Like most translators, I used to think I was just a head. After all, that’s where it happens, right? We think, we analyse, we transform texts from one language to another. We’re all very cerebral.
Each day as I sat at my desk, I wasn’t even aware of my body. It was just a vehicle for getting my head close enough to the screen to do its work. I fed it and washed it, much like I do my car. But didn’t really give it much TLC.
So what did it do? It got its own back most evenings by introducing a wooden surfboard of pain across my shoulders and a stiffness in the neck.
Okay, I get you, lesson learned.
Until the next day.
And so it went for about 5 years. When I first came online, I noticed references to standing desks popping up now and again. Andrew Bell wrote about one. As did Nikki. But having just invested in a rather charming old colonial desk, I wasn’t about to chuck it out of the window, and so I focused my attention elsewhere.
I’d also bought a chair at great expense which was shipped all the way from Germany. With ergonomic angles, springs and pads in all the right places. It had come in pieces, and it took me half a day to put it together. I’m not the most practical of people. I only learned how to change a plug at the age of 24. And forgot again at the age of 25. So having wrestled with this bugger for hours, I wasn’t about to give it up.
Until one day, we needed to reorganise things in the house and my partner needed a chair. I’d also had a tough week of wall-to-wall translation and the surfboard had installed itself on a regular basis. PLUS I’d begun to read more about the body, and its connection to the emotions and our perceptions. And that was a language I understood.
And so I decided it was now or never. I went online, checked out the Varidesk site and realised they actually fitted on top of your desk rather than replacing it… And so I invested the 450 euros and have used it ever since, beginning with shorter periods and then moving on to longer.
I now tend to stand for 2.5-3 hours at a time, and then either fold it back down for a while or fold myself into an armchair to revise a text or write something on my laptop. And I can’t imagine going back at all…
True, I get a pain in my lower back if I overdo it, but on the whole the benefits are huge. You unconsciously adjust your position all day, you feel more alive, sportier, more alert and as a result you probably even translate better.
Shoulder pain is a thing of the past, and as long as you remember to take a break, you end up feeling much healthier.
I did also buy a Steppie, but to my chagrin found it raised me two inches too high in terms of the screen, so it’s languishing and occasionally wobbling unused under my desk. If anyone wants to give it a loving home, get in touch.
So all in all, a very sound investment. And if the various websites on the dangers of the sedentary life are to be believed, a life-extending and therefore a life-changing one.
Which makes it quite a bargain…
Andrew Morris studied modern languages at Oxford followed by a career in language teaching and teacher training. But when in 2009 a series of chance(?) life events dictated it was time for a change, a light bulb flashed in his head… ‘Why not translation?’ It was a leap of faith… apart from a correspondence course for translators, his CV as a translator on the first day of his new life was a blank sheet. Now, less than seven years later, he heads Morristraduction, a thriving boutique agency.
He also created and hosts Standing Out® – a community of translators on Facebook.
If you’d like to read more about this topic, please see the work–life balance section of this blog.