The Art of the Pivot

I remember being at basketball practice in middle school and being taught the art of the pivot. One foot firmly planted on the ground, the ball protected on my back hip, I swiveled, my free foot searching for the opening that would let me make the pass. It’s many years later and I don’t play basketball anymore, but the pivot has become my go to move in life.

I’ve always been proactive in going after what I want in life. When I was younger, I thought that life was more black and white and that with hard work I could make anything happen. Over the past few years, however, I’ve had to find my zen as I watch life unfold in ways that don’t follow the careful plans I’ve been laying.

I’ve carved out a career as a teacher, which has taken me overseas and back again. I’ve been married, had a child, and come to terms with that marriage ending and having to redefine my dreams for my life and my future. The process of getting a divorce has been anything but simple. At each step of the way, I’ve developed new visions and plans just to have life get in the way and stop me in my tracks. And each time that happens, it’s time to pivot. It’s the only choice, really. Otherwise, I’d be left perpetually grieving the things I can’t have.

So, I get in touch with a desire, I let it take root and start moving in that direction. Then life steps in and says, nope, you can’t have that, not now. I put my heart safely on my back hip, get into my crouch, and start looking for a new opportunity that will let me continue to move in the direction of what I desire. I love living overseas and thought that’s where I would spend my career. Now, I need to be in the States so my son can have a relationship with his father. At first, this felt suffocating. I thought divorce was about freedom and getting my life back, so how could I be constrained by the wishes of my ex-husband? The panic started to set in and I worked through that until I could see another way. I can still travel. While my son spends time with his dad, I can go out on my own and explore the world. I live in an incredibly international city so I can also learn to dance salsa, take Spanish lessons and meet people from all over the world right here. Pivot.

I worked really hard this year to figure out my life in DC again. I hustled to find a new job, an apartment, a school for my son. I had a very well thought out plan that involved a job at a school that was biking distance from a new apartment and was counting on my son getting into the school if I worked there. I got the apartment, I got the interview, I ultimately got the job, but my son didn’t get in. There it was again, panic. It’s not working out. I’m working so hard but my dreams and plans are falling apart. But then another job option came through, one that actually felt more exciting to me, and my son got called off the waitlist at a school with a great pre-K program, and I still had an apartment I was excited about. Pivot. We won’t be riding bikes to school together but I can make it work and I can still be a single mom and hold it all together.

Ever since getting home a year ago, life has felt like a series of challenges and pivots. It’s a year of transformation and I have had to come face to face with the old stories I told myself that kept me stuck. But as I get better at the pivot, those stories are starting to change. I can see a brighter path ahead. I still make plans and come up with dreams for how things will be. It’s just that now, I’m not devastated when those plans don’t work out. I hold onto the desire and pivot until I find another path. The ball is my life and as the world throws me new challenges I throw my heart on my back hip where it’s protected and I swivel and pivot to change course each time life doesn’t move in the direction I want it to. It’s all out there waiting for me and if I keep throwing my free foot out there, I’ll find my path.


Storykeeper: Katherine Douglas

Katie is an educator and a writer. She is the mother of a delightful three-year-old boy who is constantly teaching her how to be a better human being. She has traveled on many continents and is always looking for the next adventure. She appreciates good friends, good food, and dancing and is happy to know that community can be found all around the globe if one is open to it.


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