Sometimes in life you just need to pivot. You are headed on a certain path and it becomes clear that it is not possible to continue on that path. You have to pivot…you make a sharp left turn, quickly adjust the plan, and continue on in your new direction.
The whole “pivot” idea hit me full-force when I was traveling this past week. I was in Arizona for a conference the early part of last week. (I promise—I learned a lot of great things that I’ll be utilizing with you!) The conference ended Wednesday afternoon, and I was on a red-eye flight home at midnight Wednesday night. (The red-eye—a great way to get an extra day at your location without paying for an extra night in a hotel!) That first flight was not a problem. I got some sleep, watched some Netflix (previously downloaded to my Kindle), and arrived in Detroit shortly before 6 AM. On Thursday. The day of the big storm. The big storm that shut down Penn State for the better part of two days.
I had been watching the weather forecast. I knew there was a decent chance I wouldn’t make it home on Thursday as planned. Before I left Arizona I cozied up in the hotel lobby (because I had been checked out of my room for several hours by then) and did some unpacking and repacking. I needed to make sure that everything I needed for an extra night in who-knows-where was in my carry-on bags. I was anticipating the need to pivot.
As I sat through my breakfast layover in Detroit, I watched in anticipation as the flight cancellations started coming in. Much to my surprise, my flight boarded pretty close to on-time. And then the real adventure began. As the snow was flying in Detroit, my plane waited in line for de-icing. Then we waited for a runway to become available, as we were running behind. All the while I was thinking about the snow that was about to pummel Pennsylvania. But we got into the air about 45 minutes after scheduled. Not bad considering the weather. The flight to State College was a bit turbulent, but I breathed a sigh of relief as we descended and I saw Happy Valley below us. And then we started climbing again. Visibility was too poor to land. So we started circling above State College, hoping for conditions to improve. After twenty minutes or so, we descended again. The visibility was better. But the runway was too snowed in to land. Back to circling. The pilot announced that we had enough fuel for one more landing attempt, and if that failed we would have to divert to a different airport. We continued to circle the skies as the crews attempted to plow the runway. After about a half-hour we came in for landing attempt number three. And we were able to reach the ground. The passengers immediately broke into applause for the pilot and crew.
But the adventure didn’t stop there. There is nothing quite like an airport in bad weather to bring out either the very best or the very worst in people. The roads in State College were a mess and getting worse quickly. The University had already dismissed for the day. The taxis had stopped operating. And the airport was full of people who were trying to get to anywhere other than the airport. Some of us were my flight that miraculously arrived from Detroit. But most of the folks in the airport were people whose outgoing flights had been canceled and they were trying to get back to wherever they came from. The only real options to escape the airport (for those who hadn’t left a car there) were Uber, Lyft, and friends and family. And, of course, there was an accident blocking the major path to and from the airport. But that’s when the magic started happening. People pivoted. Cars arrived and picked up not just their stranded friends, but other stranded travelers heading similar directions. Strangers were sharing Uber rides. People in the parking lots were sharing snow brushes. One of my fellow Detroit travelers and I taught a man how to use the Uber app. That same fellow traveler caught a ride with me when my husband (after a long detour due to the accident) showed up with our Subaru. Kindness was everywhere that snowy afternoon.
When faced with a situation that steers you in a different direction than you expected, you don’t really have much choice other than to go in that new direction. This could something small, like a used textbook you planned to buy wasn’t available so you had to buy new. Maybe you have to drink Pepsi products instead of Coke (or change your plan to something different). Or it could be something bigger, like a major car repair, or an unexpected vacation in Detroit (which in retrospect I wish I’d had). The important thing is that you pivot. Pivot with grace, and keep moving on.