A confession: I love and resent this website.
I love that it has given me a way to keep in touch with faraway friends and family. I love that it has connected me with like-minded people all over the world. I love that it has given me the opportunity to review books before they go on sale.
But I resent how it fuels a steady stream of doubt.
At least five times in the past few months, I’ve showed up at a meeting with a Chilean I’ve met through mutual acquaintance. Almost always, this is a man with an engineering background. We speak Spanish.
Not far into our conversation, he’ll politely say, “So, I looked at your website. It’s interesting, but I don’t get it. What are you and why do you write that thing?”
What are you — qué eres — is a way to ask if I am a journalist, a lawyer, a publicist, an engineer, or something like that. A title. Defined by a university degree, which often takes five or six years to complete.
My history does not fit those categories. I usually say I am a translator or an entrepreneur.
I should revise this blog to say that. Make it specific, concrete, perhaps in Spanish.
But the doubt doesn’t just come from potential collaborators; it comes from inside my head.
Changing sidebars / pages / design forces me to think: what, how, why. To do. To write.
Am I writing to update friends and family on the coolest places I’ve been lately? To share my research on mineral rights regulation in Chile? To reflect on how my perspective has changed? To illustrate why you should hire me?
Face to face, I’d never bring up those topics in the same place, in the same way, especially since I live in more than one language.
Asking those questions makes me not want to write.
At least not here.
I write a lot. Scribbles crowding unlined notebooks.
But those scribbles don’t seem fit for this Google-friendly, quasi-official version of who I am and what I do.
I want to work face-to-face with professionals here in Chile who value how my experiences living in three very different cultures can help them explain why their work matters. This is translation: a form of translation that goes beyond words and digs into what is left unsaid.
I also want to show young North Americans that it is possible to build your career overseas. Not easy, but I can help you find your way.
I should write for those audiences – or even better: just one – not for people who have been following me all along. (I love you Mom!) But I’m not sure how.
I must be brave: to stand for my vision and stick with it long enough to see what works. I must listen carefully, filtering through contradictory advice, especially from the people closest to me. I must stay humble enough to change course.
I am lucky. I’ve won a contest that might help: a Voice Profile by Abby Kerr. She describes her role as Copywriter and Voice Ally, and she has profiled the distinctive voices of dozens of online entrepreneurs. I invite you to read more about it on her blog.
Hopefully this will help me choose words that better answer that troubling question – qué eres? – especially in translation.