Christine Lafinhan, mother of two grown daughters, is living the life of her dreams. She has been a nationally certified, freelance sign language interpreter for the past 30 years and she retired at only 58 years old this last year. She worked when she wanted, where she wanted, and for whom she wanted. When her children were young, she worked hard during the school year in order to take summers off. She does not live extravagantly but travels extensively. She has visited nearly every state in the union and several countries, including Scotland, Mexico, Spain, Australia, and Ireland.
Not only is the field of sign language interpreting intriguing, Christine has lived a life of which many are envious.
Christine has interpreted in myriad settings for a wide variety of people, from the president of the United States to small town mayors, from the rock band KISS to church recitals, from Berkshire Hathaway stockholder meetings to Tupperware parties, from college courses to preschool classes. And best of all, her job traveled with her. Because she is a master networker, she was able to find work almost anywhere in the country. Now she spends her time visiting friends and family all over the world, participating in the Society for Creative Anachronism events, chasing down cows, or working on one of her many hobbies.
After a recent trip to Texas, we caught up with Christine in her adorable little cottage on a small rolling ranch in the hills of Nebraska.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
A: I had no idea. I never really had a dream… I just fell into my life…
Q: Sign Language Interpreting is an interesting line of work. What exactly did you do?
A: Interpreting is helping communication happen between English speakers and sign language users.
Q: How did you decide to get into that field?
A: I fell in love with American Sign Language and the Deaf culture when I took some sign language classes in high school
Q: Freelance? What exactly does that mean?
A: It basically means I run my own business. Like a contractor or someone in private practice.
Q: So how did you manage your healthcare and retirement?
A: That is part of the overhead when running your own business. I had to pay for my own health insurance and invest for retirement.
Q: How did interpreting fit your lifestyle? Or how did your lifestyle fit your career?
A: I am a gypsy at heart. While many of my colleagues worked full time at various places of business or at different institutions, I preferred being my own boss. I like going where I wanted when I wanted without having to answer to anyone. The change of scenery and no guarantee of a check the next week and lack of benefits is not for everyone. But to me the freedom was worth it.
Q: What would you say is your purpose or passion?
A: I like seeing people succeed. I love working with words and languages. I love traveling and am passionate about causes I believe in.
Q: If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would you say?
A: To lighten up and not be so serious. To live in the moment… not anticipating the next move nor reliving things I can do nothing about
Q: What advice would you give a young person deciding on a career or a professional considering changing careers?
A: Think about what you are willing to do to achieve your dreams. If you are not willing to endure hardships to achieve what you want, then they are only dreams. And make sure whatever you want to do, you will enjoy doing every day for the next thirty years. If you do what you love, your passion will show, and you will do it well.
Q: How has networking helped your career?
A: Probably 90% of all private practice/freelance work is referral. Without that word of mouth and networking I would not have had a career.
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