“Interpretation is an expensive hobby.”
When I heard this sentence at our regional workshop a couple of weeks ago at Stone Mountain Georgia, it was met with laughter. How true of a statement! We are not paid massive amounts of money to interpret our sites. There is little hope for young people to become millionaires as interpreters. Yet we are all eager to show up to work every day. Ready to tackle the next challenge. Sometimes that next difficulty requires personal monetary investment to complete. For years I have personally committed money to help pay for programs or travel at various places I have worked. Everything from construction paper and colored pencils to help educate kindergartners about sea turtles to a reproduction War of 1812 leather shako worn by an US Regular in order to stand in line at the 200th anniversary of Battle of New Orleans. I do so willingly. Why? Because I have a passion for what we do. Which brings us to a hidden aspect the statement “Interpretation is an expensive hobby”, personal capital.
When said at our regional, I know that person was talking about money. However, as I drove home to ‘Bama, it came to me that more can be extruded from the sentence. It reminded me of all the time spent away from friends and family. How it brought me to Alabama, 14 hours away from the closest relative, in order to learn about how to interpret and now bringing the good word to others in the area. The cold nights, wet days, blood, sweat and tears shed in order to bring history to life or talk about sharks which once swam where I stand here in the Black Belt. In past few years of my career, more time has been garnered towards interpreting to audiences with intellectual disorders. Requiring even more personal capital in order to learn about the various disorders, then learn best practices in order to help educate them. All of this requires a great deal of personal capital in order to be successful. We invest in the programs or “the cause” in such a way that its success is tied to our own personal well-being. When something goes wrong, it can be devastating, but when it goes right or an individual came up to you and said “I don’t like history, but I actually liked you teaching me about it.” the feeling bolsters our personal capital account to the brim, allowing us to reinvest again.
Interpretation is an expensive hobby. It requires “the right stuff” in a person to invest their personal capital so completely in a job. It requires a lot of giving on our part, time and money for example, but what we can gain from investing ourselves into interpretation more than makes up for the sacrifices we made to get there.