The methodology and science behind exits becomes fascinating material in the hands of sociologist Lawrence-Lightfoot (Education/Harvard Univ.; The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50, 2009, etc.).
Because they have become “signposts of courage and treachery in my life,” the author sensitively plumbs the intricacies of departures with personal resolve. Whether exits portend hope or an entrepreneurial new beginning or reiterate failure and shortcomings, she writes, they are ubiquitous. Most often, smaller exits foreshadow (and groom us for) larger ones to come. Lawrence-Lightfoot draws insights from published source material but most effectively from dozens of interviews with subjects about their exit narratives. Examples: an Iranian CEO who departed his home country for New York City, conflicted by loyalties to his Middle Eastern blood family; a man who abandoned the Catholic priesthood for true love; a gay man whose young exit from the closet introduced a plethora of new concerns and anxieties, but who emerged at 58 remarking how it remains “a gift to be part of a counterculture.” Elsewhere, the dignified retirement from a beloved job and the relentless bullying of an ethnic child prove alternatingly heartbreaking, transformative and elucidating, as do chats with a pragmatic psychotherapist and a physician, who cites medical exits as a “letting go” of the physical body. The resonant testimonials Lawrence-Lightfoot spotlights nicely dovetail into a conclusion befitting her research into the inevitability of departures and our individual choice to accept or bemoan them.
A finely researched examination that sheds a new light on the catharsis of goodbye.