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Dealing with challenges

By Kathy Cortopassi

For many years I have competed in the National Speed and Realtime Contests. It’s never easy, but I am a competitor at heart and these are quite the competitions! Perhaps renaming them “Challenges” would be more appropriate as challenges they are. This year was even more so for me, but it is who you become because of the challenges or how you react to them that define you.

Last year my sister died four days before the Speed Contest. Some would have thrown in the towel, stayed home, and cried. But what would that accomplish? Could it bring her back? Her girls and husband were making all the decisions, so there was nothing I could do but wait and find out when the funeral would be.

So I boarded the plane to Las Vegas and had my birthday dinner with my husband at Hell’s Kitchen. In the meantime, I learned her funeral would be Tuesday, the day before the Speed Contest. What do I do? I bought plane tickets for a round trip back for the funeral and skipped the practice and dinner for contestants. I tried to be a good sister and aunt. Then I flew back and competed. My mind and heart weren’t in it, but I was shocked I didn’t do worse.

This year my mom died a month before the competition. I couldn’t get myself to practice. Memories of last year and of Mom just distracted me so much. And depression played a role. But I had already paid for the darn tests, so I was doing them, dagnabbit! If that were the end of the story, I wouldn’t have written this article; right? Because most of those who know me knew those things already. What they didn’t know about were my challenges on the day of the test. Read that again. On. The. Day. Of. The. Test. (Why did I expect it to go smoothly, anyway? Silly me!) There is a lesson or two in this for you, my friend, whether you are a student, reporter, or captioner.

The morning of the Speed Contest started well enough — until my daughter and her husband got into an argument. Why? She wanted to stay at our timeshare condo and scope transcripts when he (and their kids) needed her at Disney World. He was stressed out about having six kids with only my senior citizen husband to help.

I intervened and asked her if she hadn’t already told her reporters about her vacation and that the delivery would be delayed. She had.

But then the verbal attack came: “All these years we’ve had family vacations and where were you, Mom? At NCRA! And where will you be again today, Mom? NCRA! You abandoned us then, and you are abandoning us now.”

Ouch. That “sticks and stones” stuff is a lie. Words can hurt as much or more than a physical wound.

Did she mean to hurt me? I choose to believe no. Notice I said choose. Beliefs are a choice. But she did hurt me. And I almost said, “Forget NCRA. I’ll get my walking shoes and play clothes on and buy a pass for Disney.” But am I a quitter? Do I react like this to challenges? Is there a way I can do both? I decided to do the Speed Contest and then go to Disney and surprise her. She knew I didn’t have a pass and also that there were no reservations available for Magic Kingdom anyway. But I prayed and trusted God to answer the prayer to make one available. And He did! But back to the story. You thought my challenges were over, didn’t you? Ask me about the tickets another day.

Want to find out how Cortopassi did in the Speed Contest? To view the full text of this article, NCRA members can use their membership credentials to log into the November 2022 issue of the online JCR Magazine.

Kathy Cortopassi, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a federal official in Charlotte, N.C., and owner of Voice to Print Captioning. She can be reached at