It has been exactly one month since graduation. I have exactly $317 in my checking account. My fridge, where two eggs sit in their yellow styrofoam container, their only company half a watermelon and some leftover food, awaits patiently to be replenished. Afraid of yet another trip to the supermarket, I have ready-to-eat oatmeal for lunch and set the leftover food on the table where my boyfriend and I eat. Time ticks by, the days follow in a quiet progression of hours working, hours working out, hours writing, hours sitting in front of the TV watching some newfound sitcom. I wait with bated breath for the checks to start coming in the mail, uncertain of what will happen if they’re not here by the end of July, when my mailing address will change to somewhere in the United States of America.
For reasons of the heart, I find myself in Florida (but not Orlando or Miami, apparently the only destinations that exist in this southern state in the minds of my interlocutors, American or otherwise), in a quaint and quiet beautiful town in the northern part of the state. It is quiet here and I am far from the buzz of larger cities but also from any prospects of doing much interpreting.
I have gotten in the habit of telling people I am a freelance translator and interpreter, and it feels good. My checking account does not feel so good, though. My upbringing, which consisted of years of watching everyone around me get a job, 9 to 6, Monday through Friday, get a car so they can drive to work, get a house, get married, get children, get a TV, get a trip to Disney for the kids, causes me to feel guilty every now and then. But I am working, I remind myself. I am a freelance translator. Sure, I can get up at any hour I want, work as many hours as I want, take as many breaks as I want without having to respond to anyone. I answer to no one for how I do my job. I can get on Facebook as often as I want. I can get up, go out and take a walk, go work from my local coffee shop, watch TV or hear music. I can talk on the phone all I want and chat with my friends. I can stay up all night for work or leisure. I can come and go as I please. But I, too, have deadlines, both for work and for bills.
Part of me wonders if maybe I should get a temporary, part-time job doing something else. Perhaps that overly romanticized coffee shop job I’m always talking about, feeling that I am somehow less complete as a person for never having had it (although not for lack of trying)?
The whatifs assail me and pop into my head as I wake up all of a sudden in the middle of the night. I think of the decreasing balance in my savings account, how puny the amount of money coming in ever so slowly when compared to the colossal debt from my student loans. I shudder a little and run through the list: credit card not too far from its limit; utilities, groceries; plans to come and go in hopes of boosting my career: the certification exams, the professional association membership fees. The business suit I have yet to buy. And my apartment, empty but for a complimentary table and a couch, where we eat off disposable plates and drink off disposable cups food we bought off food stamps.
Well, this is it. But not quite. Rather, this is the beginning. As I lay awake in bed at night, wondering how I’m going to make it, I remember the stories of other people who have been -and are- in my situation. Those are the stories of my professors, former students and future colleagues that stuck it out for just a little while, one, two, three years. There was no big break, no magical signing of a contract, only the daily drudge, the struggle day after day, week after week, month after month. And when I think of what the future holds in this place unknown to me I understand that my fear is also lined with excitement. Within the limitations there are infinite possibilities and I know something will come of this.