I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I have the impression that an awful lot of translators are divorced (that ‘D’ word!) or single. On my networking and conference sorties, there are definitely more than a few fellow divorcees amongst the ranks of translators and interpreters. And of course quite a few who’ve never gone down the marital road in the first place. Perhaps you naturally gravitate to people in a similar situation to yourself? Or perhaps you’re just more aware of divorce, having gone through that particular epic journey? I don’t know – I can’t answer those questions, but I do feel as though I’m not in a minority as a divorced translator!
I must admit I never expected to be in this position – does anyone? I suspect I was definitely one of the ‘smug marrieds’, to borrow Bridget Jones’ phrase, having left university at 22 and got married at the end of that same summer to my first ever boyfriend from school. We’d gone to different universities, of course, and I’d spent a year abroad, but we were still as committed as ever and marriage was definitely the thing to do in the early 80s. It seems crazy, looking back now, to get married at 22, but five of our friends got married that same year. Of the five of us, three have since got divorced, so well over half. Two divorced fairly quickly and have since remarried and been with their respective new partners for quite some time. No translators other than me, though. I was married for 20 years before my husband got a big promotion, involving a move to London (we lived in Scotland), and (what a clichéd surprise), started having an affair with his secretary. Same old, same old… but still a huge shock out of the blue for me and my family.
As I’ve written before, in my post on The Solitary Translator a couple of years ago, translators are often good at being in their own company. And boy, did I need to be, moved lock, stock and barrel from one end of the country to the other and abandoned in a rambling house and huge garden in the middle of the country just three short months after we’d moved down. I needed every ounce of my inward-looking reserves and inner strength to pick up the pieces, stay strong for my sons and rebuild my life in a new place. Work was a huge solace; I could throw myself into my translations and try to forget about the personal chaos around me.
Scroll forward thirteen years, and I’m still on my own. In fact, as time passes, I find myself more and more accustomed to living alone: I suppose it’s a form of selfishness. I can choose when I work, how long I work, where I go on holiday, what I do in my spare time… In some respects, I’ve done far more with my career as a singleton than I would ever have done as a wife to a company director. Being divorced has forced me to go out and network, make myself meet people and expand my business, whereas in my old life I would probably have let it continue as a pin money hobby. I’ve positively relished being in charge of my own finances and, in effect, of my own destiny – that’s quite a satisfying feeling. Nerve-racking in the early days, admittedly, but, as my solicitor once said to me “One of these days, you’ll come out of this much stronger” – and I know I have.
None of which explains why translators should be more prone to getting divorced, or not getting married in the first place, of course. Is it precisely because we’re so self-contained and that is, in its own way, quite threatening to potential partners? Are we too cerebral and off-putting to non-linguists perhaps?! Heaven forbid that we should be perceived as being stuck in a rut – I certainly don’t feel as though I am! Does the fact that many of us work from home mean that we’re perceived as not having any interests outside the home? Again, absolutely not true in my case, or that of many of my colleagues. It’s certainly hard to trust people again when you’ve been so badly let down; I’m the first to confess to backing off from potential new relationships. Inevitably, a desire to avoid the risk of ‘failing’ again must play a huge part. Meeting new people when you work predominantly from home isn’t easy, that’s for sure, and having recently put a tentative toe in the murky waters of online dating, I’m not sure that’s the way forward either. I’m obviously far too particular and starting to think I’m very much better off on my own!
I really have no answers, and of course everyone’s different. Many of my divorced colleagues have remarried and set off into the sunset of a new life of coupledom. I’m a great believer in fate and feel that if something is meant to happen, then happen it will. For the time being, I’m perfectly happy in my little freelance world, where I call the shots and work as much, or as little, as I like. My ex-husband is married again, with three young children (rather him than me!), and living the ex-pat life in Dubai – most definitely not my cup of tea! As a freelancer, I can work from anywhere, but I love the fact that I can choose. Maybe that ski chalet in the Alps (with the translation business on the side) is a reality after all – one of these days!