Irish Exit

It’s tempting to sneak out.

Recently, a coworker of mine left for another job. People change jobs all the time, but it was how he left that I found interesting. Rather than walking to the front door and having to say goodbye to everyone, he snuck out the back. I’m not sure that anyone was surprised, as he was quiet and kept to himself. We all respected him and the quality of the work that he did, and we knew that was just how he was, that he preferred solitude. He was the type of person who didn’t want to say any more than was necessary, as his attention was always focused on the task at hand.

He slipped out of the office undetected, and this anecdote prompted a conversation with my roommate. My roommate is also about to leave his job, and he told me that he loved the Irish Exit idea. He wants to avoid making a big thing out of his departure, and he told me that he didn’t want any parties or anything out of the ordinary (certainly not balloons). He just wanted to finish his last two weeks and have them be normal, and I get that. Not everyone likes a party thrown in their honor, and some people don’t want to deal with all of the emotion and time-consuming goodbyes, especially when you’ve worked with the same people for as long as he has.

Just get up and go. Leave, and maybe you’ll come back to visit. Both my roommate and me are moving out in the next few weeks, and while his leaving the state is more significant than me moving twenty minutes away and keeping the same job, moves are always challenging and laced with strong emotions. The conversation shifted to what it means to leave friends behind. My roommate told me that the people in his life, that they were moving on. They were getting married, and they wouldn’t need him anymore. I’ve felt this way at different points in my life, that the people in my life won’t even notice I’m gone, that they’re beyond me. In my eyes, they’re fully equipped to run this thing without my assistance.

You hope that when you leave, that others may stop and pause for a moment, acknowledge your absence (if they even do that much), and then go on with their lives. You don’t want to inconvenience anyone by leaving, and you certainly don’t want to be the cause of any distress or anguish.

When you pick up and move far away from people you care about, you’d like to believe that your leaving wouldn’t cause any pain to those left behind. You’d like to believe that they won’t think about you, that they’d no longer need you, as if everyone has somehow graduated, and moved on to bigger and better things. In some ways, that’s true. I’ve witnessed the brutality of adult life, of how truly easy it is to forget someone, to forget them not because you’ve tried to, or because of some falling out, but because you’ve moved to different places and started your own lives, which become independent of each other. When neither person puts in the effort to keep the relationship going, it’s amazing just how fast it goes.

This Irish Exit is fine in many cases, but in my opinion, it doesn’t hold up with close friends. I’m in the firm belief that while some friends are just passing through, that they change with the seasons, some are there for life. You both have to put in the effort to maintain that link, but with them, it’s always a labor of love. You have to fight to stay in each other’s lives, and for them, I just don’t think that an Irish Exit is sufficient. You can’t just disappear and leave those types of friends behind. Whether you like it or not, some friendships are permanent. Certain people will always be with you.

For these people, you can’t just skip town. You have to endure the hard emotions that come with saying goodbye to people you know and have known for a long time. You have to face the fact that while you will both continue to grow and have your own lives, that you’ll both make the effort to stay connected. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe you owe these friends an in-person goodbye. You may have to deal with a few tears, but they’ll dry. Never pass up the chance to see someone before they leave. It’s too easy for time to pass, and you never know what the future will bring.

It’s not always easy to endure these goodbyes, but that means you’ve done something right. It means you’ve chosen the people in your life wisely. There’s always something unnerving about an easy dissolution. You wonder if you were ever really in it, if the relationship ever meant anything at all. The harder it is to part and walk away, the better. It means that person was someone special, that you’re living life well and forging strong bonds. It means that when you walk out the door to a different life, no matter where that leads, you take that friendship with you. Thanks for reading.

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