Jul 12, 2009

Perspective on Money

In case you already know what you like doing but don't quite have a courage to focus on it because you think it won't be financially comfortable, I want to share what I had discovered after I had given up steady (well, as long as you aren't laid off one day all of a sudden) paychecks.

Money becomes less of a concern when you are doing what you really enjoy.

I know this doesn't sound like a new discovery. In fact, I've heard this many times from many sources before. I'm sure you have, too. But I did not completely understand this until I actually started to do what I liked. And when I understood it, it was like realizing there there was another dimension of world. I could not believe that it had always existed and I never noticed it.

I don't much care for owning things. I usually find shopping as a necessary chore rather than leisurely activity. So money isn't important to me in that sense. But still, it was something that I needed to buy convenience and security, build retirement fund, and pay bills. I was busy and I needed to buy “time” by paying for services or convenient goods. So much was at risk (or so I felt) that I needed additional insurance and emergency funds. And since I couldn't stand continue working, I needed to build my retirement fund--ASAP. I felt that I couldn't afford getting less than what I was making.

I had my reasons for wanting to get more, too. Often, it was difficult to assess real value of my work –projects getting killed by executives with no apparent reasons, being told to do something without explanations, not getting any feedback on my work, etc. In that environment, salary was something that I used to measured my value in a corporate world while bonus quantified my performance. I wanted a higher score and assurance that I was doing something that was meaningful, at least to the company who paid me.

It's different now. The biggest difference is that I no longer feel that I need to build my retirement fund as soon as possible. In fact, I almost feel that I don't need a retirement fund at all; I might actually want to continue working until the day I die. How about that? Who would have thought that I'd feel this way?

Another change in my perspective is that I no longer feel that everything is at risk and I have be prepared for all conceivable emergencies. My health, which was horrible and expensive to maintain when I was working my corporate job, has been improving and I'm gaining back enough confidence to consider switching to a high deductible insurance and open an HSA account.

And of course, I no longer have that need to measure my value and performance by salary and bonus.

I had suspected that my medical expenses would be reduced if I stopped putting myself in such a stressful environment, but I had never imagined the total effect of choosing what I liked doing over steady paychecks to be so dramatic.

You never know until you actually experience it. You should give it a try.

Jul 8, 2009

Pursuing Status Update

OK, so this is a quick note to describe how my “pursuing” activities have been going.

Soon after I decided to focus on translation, the agency that had contacted me with a medical research translation (that I declined) contacted me again, this time with translation of various Japanese business documents to English. First of all, one doesn't get a paid translation assignment without having a much experience or going through some screening and trials. Secondly, what are the chances of getting an assignment that you feel you can do although you technically don't have a comparable experience?

So I got lucky. And for the first time after being laid off, I was thankful that I had actually spent 10 years working in a corporate world, producing business documents after business documents. I mean, I wouldn't have had the guts to accept such a large job if I hadn't already written million various business documents. Life is weird, isn't it? You never know what comes handy. Every little experience counts.

Anyway, this project went on for about a month and half. During that period, I literally worked day and night, almost everyday, in order to keep up with the workload (which would have been normal for experienced translators...but it was, of course, not normal for me..). Whew! It was a boot camp, let me tell you! But I learned a lot. It was great.

And I guess my performance was decent, because this agency is still sending me a small job here and there after the large project was completed.

So I got my feet wet, got some “experience” to put on my resume. Now that the large project is over and I have more time, I’m working to get signed up with other agents so that I'll eventually have multiple agents from whom I can get assignments continuously.

The regular way (as opposed to just being contacted with a project for you to take...) to get an assignment from a translation agency isn't as straight forward. After finding an agency that handles type of translation work that you are capable of doing, you'd need to apply for trial and pass the trial and whatever the subsequent processes that they have, like interviews, to get on their roaster. And then once you are on the roaster (at the bottom of the list), you wait for an emergency situation where no high-on-the-list translators are available that the agency has to call you.

It’s hard. I had this big package of trial that contained two J to E documents and one E to J document which I spend several days researching and translating. I was crushed when I didn’t pass this trial. But I have passed two other trials so far, so I guess I’m making a progress even though it’s slow.

And I still have so much to learn that sometimes it feels overwhelming. But what’s interesting is that this overwhelming feeling is more like an excitement before a big trip or unknown challenge, not like a stress that you get when you don’t know how you’ll complete what you are supposed to complete in a given time. I think it has to do with the fact that I don’t feel this whole situation as some temporary hell that I go through but need to get out of as soon as possible—the feeling that I had with a corporate job. This time I feel that I don’t mind doing this for the rest of my life that I don’t need to hurry at all. In fact, it’s nice to think that I won’t run out of challenges and stimulation for a very long time.

Speaking of learning, I'm still doing volunteer translation work at JFS that I had started back in February. I translate several articles and proofread about a dozen articles per month.

Well, it wasn’t such a quick not after all, but this is where I am at this point.