Hello. My name is Uncle Dale and I spend a great deal of time making myself laugh.
It’s… loud, in my head. It’s loud all the time. It’s loud and sometimes confusing. I have ADHD in Las Vegas buffet size portions. As a result there are many people who find me… well, obnoxious. And they are right, because to them, I am. That used to bother me. But it doesn’t anymore. Because I’m happy.
My wife finds me amusing. I find her smart and creative and… i’ll just say it, wow! is she hot! I just hope to keep amusing her so she won’t notice that she is way out of my league (and I would appreciate it if you don’t tell her because I have been dreading her figuring that out for 25 years!)
I am happy. Generally. No one is happy all the time. But I am getting better and better at being happy most of the time because of two important lessons I am always re-learning.
The first lesson I learned from reading David Foster Wallace:
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you…
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
From “This is Water”
I am happy because I choose to be. I consciously, daily and sometimes minute by minute choose to be.
Interpreting does not make me happy. Being a Professor with Tenure does not make me happy. Being a lawyer doesn’t make me happy. This blog does not make me happy (it does make me laugh, which is why I like it).
I enjoy every one of these things-a lot! But, I place upon none of these roles the responsibility to make me happy, because none of them are me. Not one of them are who I am; they are all what I do.
I do them because I love to do them. I do them because I enjoy doing them. But I’m happy all on my own without any of them.
Let me say that again, none of these things are who I am. These things are all what I do.
If you are thinking that right now I’m going to give you some secret of life and tell you who you are, sorry no. Because, how would I know? I am also not you. You are you. Figuring out the secret to your life is the work you do for yourself.
The second lesson I learned from a mentor of mine who was dying of a brain tumor (I know it sounds like a cliché or a the plot of a John Green novel. Steve, my mentor, would have loved that because he loved when life made you into a cliché).
Steve and I were sitting quietly on a random Tuesday near the end of his life when he told me:
Life is like a roller coaster, but not in the way you think I mean that. At any specific point in your life if you ask yourself, “Am I happy? Am I enjoying myself?” The answer is usually no. You have work, and kids, and relationships, and a house to keep up and people who are depending on you.
Life, it’s like riding the roller coaster. If you are standing in line and you ask yourself, “Am I happy?” The answer is no; because you are not on the roller coaster, you are waiting and a lot of life is about waiting.
When you finally get on and the roller coaster starts, if you ask yourself, “Am I happy?” The answer is no; because you are terrified. A lot of life is about being terrified.
When you get off the roller coaster if you ask yourself, “Am I happy?” The answer is no; because you are not on the roller coaster. A lot of life is thinking about experiences once they’re over.
But. If instead of dwelling on a past you don’t have anymore, if instead you look at the whole experience, the whole thing-beginning to end, and you ask yourself “Am I happy?” The answer is yes! Because you rode the roller coaster.
Now, if I was to ask myself “Am I happy?” No, of course not, I’m dying. I’m leaving my family, and my career, and my friends, and my home. But if I step back and look at it all, what do I see? I have a family I will miss, and a career I loved, and dear friends and a home. Even the bills I have had to pay show that I had opportunities and was surrounded by benefits some people in this world could only dream of.
So, when I get off this ride I want my last thoughts to be “wasn’t it great to ride the roller coaster,” and I can walk away knowing I am happy.
Dr. Steven Timothy
My oldest son was born a few days after Steve died. His middle name is Timothy.
I teach a course called Professional Issues in Interpreting. It’s a skills class but the skill is how to live as an interpreter. We cover topics like: resumes, setting up your own business, taxes, negotiation, contracts, invoices, finding jobs with government agencies, state and federal contracts, pros and cons of referral agency vs. independent vs. consortium, panel discussions on an interpreter’s relationship with the Deaf community… and stress and vicarious trauma and perspective and happiness.
Happiness is important for this class. As important as any other lesson in interpreting. Because, as interpreters I think some of us, well, all of us at one time or another, do what we do to prove that we have worth. We serve others as a way of helping ourselves, maybe even fixing ourselves. I have said–in a gallows humor way–that interpreters tend to be trying to fix something that is broken, but are always looking in the wrong place for the break.
If you will forgive me a bit of an affront–this may be too egotistical even for me (and that my friends is saying something!) I would like to add to the words of David Foster Wallace:
Uncle Dale’s addition to Mr. Wallace…Worship your skills and abilities as an interpreter, if it becomes what you are, you will always be afraid of failing at the next appointment, you will always fear and resent the interpreter who is “better than you”, always be afraid of getting ‘caught’ and labeled a fraud.
p.s. There is ALWAYS an interpreter who is “better” at this than you.
I have never met an interpreting student or professional that needed to look for their worth anywhere outside of their own skins. It comes factory installed.
The very best interpreters have stopped trying to attach their happiness to how skilled they are, and they interpret for the love of the work, and the beauty of the language and the thrill of the challenge. They are passionate, they are driven, they are stressed, they are unsatisfied with the status quo and seeking ever seeking improvement, but only for the sake of being better at what they do; because who they are is… happy.