Pivoting: A reflection on adaptability and resiliency

In a constantly changing world filled with setbacks and transitions, now more than ever it's essential to pivot and adapt to our new circumstances in order to grow and develop in positive and productive ways.
Brie Brullo

Seven months stuck

One of the most popular buzz words that caught on during the pandemic was the term, “pivot”, a word I had heard in other contexts (i.e., the infamous Friends episode, or physically pivoting your foot) but never in relation to the working world or adaptability. This past year, the entirety of the world embraced this novel  term in the face of immense adversity and hardship, in order to re-focus their life and stay resilient. For me, pivoting started to be more applicable to my life in the past year: I was “let go” from my internship at Walt Disney World because of a global pandemic and had to pick up the pieces and move back home to live in incredibly unprecedented circumstances. For a while, I was sad, lonely, confused, angry, bored… you name it. I didn’t have a job, I felt socially isolated, I was reminiscing about amazing experiences at Disney, and I didn’t quite know to pivot and adapt to my new reality.

For a lot of the mandatory quarantine and stay-at-home order, I felt bad for myself and the position I was in; I spent a lot of time lamenting the situation and reflecting back to what I lost and what I once had. At that time, I truly didn’t know how to pivot from the rut I was caught in… constantly thinking about the past and the future, not embracing what I could have done in the present to take steps to make the most out of my situation. In my intended field of higher education and study abroad, many universities and provider companies were not hiring, as those industries were devastatingly impacted by the pandemic. This felt like another hit to my morale and left me feeling stuck, as I watched my fellow peers continue on in their academic and professional careers, while I stayed in the same place, with little progress or change.

A change of vantage point

It wasn’t until the late summer/early fall until I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to do something to improve my situation and turn it into something meaningful and positive. I continued to research if any education abroad providers were hiring or looking for interns; at that time, they still weren’t accepting new employees. Then in October of last year, on a whim, I decided to attend a virtual Lessons From Abroad conference, in order to learn more about the study abroad field, listen to presentations from experienced professionals, network, and see what my resources were. I was so impacted by one of the speakers, Cara, who spoke about accepting what we can control and validating the thoughts and emotions that we are experiencing during these stressful and strange times. Her session about normalizing our feelings of being lonely, disappointed, or sad and turning our attention to accept the uncontrollable and look at life through a different perspective truly impacted me and awakened me from the period of feeling stuck that I had felt for so long. After the session, I wrote down her name and email and researched her organization’s website, Learn International, to learn more about her and how we could become connected.

With a little investigation, I found out that Learn International regularly takes on interns who are interested in gaining experience in the International Education and study abroad field… my dream! I reached out to the internships coordinator, Michelle about a potential placement, and was told that they were already pretty set for the rest of the year, but to get in touch next year if I was still interested. From that temporary “no”, I decided to make a change, a slight pivot if you will, in order to make the most out of the rest of the year and put my skills to use, while accomplishing one of my goals. Thus, I looked into Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification programs and decided to take control of what I could control. I didn’t want the unfortunate circumstance to have a strong-hold over my life any longer; I finally chose to pivot and change directions when everything I was experiencing in the last months weren’t proving fruitful and meeting my needs.

Opportunity, skills, and luck

In the winter, I officially enrolled in my TEFL program and devoted all of my time and energy to completing all of the various coursework during the 3 month program. Earning my TEFL certification was something I had wanted to do for nearly 3 years; it felt like the most opportune time to cross this goal off of my list and feel productive in the process. I also completed student teaching, tutoring, and observation hours for my final practicum and was beginning to feel the momentum of making positive changes in my life. In January, Michelle from Learn e-mailed me and asked if I was still interested in a virtual internship placement for the spring, to which I said of course! For the first time in almost a year, I felt the stars were aligning, and I was taking control of the cards that I was dealt with in order to pivot to something productive and impactful.

After earning my certificate in March, I accepted the internship offer and began interning remotely with Learn International in the beginning of April. Although it was a tough and long road to get to this point, the rewards of participating in this experiential learning opportunity have been so incredible and invaluable for my future personal and professional pursuits. I’m already learning so much about adaptability, as I am interning in a fully virtual environment and am gaining knowledge and experience about how to be present even in an online platform. I’m proud of myself for finally taking the necessary steps to make a change and pivot into a different direction in order to take control over my life and make the most out of my time and experiences.

Given the Coronavirus pandemic, I know I am not alone in my struggles of feeling stuck, unsuccessful, and confused as to what my purpose and next steps in life are. In this past year, we’ve all had to briefly change directions because of the current circumstances, which has made us more resilient, adaptable, and resourceful. Taking steps, whether big or small, to make adjustments when we are not satisfied with our current situation or are temporarily road-blocked, and figuring out our next best course of action is truly imperative. It took a while for me to finally realize and embrace the notion of pivoting and shifting my plans for the things I have control over in my life. We’re all going to face setbacks and transitions in our lives; if we react to those situations by finding purpose and meaning in them, we’ll surely be prepared to take on whatever life gives us next.

Brie with her official TEFL certificate! 

Brie’s virtual workspace at home!

Here’s to pivoting when life isn’t going the way we want it to, adapting to a new setting, validating how we are thinking and feeling, and making the necessary changes to positively and productively improve our lives when it temporarily knocks us down.

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