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dandelion-445228_640Last week was rather a sombre time here in my little corner of Sussex. At the weekend there was the dreadful crash at the Shoreham Air Show, where up to 11 people have lost their lives, just through being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then, earlier in the week, a local friend lost his very short-lived battle with cancer at the age of 50, leaving a widow and two young children. He was only diagnosed at the end of May, barely enough time for his family and friends to come to terms with what was happening.

All of which makes me, for one, think long and hard about the important things in life. If events can change so dramatically and suddenly, surely we should be concentrating on the things that really matter and most definitely not sweating the small stuff?

Life’s too short to spend it doing a job you hate, so if you’re stuck in a full-time in-house post that you really don’t enjoy, but have always longed to follow your dreams and do something different, why not make a change? When I left university, I couldn’t find a job in translation, my ideal, so ended up joining a prestigious bank graduate scheme – and hated every minute! I kept the faith throughout and carried on writing to local companies on the off chance someone might need a translator, and sure enough, it paid off in the end, leading to an interview and an in-house translating post. Few and far between nowadays, unfortunately, but if you keep on persevering, you tend to make your own “luck” in the long run.

Then again, you may be pondering the whys and wherefores of going freelance: so give it a go! I’ve never regretted for one minute becoming self-employed further down the line – yes, you may lose the security of a fixed wage packet, paid holidays and a pension scheme, but you gain in freedom, the ability to say yes or no to what YOU want to do, the opportunity to work when (and where) you want and much more besides. Being your own boss is worth its weight in gold in my book – no more office politics, having to interpret when you’re really a perfectionist translator or feeling obliged to translate those financial accounts or contracts because you’re the staff translator, after all…

Once you are freelance, life’s definitely too short to say yes to low paid jobs, scrappy pdf files with appalling formatting (even after meticulous and time-consuming conversion processes), or long lists of spare parts or Excel spreadsheets that drive you mad with boredom… As for those long-winded translations that really aren’t in your specialist field, but you happen to be quiet when the client rings – is that really what you want to do? You can guarantee something MUCH more interesting will drop into your inbox the minute you’ve said yes to one of those…

And what about those rare opportunities that come your way, but you’re too timid, or anxious, or lacking in self-confidence to say yes? I was offered the chance to go and work with a university client in Switzerland when my boys were small, and said no without even thinking it through because my children were too small, my then husband worked long hours and definitely wouldn’t have been up for helping with childcare and I had no family close by to help out… Yet, even now, I often look back and think that perhaps I should have given it more than a cursory rejection! Recently, I’ve been offered a new opportunity that’s definitely outside my comfort zone, although well within my specialist field. This time, empty nester that I am, I have said yes – it may or may not be up my street, but I just knew I’d regret it if I didn’t seize the opportunity with both hands and give it a try. I’ll keep you posted…

Whether it’s learning a new skill, meeting new contacts at a conference or trade fair, or simply meeting up with colleagues for a catch-up, we need to make sure we live our working lives to the full, enjoying every minute, just as much as we do our social lives. Working round the clock is neither desirable, nor much fun, when you think about it – life is for living, while we’re here to enjoy it, and I always think you work much better if you take time to enjoy yourself alongside. If you can combine work and pleasure in the form of work events, so much the better, but making time to see friends and family and pursue other interests is most certainly high on my priority list too.

The friend whose life was so tragically cut short last week had tried a variety of careers over his short life, but his most lasting role was as a children’s entertainer, a job he fulfilled to perfection. You could see that he really enjoyed what he did, making us all laugh and wonder at his amazing magician’s exploits. It is inexpressibly sad that he’s no longer with us, but his death has made me, at least, rethink my approach to work and life. Life is most definitely too short to waste doing things we don’t enjoy – let’s make sure we find our niche and live life to the full.