I always talk about the power of words. But what about the power of images? A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Indeed, images can give us inspiration and motivate us – the brightness of colours and the variety of shapes can help us find our inner peace or experience a wide range of emotions.
Inspiration can be found anywhere. It can be a person, an event or a brief moment. It can be a quote, an idea, a saying or a role model.
All these sources of inspiration have a very special place in our hearts - we can resort to them every time things get hard. They help us maintain the persistence to keep going despite the difficulties and obstacles that may come up along the way. They give us fresh perspective and help us see new possibilities. Inspiration serves as an invisible encouragement that gives us a secret key to unlock our potential.
Even though I always believed in the power of inspiration, I didn’t really have a specific saying or an image I would resort to every time I wanted to find my inner peace and de-stress. I remember having a list of songs that I had associated with important moments in my life, but that was pretty much it.
But it all kind of changed during my postgraduate studies. Back in 2017, I attended an introductory course on interpreting. It was my very first interpreting course (sweet memories) and our professor was explaining to us how interpreting really works. Stress management was one of the main parts of her lecture - looking back on it, I think she was basically trying to make us understand that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is o k a y and actually part of the game. To make her point clearer, she said ‘Interpreters are like swans. Calm on the surface but paddling like hell underneath’. That was it. I had found the saying that would inspire me throughout my postgraduate studies and, quite frankly, up until now.
Indeed, this metaphor comes to my mind, every time I have a bad day and feel overwhelmed. It always puts a smile in my face not only because of its intrinsic cuteness (I mean, come on), but also because it reminds me of all the great times I had as an interpreting student in Edinburgh.
Another reason why I love this metaphor is because it perfectly describes the profession of interpreters: An interpreter's voice has to sound calm in order to convey meanings naturally and seemingly effortlessly. At the same time, the ‘paddling’ describing all the work, preparation and stress associated with an interpreting assignment. What makes this phrase even more powerful, is the fact that it can be applied in several aspects of our lives. We tend to get impressed by other people's achievements or relationships without really thinking of all the sacrifices and all the efforts they had to make in order to be successful and have the life they do now. We focus on the tip of the iceberg without seeing what lies beneath the water. We tend to have the erroneous belief that it all took place from one day to the next which couldn’t be further away from reality.
And as a language nerd, I can't help but bringing up another (and equally cool) version of this saying. 'Interpreters are like ducks, calm on the surface but paddling like hell underneath' - and yes, I can totally relate to this version too (and I am sure that many of you do too): There are some moments in life that we are all paddling like hell, being clumsy as hell, making mistakes but still doing our best in our own little journeys.
P.S.: I recently heard of the word sonder (n.).. This noun describes the realisation that each person lives a life as complex as one's own, a life full of challenges, personal struggles and relentless 'paddling'.