As I approach my thirtieth year of national certification, I wonder if, truly, I can claim all thirty years. When I tell someone "I've been interpreting professionally for almost 30 years", does that mean I'm 30X better than someone who has been interpreting for one year?
Have I grown as an interpreter and signer each and every year?
I don't think how long you have done something necessarily means you are that much better at it,.
Someone with half my experience could be as good.
Someone with twenty years experience may just be doing that same one year of experience over and over twenty times.
I think it is about quality not quantity.
So let's look at one of my quality years----
1993 was a good year. It was the first year that I worked primarily in the mental health field. I experienced working with psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers involved in helping deaf people who presented with depression, sociopathic tendencies, borderline personality disorder, addictions of all kinds, OCD, and myriad other diagnoses. I learned so much that year and had so many experiences that I expanded my knowledge base, my language base and added strategies for dealing with aphasia, disfluency, echolalia and uncatagorized language disorders. Plus I learned how to work with all kinds of mental health professionals. (Orderlies are your best friends on a forensic unit!)
On the other hand, 1999----pretty uneventful. I think what I learned that year was to never completely rely on Mapquest to get me to my job and to be more vigilant about listening to the traffic reports. Workshop-wise, hmmmm....that was an RID conference year in Boston and I went, but cannot remember a single presenter.
I try, I really do...to make each year....each day if I can....a learning experience. It doesn't always work out that way. And when it doesn't, it's because of me. I may have blown off a conference or workshop experience or I may have not paid attention to something wonderful right in front of me.
My point, dear readers, is that our professional development is a continuing process. Maybe we should not count how many years we have been doing this. Maybe we should only count the years that saw change or growth in our experience and in our work.
Just last week I learned some signs for some cultural icons of my own faith. This month I've been working more with young people with limited language and finding some strategies that are effective in getting them to express themselves. I feel great about that.
I'm planning to make this a year that counts.