The Art Of Leaving (And Therefore Living)

I like to think of myself as a person who travels light.  Not just literally when I am packing a suitcase, but also through life.  I like to think that I embrace change, that I don’t carry a lot of optional baggage (of course we all have baggage that is a part of our experiences, but most of it is elective – one can choose to put it down).  And I like to think that I have the ability to walk away from things and situations that have ceased to make sense to me. Notice I say walk, and not run – more on that later.

These are the things I like to think about myself.  Whether it is in fact true or not, is another story, one which I am not inclined to write today! So I thought I would share with you some of the rules I have made for myself around the subject of leaving, and living.

1.Don’t leave before you leave.

This is very difficult, but it’s important.  So many times we make up our minds about leaving and then we mentally and emotionally exit the building before our bodies and briefcases follow.  This is why sometimes when you resign from a job, they ask you to leave immediately.  Its not necessarily because their hearts are broken, though they may well be, but more likely because people who have left mentally and emotionally tend to do more harm than good by lingering longer.  I once gave three months notice to leave a job, thinking I was being helpful and sensible.  I will not be doing that again, because I realised that I had been ready to go at the time of writing the letter of resignation. It was a constant struggle over the notice period then, to remain present in the role, to continue to care, to protect and to defend, though I gave it my best shot.

2. When you do leave, really leave!

This one should be easy, but many people find it hard. Like the proverbial Lot’s wife, they cannot resist looking back, and often they start to do more than just look, they engage in conversations, form opinions and even share those opinions about what has happened since they have been gone. They might follow the person they left on social media, make friends with their relatives and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Before you know it, scandal, judgment and misunderstanding have found fertile feed. I have yet to come across a situation in which dabbling in what you have left behind has been beneficial – either to the person doing the leaving, or to those left. If you leave something – a job, a relationship, a situation, leave it alone.  If you’re moving, move on.

3. Understand whether you are walking away or running away

This was a real aha moment for me and happened when someone suggested that me my choice of running as my preferred method of exercise might be a metaphor for how I dealt with problems.  It was one of those deep conversations from which you walk away dazed but somehow feeling like you know yourself better.  The main course to this meal is the matter of raising and resolving sticky issues.  If you are leaving because you are afraid to raise a difficult concern, then you might be running. If you have raised a concern and it has not been resolved, you may still be running.  Resolving an issue doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has now agreed on everything.  If you leave feeling confident that you have done all you could to resolve the issue, and you have peace about your decision to leave, then you are possibly now walking away.

4. Make a clean finish

We have all visualized ourselves (or is it just me) making a dramatic exit, from a job, a relationship or even a conversation. We could throw something, bang something or someone, and then with a theatrical flourish, make our memorable exit, preferably in six inch stilettos!  Well, if theatre is what you’re after, then that’s a good plan.  But most of us are not fortunate enough to be able to only worry about achieving melodrama.  Most of us in the real world have to think about a future in which we may or may not one day encounter the audience to our drama.   For this reason, a clean finish is a better idea than a dramatic one. In a conversation you don’t have to have the last word, and if you, it doesn’t have to be an ugly one. Remember that one day you may be the person on the receiving end and try to deliver the kind of finish you would be willing to stomach yourself.

If you can, try to finish fair.