The Pivot

Computer and mouse

2014 was a momentous year for me, though not in a happy way. In May, 2014, I resigned from my second teaching career, which had given me joy and purpose for the first five years, and frustration and stress for the final three years. I kept hoping that things would improve, but instead, they just got bleaker.

As relieved as I was to no longer be teaching, I felt like I’d lost my identity; I’d failed—I’d given up on teaching. If I wasn’t a teacher, who was I? Although I’d heard that who you are isn’t the same as what you do, I just didn’t know how to define myself anymore.

Besides, I really wanted meaningful work and a regular paycheck. Over the next year I sent out 100 applications for employment; I made the short list for three positions, but I never landed one.

I was really disappointed, but I returned to my critique group and slowly started writing again. I had always said I’d go back to writing when I retired; I just hadn’t realized I was already retired.

In 2015 Jeff Goins released his book The Art of Work. I was already familiar with his writing; in fact, his 500-word Challenge jumpstarted my return to writing. The Art of Work made me feel comfortable with this next act of my life. The turning point for me was Chapter 5, titled “Pivot Points: Why failure is your friend.” Goins posits that each failure, whether it’s a dream that just doesn’t come to fruition or the loss of a job, is an opportunity to change direction, pivot, try something new. Many times we stick with what we’re doing, even if it’s no longer rewarding, because we’re hoping things will change, or because we’ve already invested so much time in it. We end up not trying something different until we’re forced into it—by failure. Without failure, we might never find that thing we were born to do.

Another chapter I found interesting was Chapter 2, “Accidental Apprenticeships.” When I was teaching, I was required to do other things that weren’t directly involved in working in the classroom. Each teacher was expected to maintain a personal page on the school website, which was to be the place parents could refer to when they wanted to know what their children were learning in your classroom. All of us went through training to learn how to design our webpages.

Also, teachers “volunteer” to do all sorts of things unrelated to teaching but important to the running of the school, things for which there is no funding. Teachers have “morning duty” and “dismissal duty” and “lunch duty” and “playground duty.” They sit on committees; they raise funds. For the last three years of my teaching career, I ran the Yearbook Club. With a bunch of fifth and sixth grade helpers, I put together the school yearbook. It took a lot of (unpaid) time, but it was also an artistic and creative outlet for me, laying out yearbook pages on the photography company’s software.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the tech skills I was learning were an excellent preparation for something I never expected to do—blogging. While teaching, I was unintentionally doing an apprenticeship for something else. Those myriad hours were not wasted.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you planned. But that’s okay. It might initially feel like a failure, but don’t forget: it’s an opportunity to pivot to something that could be a better fit for you. Go for it!

2 responses »

  1. I too, was forced into doing a pivot when I left the State 4-H office involuntarily back in 2017. Looking back, I see God’s hand so clearly. I love teaching piano, and I love being my own boss…no politics, and no traveling across the state in the winter! You have found your niche Andrea, keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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