May Memo

“She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! Alas! She must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.” —Jane Austen, Persuasion

It’s May!

I tend to feel extra introspective (Kevin would say self-absorbed) this time of year; daily, I see my own name reflected back at me, indicating at once the constancy (it’s still May!) and passage (May slips by) of time; May has everything to do with me and nothing to do with me at all (several times, people near me have started the sentence with May, meaning of course the month, and not myself). All this is to say that—it’s May, and I thought I should write something.

Kevin and I visited Muir Woods at the start of the month. The redwoods are mesmerizing, though when Cynthia asked me “how was it” I could only unhelpfully comment that they were “very tall.” Their height is part of their enigma, though; redwood trees are towering, perfectly perpendicular, and just the right shade of burgundy. Up close, its bark resembles pieces of beef jerky; each slab a layer of a 1000-year history.

A notable update this month is the status of my gainful employment—I started a new job, interning at a tech PR firm in San Francisco! I never expected I’d be working for clients in the cybersecurity world, but now I’m invested daily in ransomware attacks, data breaches, and the like…. The PR world is fast-paced and collaborative. It comes with the adrenaline highs of scoring media coverage and the stressful bursts of meeting a tight deadline.

In this way, it’s very different from the slow, solitary work of translation that I do, shuffling from Chinese into English. Although, both PR and translation are concerned with pitching, cadence, and language. In PR, one has to translate a client’s work into a story; in translation, one has to translate an author’s words into another language. I was recently in a “messaging workshop” (that’s when you edit a company’s mission statement) where the level of attention paid to individual words reminded me a lot of a translation workshop.

In the spirit of keeping this post ASAP (as short as possible), I’ll wrap up by talking about Persuasion. I re-read the novel this month, supposedly as part of A Public Space’s #APStogether series, though I was woefully behind and finished much later than everyone else. The last time I read the book, according to my Goodreads account, was in 2014. At the naive age of 17, I had given the book two stars (I’ve updated my rating to five). I still remember reading Persuasion on a boat (fitting, given its nautical themes) while traveling in Canada (or was it some other place?). I also remember not really “getting” it, the same way I didn’t “get” many of the books I read at the time (though I like to think I had an innate instinct for literary value).

Anyway, it’s timely that I’m rereading the book seven years later. Persuasion, after all, is about a pair of past lovers who reunite after seven years to find that their mutual feelings remain unchanged. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s love story works, however, not because they are nostalgic for the past—but because their present emotions are strong, and they are hopeful for the future.

I’d like to think that I’m hopeful for the future, too. By the end of the month, Kevin and I will be fully vaccinated. I’ll be receiving my second pay stub. I’ll also hopefully have made significant headway on translation projects I’ve neglected for weeks. Am I wise and reasonable yet? Sadly, no—but in time, perhaps in another May, I will be.

P.S. A joint interview between me and fellow translator Jenna Tang was published in Words Without Borders yesterday. We discuss translating Taiwan and Hong Kong literature.

On June 12, I will be participating in my first-ever “Translation Slam” with Eric Abrahamsen of Paper Republic. RSVP for free here!

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