Plan to Pivot and Learn to Love it in 2020

The best laid plan…

I LOVE schedules, beautiful calendars (I use this one: lifeplanner by Erin Condren), color coded spreadsheets, google docs, charts, and sharpie pens. I love them.

cancelled plan

Since I was ten I’ve had five year plans, ten year plans, house plans,college plans, advanced degree plans, doctoral studies plans, dissertation plans, career plans, relationship plans, and fitness plans. What I did NOT have a plan for…was post doctoral depression and 2020. But, come one, who did?

My dream 2020 lifeplanner arrived in late 2019  with so much hope and potential: it has my name on it ,the colors inside are muted, the days are listed by hour, there are stickers, and ugh, it just makes me happy. When I got it I couldn’t wait to fill the pages up with my postdoctoral dream plan.

Not even three months after ordering the planner of my dreams, our area was hit hard by the pandemic and I found the planner’s beautiful pages to be empty or crossed out reminders of lost income, lost work, lost projects, canceled concerts, cancelled lectures, and canceled trips. With the erasure and depletion of work, I found myself with something I had been craving for years: time. This time, though, came at a cost. A huge cost for humanity, our society, and our livelihoods. 

In addition to the struggles felt collectively due to the pandemic, I was also struggling with the postdoctoral blues. I spent 12 years in school as a child, 4 years in undergrad, 2.5 years working on obtaining a masters, and 5.5 years working on a doctorate. So, let’s see, I spent 24 years as a student in some capacity. Needless to say, ending my career as a student, not having deadlines, and committees, and feedback, and a sense of urgency and self loathing (doctoral despair), was shocking to me. I missed it. After graduating, I found myself lost even though I already teach at a university and now had the letters behind my name. 

Marrying Dan, a great part of the plan.
also happened to be the great pivot of 2018.

The family trip…

Finishing the DMA reminded me a lot of my family trip to Yellowstone National Park. My dad really wanted us to see Old Faithful, so we made the trek in the summer of 1996. We drove from Marietta, GA all the way to Yellowstone in our 1991 Ford Van, named Tea Biscuit. Inside the Tea Biscuit was: two optimistic adults, a happy go lucky 3rd grader, a frizzy haired unfashionable 6th grader (that’s me!), and an adventurous, but less than amused 9th grader. The planned pinnacle of the trip was to get to Yellowstone and see good Old Faithful. 

Well, Old Faithful was tired the day we arrived and not in the mood to show us her glory. We walked up, she spurted a tiny little bloop of water and then was like, nah, I’m good.

 I remember all five of us being like, wait, what? This is it. What now? Even my dad was ready to leave. 

That’s exactly how I felt when I got the doctorate. This is it? Wait, what? What now? 

Well, the universe said, “what now, Nina?!? Haha! Here you go, life changing, world altering, global pandemic: enjoy!”


But you know, while it has been really difficult, this time at home, not working as much, being inside and at home has opened doors for another plan. I realized I desperately needed a break from the world and I got it. Did it come in the form I imagined? Me and Dan on vacation, waking up to a beautiful lake in the mountains? No. Nope it sure didn’t, but this time has taught me some valuable lessons.

Lessons from March-August 2020:

  • Planning is good, but be ready to pivot. 
  • Sometimes what we think we want and need isn’t actually what we want and need.
  • Take care of yourself and those around you because that stands the test of time, illness, loneliness, and anything else that comes our way.
  • Be kind. People are super stressed, so meet the day with kindness and compassion.
  • Lower expectations. Sounds cynical, but it isn’t really. If we always build things up in our minds and hearts, we are doomed to be disappointed. Be hopeful, but be ready to pivot and embrace the change.
  • The colorful and beautiful organizational tools are lovely, but maybe start using pencils. It is 2020 anyway. 

So, the point is: I love to plan things, and I was really bummed out by life pre-pandemic, but I’m learning to love to pivot and take joy in the little things.