Students need to learn how
to pivot in life after graduation
Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:29 AM
When I opened my camera bag at Kingsland's commencement, which I was attending to cover for the Spring Valley Tribune, I discovered that the lens I had intended to predominantly use was still sitting on a shelf back at home.
I was devastated.
All those commencement speakers that tell graduates to follow their passions don't include the fine print - the warning that passions can turn into obsessions for some people.
Photography is one of those obsessions for me. Most people are content to use the cameras on their phones for all their photography needs. Me, I have to lug around a heavy camera bag, whether it's for work or fun, sometimes making fun trips, even vacation, seem like work.
Obsessions can be quite maddening, particularly when you run into obstacles.
However, I didn't go off the deep end. Friday night at commencement when my heavy bag didn't include what I felt I needed to do my job, I improvised. I adjusted some camera settings, moved to different locations and tried to hold my camera very steady to get the photographs I needed.
As I listened to the program that night, I learned from guest speaker Lisa Vehrenkamp that what I had done was called pivoting.
Although Vehrenkamp's message about pivoting was a very minor part of her talk and my example was a very minor use of it, I thought her point was quite interesting and something that isn't usually mentioned to graduates.
Commencement speakers will usually talk all about life's possibilities, the doors that open, the exciting world that is out there for graduates, all of which Vehrenkamp did, but they don't include the fine print - that life is often filled with obstacles, disappointment and even pain.
When some people come to a roadblock on their life's journey, they try to smash through without adjusting, running straight into failure. Others just stop and find contentment with a dead end life. Still, others try to pretend it isn't there, perhaps masking their reality with drugs or alcohol, turning their world into a real mess.
The real trick is to pivot - to choose another path in life, even if it is one you never envisioned.
Vehrenkamp was the commencement speaker because she found a successful path in life. However, it wasn't the one she envisioned when she was listening to her high school commencement speaker 25 years ago. She made several pivots, some of them major life decisions, on her journey through life.
Success isn't a smooth path with no twists or turns. Successful people also face failure and disappointment in their lives. The key to their success is, in a way, their pivots - their adjustment to adversity.
I don't feel wise enough to offer advice to graduates since after all these years, I'm still not sure if I am on the brink of success or teetering on the edge of failure. Circumstances, and even definitions, shift over time. Uncertainty seems to be the only constant.
Still, I have learned a thing or two in my many years since graduation. I don't want to diminish the joy of this milestone for our young people, but I feel it is important to reveal the fine print to graduates - that all those visions of grandeur, certainty, happiness and success will come with bouts of insignificance, doubt, sadness and failure.
Just learn to pivot and you'll be fine.