First of all, find yourself a best friend who encourages you like it’s their job. That’s mine. When I gave up on a business that was nearly killing me, but tried another venture more aligned with my life’s responsibilities, I didn’t feel like a failure. Not when I had my best friend there, reminding me that we don’t call a shift from what we think we are supposed to do a shortcoming, we call it a “pivot, baby!” Since then, I’ve realized most of my adult life has been a series of pivots. I’ve never really chosen the path of least resistance and I don’t intend to start now.
At 43 years old, I am about 5 years into my mid-life crisis. I’ve gotten lots of tattoos, a nose ring, started a business, ended a business, started a new business, adopted new exercise routines, came clean about my abhorrence for organized religion and “out” as an atheist. I’ve (unintentionally) had myself thrown off a horse a few times, tried snowboarding, considered pole dancing and rescued a few dogs. I put a deposit on a yoga retreat to Iceland and lost it when the world shut down for Covid. I am still desperately trying to figure out how to make that happen though; seeing the Northern Lights on horseback is my #1 bucket list item. In a nutshell, I’ve just started to scratch the surface of the life I am meant to be living. I am tapping into the parts of me that had been left behind while adapting to motherhood and raising triplets. My “crisis” - as most mid-life ones are- hasn’t been a calamity, but rather a period of deep discovery. I’ve come to understand that life is not linear. Occasionally we pivot from familiarity and what is, to uncertainty and what could be. This is the proverbial pivot.
I lived in Atlanta for a few years in the early 2000’s. There is an intersection of two major interstates and a bunch of smaller roads that cross over one another in a pattern that resembles spaghetti. Known as Spaghetti Junction, this tangle of roads is what I think of when I visualize the path of my life. There's been a lot of in and out, under and over. Sometimes, I feel like I am going down a one way road in the wrong direction. But there has also been a shit ton of learning along the way. For me, the magic of my life has happened where the pivots take place.
Pivoting can become necessary when circumstances beyond our control force us to adapt, but we can also make a conscious choice to pivot for any number of reasons. For me, those reasons have been as significant as anxiety and burnout, to as simple as a feeling of needing something/anything else. Pivoting isn’t just a trend among mid-lifers either; it’s happening in the workplace, schools, homes and social circles and among people of all generations. Bruce Feiler, bestselling author of Life is in the Transitions, argues that humans are experiencing more life shifts than ever before. We are perpetually pivoting. I suspect that the Covid pandemic was the greatest era of human pivoting most of us will ever experience. How we work, learn and stay connected has changed considerably, forcing us all to adapt. At the height of it, we were inundated with information (much of it conflicting) and yet left with so much uncertainty. We had to tune into ourselves a bit more, trusting our own instincts like never before. As a result, I believe we are better positioned and more confident in prioritizing the things that really matter. For many, this shift in perspective was a game changer. For me, it led to some major pivots, but more importantly, it helped me see that change is inevitable and without it there is little opportunity for growth.
The pandemic started for me personally, the day our school district announced that schools would be closing. This happened less than 2 years into my return to the workforce after being a stay-at-home-mom to my triplet babies. I never imagined being a stay at home mom, but after a traumatic pregnancy and NICU experience that left me with severe anxiety, staying home was the most reasonable choice. Not to mention that the insane cost of childcare in the US meant going back to work would have cost us about $50k/year. So, I stayed home, raising babies and rethinking everything I believed about my place in the world.
I pivoted from a recent Master’s graduate, aspiring career professional, to a first time mom of triplets. Though I could not have dreamed up this incredible new life, I embraced the hell out of it like it was the only one I was ever meant to live. For those first years, being home with my babies was where I was meant to be.
Until it wasn’t. Cue the pivot, baby.
First let me say, my kids are the greatest joy of my life. I wholeheartedly believe that being their mom is what I was made to do. But, it’s not all I was made to do. At the time, my being home was what we needed. I know it was a tremendous privilege to have had the opportunity and I don’t take it for granted. Nonetheless, It was the hardest work I have ever done. It also didn’t fully satisfy my curious mind and need for learning and growth. So I went back to work full time, thinking that might be “easier” or somehow more fulfilling. But it wasn’t. Going back to an entry level job and having to choose between keeping that job and being available for my kiddos’ many needs, had me changing directions faster than you can say, "pivot, baby!”
So, I sought out a different work arrangement, with flexibility being the most important factor in choosing one. Then the whole world pivoted when Covid hit. I was again unemployed and staying at home to care for my kiddos while my husband worked and was gone 11 hours a day. Those days were long, but transformative. I sought out a new hobby for me and the kids to do together and turned it into a home bakery business. That grew, becoming a beast of a venture that taught me so much and then nearly took me out. 18 hour days and too many nights without sleep, I crashed and burned, and the whole thing fell to pieces. The time had come. Yes, another pivot.
I imagine that wasn’t the last one either. Not by a long shot. Whether it’s just the period of life I am in, or the state of the world, I feel more change coming. I don’t know what it looks like, or when it’ll come, but I am leaning in either way. Change is inevitable, transition a major player in our life story. Bruce Feiler says, “reimagining and reconstructing our personal stories is vital to living a fulfilling life.” For a long time I assumed that the key to fulfillment was knowing. Knowing with certainty that I was doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. But, I have started to believe that the unknowing makes a more compelling story. I have learned to trust myself enough to navigate the roads that don’t lead straight ahead and I hope you will too. When in doubt, let my bestie’s words remind you that it’s okay to pivot, baby! xo