Dale Boam, CI, Attorney at Law

Note From Uncle Dale

When my daughter was 12, she and I got into an argument, the kind daughters have with fathers at that age. At one point she told me through frustrated tears “growing up is hard.” Truer words have never been spoken. It does not matter if you are 12 years old or 48 years old, growing up is hard. 

People change. It’s what we do. It’s what we are built for. We don’t just need to accept that, we need to embrace it, revel in it, love both the pain and joy of it. 

People make mistakes. Interpreters are people. That means interpreters make mistakes. There is no such thing as a choice that is always right in every situation. Every choice we make is the product of the context within which we make that choice. Change one element of the situation, for example, change a participant, or the number of participants, or the subject matter, or the setting, or even the time of day, and you change how that choice affects the whole interaction.

We learn by making choices. We are both refined and defined by the choices we’ve made.

Even the best choices lose their standing when subjected to the test of time. Almost everyone, if given a do-over, would tweak it in some way; chose a different way to express themselves, be more confident, less aggressive, listen for a moment more before acting or any of a thousand different adjustments using the tools we have now that we didn’t have then. Apply this test to a choice you made 5 years ago, now last year, last month, last week, or even yesterday. 

We learn by making choices. We are both refined and defined by the choices we’ve made. Let me give you a practical example. We all have that one client, the client we just can’t follow. We dread each and every interaction, because we feel like a fraud, just smiling and nodding whenever they Sign. The next time you encounter that client remember this: it’s not that you can’t understand them, it’s that one time – in the past – you didn’t, and you got stuck there. Every time you see that client your brain goes right back to that moment.

But this moment is not that moment, and you are not the same interpreter now that you were then. You’ve learned more, you’ve practiced more, you have vastly more experience and skill now. Then is not now, now is now

As it is with people, so it is with organizations. Every one of us has at some point looked toward our higher power and asked, “Why did RID do that?” Of course, the answer is RID did “that” because it seemed like the best choice at the time to resolve the issue it needed to resolve. 

Think for a moment about your own decision-making process, all those competing ideas pushing and shoving around in your brain trying to get to the top spot to become “the decision.” Each one casting doubt on the other. When you finally make your choice not all those competing ideas fall in line. Many linger in your mind and complain and encourage you to second guess your decision, no matter how effective the result. We grow by learning to accept the good results and ignore the noise in our heads or by realizing when we have made a less effective decision and going back to the marketplace of ideas for another try.   

Any time an issue arises that RID must address, we the members, like ideas in our collective head, jostle and push to offer opinions. In the end no matter what RID does, some will support the decision and some will doubt. Sometimes the choice RID makes will be less effective, but historically they have been more effective. But every decision has the potential to transform the organization in a way that can make it better tomorrow than it is today.

Like my daughter said, “growing up is hard.” Any transformation is difficult. However, like I said to her on that tear-filled night, “But you’re doing it so well.”

“It doesn’t feel like it,” she replied.

I looked her in the eyes and asked, “Do you we still love and respect each other?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Are we still talking and listening to each other?” I asked.

“Yes,” she smiled.

“Then we are doing this right,” I assured her, “If we love and respect each other and keep talking and listening to each other, even when it’s hard, we grow up a little, together, each time.”

That, I suggest, is the journey we are all taking, a journey of transformation. It’s hard. But if we love and respect each other and keep talking and listening to each other, even when it’s hard, we grow up a little, and each time we transform together, we grow together for the better. 

Dale Boam, CI, Attorney at Law, is an Associate Professor of Deaf Studies at Utah Valley University, an attorney advocating for the rights of persons who are Deaf, an interpreter, and a blogger at “Uncle Dale’s Rules for Interpreters.” He consults and presents nationally on both interpreting and legal topics. Dale recently received a favorable decision from the Ninth Circuit Court that makes Section 504 more accessible to persons who are Deaf (See Ervine v. Desert View Regional Medical Center). Dale has served in advisory committees for the NAD, the organizing board for Deaf Studies, Today!, and the 2007 Deaflympic Games.

What did you think of this article? Send your feedback to the authors/editors by clicking here!