Performance Anxiety is described as having intense anxiety before an audience or during a participation of some sort. Mine is the fear of others thinking I’m some kind of fraud. For example, I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 and although I never took professional lessons, at this point, I can listen to something and guess how to play it pretty spot on. The moment someone takes out their phone and begins recording, or the moment I know someone new is listening, my fingers tense up and I can’t hear the melody because I’m so focused on hitting the right notes… which I end up not hitting quite right anyway.
It’s different with other things like singing. I don’t mind singing in front of an audience. I also don’t mind dancing because I’ve done those two for as long as I could remember. I feel like with singing and dancing there is no such thing as “a right way”, you just do what you feel. With music, however, it’s far more intimidating for me to try to play a piece that already exists than to come up with my own thing. There’s always going to be someone who can perform it better and closer to the actual original.
Interpreting for me has been a lot more like the latter.
There’s something about the word “evaluation” that makes me shutter and stutter and mess up. It doesn’t matter how much I’m reassured “don’t be nervous, don’t worry about messing up, just do your best”, I will be nervous, will mess up and will probably not do my best because of the nerves. My brain cannot ignore the fact that the ones looking at me and doing the evaluation are professionals who have years of experience and yet they are watching some rookie interpreter wannabe.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve bombed these evaluations. Seriously, at one point I even questioned if I actually knew ASL or I somehow fooled everyone into knowing ASL including myself! How in the world could I not do this? How am I not UNDERSTANDING? WHAT IS GOING ON?… WHY AM I YELLING!?
One night, I was evaluated for a trilingual assignment that would be about 30min from me. The assignment was for a trilingual Spanish 101 class and they needed an ASL interpreter who also knew Spanish which was apparently something very hard for them to find. I was getting a bit desperate moneywise and thought “I have nothing left to lose really” so I went ahead and applied and got an interview and evaluation date. I can’t tell you how hard I cried after that evaluation. I prayed hard, felt frustrated and I felt like I did so bad. Honestly, I had decided they weren’t going to take me. Nah uh, no way! I wouldn’t hire myself, why should they even bother? I felt so incompetent and I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it. Maybe I jumped into this too soon. Maybe I’m better off with Spanish interpreting only.
“So I decided to just do Spanish interpreting for now.” I told a sister one night. This sister has been a kind of mentor to me, and I felt guilty because she’s already busy and she was still finding time to help me with drills and I don’t want to waste her time. “Oh, are you sure?” she asked, trying to better understand.
“Yes, I need to start there. I need to get a feel for interpreting and prepare myself that way. If I could gain that confidence with Spanish, then maybe it’ll help me ease into ASL interpreting better” I told her, but with the secret idea that I will probably not do anymore ASL interpreting.
“Very well then. Let’s do a Spanish interpreting drill.”
After that, I started reaching out to many agencies who offered Spanish interpreting services. I sent out many resumes and emails. I really felt better about this and was determined to at least get this one right. I was done with ASL interpreting for now. I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure and reality that I probably really wasn’t good at it and I should focus on what I know I can be good at. I did just so and felt a lot better. Things were easing up.
One night, I was at a gas station when my phone got an email: it was from the agency that evaluated me for the Spanish 101 trilingual assignment. They wanted to move forward and requested that I get in touch with them for further details.
My heart dropped.
To be continued…