Past Lives

Why Plan B?
Why not? (This is the best advice I ever got about embarking on the Next Big Thing. You’re welcome.)

The following is an adaptation of a comment I wrote in response to a post on Walt Kania’s blog, The Freelancery (highly recommended!), Freelancing: Inventing your ideal career, in real time.

In the 1980s I was freelancing in New York City as a theater technician.

While on tour in Valladolid (Spain) with a choreographer-filmmaker, we met some people from a Yugoslav theater troupe. Wanting to stay in touch with them and just for fun, I started learning their language (at the time, Serbo-Croat) from a teach-yourself book.

Four years later, still plugging away in theater, I took a six-month gig as production manager of Circus Flora, an old-fashioned tent circus.

Four years after that, I applied for a humanitarian aid job with the American Refugee Committee. On hiring me, the country manager said that if I could manage a circus, I probably had the temperament to manage a medical project in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. (It also didn’t hurt that I had a rudimentary grasp of the language.)

A few years after that, those friends from my theater days hired me to manage their film festival in Sarajevo.

When I returned to the U.S. a couple of years later, I had enough language skills and translation experience to market myself as a translator.

Now I specialize in medical translation from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian into English.

Was I planning on becoming a medical translator when I bought that “Teach Yourself Serbo-Croat” book in 1988? Ha!

Of course, I am leaving out many chance events and random collisions (including an actual car crash) that factored into every one of the “decisions” mentioned above — quotation marks because some would be better described as whims.

Needless to say, my various career trajectories, whether initiated on a whim or after prudent deliberation, have not always gone as planned. It didn’t take long for me to learn to expect, enjoy, and make the most of the twists and turns.

So, in answer to the question “Why Plan B,” I would say that my Plan A is Plan B.

These Past Lives pages contain highlights of my convoluted career trajectories as well as some of the flotsam and jetsam left in their wake.



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