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Pivot Turn, Ball Change


Glacier National Park, Montana, August 2018

During my junior year of high school, I learned how to drive a car. I was cautious, mired in perfectionism and primarily concerned with A+ing my existence behind the wheel. My mum actually had to threaten me into getting my license because I was so concerned about making a mistake on my driver’s test. To boost my confidence, on the evening before my practical evaluation, she took me for a practice spin around the RMV. We looped the parking lot several times, practiced pulling into a parking space, managed a clunky three point turn or two, and tried out all of the other obscure driving tasks that you generally forget about three weeks post license acquisition. All went well. I felt ready. That is, until we arrived for the actual exam the next morning.


September 11, 2008, we pulled up to the RMV for the real deal. I surveyed the scene, suddenly filled with dread. Overnight, a demolition crew had ripped up the parking lot. All of the traffic was rerouted. I filled out my paperwork and walked to the door to meet my evaluator. Just as we were about to face the Jackson Pollock painting, formerly known as the parking lot, a voice came over the PA system. Everything went silent, aside from the clatter of my circulatory system, as we bowed our heads in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The “moment” of silence lasted about four years. When it finally ended, I laboriously hoisted my eyeballs from the floor, released the breath that I had forgotten to exhale for the last 30 seconds or, and sidled up to my car.


Sometimes we are gifted with a neatly groomed path where, not only is the destination apparent, but the means of getting there also seems strikingly obvious.


But, what do we do when that path no longer exists? How do we frolic down that beautiful manicured trail when it suddenly evaporates, gets torn up by an excavator, or locked down by a virus?


Simply put, we don’t.


We set to work and find a way to pivot.


While the current global pandemic seems to have little to do with my early driving antics, both situations demand a reevaluation of circumstance. At their core, moving through both scenarios demand a common consideration - the ability to forecast solutions that start with today rather than last month, last year, or even yesterday. Things have changed and they will keep moving.


Many of us have shifted from an existence of constant moving around, to one of location dependence. World wide, things revolve around staying put. Create at home. Apply for unemployment at home. Muse whether or not the country has any hope of reopening soon, at home. Sit on the phone for hours waiting to talk to the bank, or the electric company, or the internet provider, or a government office, or Amazon, or, or, or, at home.


Everything is a projection. How do we plan for a future when our present is somehow weirdly imaginary? The world is on pause. Also, it very much is not. The productivity of careers and appointments has shifted to a focus on applications, moving meetings online, spelunking through lists of untapped job prospects, discovering the art of baking, and introducing ourselves fine nooks in the house that have gone unnoticed for years but have suddenly become intolerably dingy. Parents are suddenly in a position where they are responsible for taking on the roles of every adult in their childrens’ lives. Teachers are now tech troubleshooters. I’m learning how to sustain a dance practice on a concrete floor. We have all tapped into our inner improviser.


I’ve always wondered what would have happened to Robert Frost’s narrator in “The Road Not Taken” if the circumstances were a bit more high stakes: two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ the well worn path was taken out by a flood/ as far as I could see in the other direction/ was an overgrown hell gate of stinging nettles/ a grizzly bear has named himself guardian of both routes/ crap.


Few new pathways arrive unladen; along with them come furrowed brows and sunburned shoulders, scraped legs and compass errors, but in tow also emerges fresh seeds of grit, self sufficiency, confidence, and courage.


How much space does disruption breed for newness? In the midst of being stuck, do we have the privilege of moving generously sideways? Is there a new forward?


We are all bushwhackers now.


-J



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