My existence is a miserable one, and I have brought it all upon myself. This is because I keep choosing difficult projects and surround myself with challenging people.
Take my wife, Emily, of 23 years. She is an extremely intelligent, brilliant, and talented person. This means that I am always kept on my toes. When I speak publicly and make a mistake, it is pure torture to see her eyes squint in pain. When she revises my writing, she moans over my unnecessary capital letters, misspelled words, and need for a thesaurus. She expects me to be an attentive husband, loving father, and an effective business man. Why did I marry this woman who torments me so?
Receiving a dental filling is more enjoyable to me than exercise and the gym . Yet, a few years ago, I began training for my first triathlon. Swimming, biking, and running aren’t for the faint of heart. Eating a big juicy bacon cheeseburger and some duck fat fries are definitely much better. When I first began to swim, I was out of breath halfway through my first lap. It required persistent work and effort to learn to regulate swimming in order to complete that portion of the race. Running was painful for my knees until I began strength exercises for the supporting muscles. Oh, don’t get me started about uphill biking! This is absolute anguish. Therefore, why put myself through all the agonizing discomfort and pain to run triathlons when I could hang out with a buddy and enjoy a lovely, local, peach-flavored beer?
You would think that if my personal life is so painful that I would try to catch a break at work, right? Wrong! Upon deciding to become an interpreter, I began to study. I took language courses and online courses, joined associations like American Translators Association and Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters in order to take advantage of continuing education.
Talk about feeling extremely uneasy, try going to conferences surrounded by extraordinary people that make me feel so small. During a conversation, a person was asked what languages he spoke. He named about five languages and another he was learning. The other person in the conversation spoke about four languages. Then they turned to me and asked, “what languages do you speak, Jeff?” In disgrace, I lowered my head and muttered, “only English and Spanish.” They tried to make me feel better by saying, “That’s okay; Spanish is a very important language.” Their attempt to console me only made it worse.
In another conversation with a very popular blogger, he queried me on how many views my blog receives. I was embarrassed to admit a couple of hundred compared to his over 15,000! To make matters worse, I was invited to collaborate with a team of some of the top linguists in the world on a project for ATA. Not only are they very intelligent, flourishing, and thriving business owners, but most of them are also respected authors. Without a doubt, I am the weakest link in that chain. So once again I ask, why do I keep doing this to myself?
My desire to measure up to Emily’s expectations as a husband, father, and partner has forged me into a better person. Her pet peeve with my writing has improved my ability as a writer. Her squints have compelled me to strive toward becoming a more accomplished speaker. My family life is happy, and my daughters still give me hugs. Pushing and training myself to participate in triathlons have helped to improve my health, which enriches every aspect of my life. Constant study instead of self-righteousness shapes me into an improved linguist. By carefully building my tribe of smart and prosperous people, I am sharpened and continually thrive.
Yes, living outside my comfort zone is a miserable way to live. However, just as masochist derive pleasure from pain, living without complacency has led to a rewarding and satisfying journey. I would have it no other way!