisor mishaps in policies. Because of the variety of settings we're in, we're able to see connections and where, if, they falter. There's been cases of state exams being inappropriately administered, information being relayed inaccurately during a meeting and so forth. I tend to think these aren't deliberate actions, but rather, areas in need of growth (after the face palm. I am human after all).
No one wants to be deemed "the mole" in their organization but we all want to do what's right (right?). Bringing forth information (not violating HIPAA law) that you know, should it continue, could harm the organization you work for and ultimately those you service, shouldn't make you feel like a mole. Rather, think of it as being an observer and only bringing forth what your heart knows isn't right.