Leaving Happy or Leaving Well?

We’re bracing around here, for the annual Expat Exodus.

If you’ve lived abroad for more than a year you get the reference.  It may look different where you are but it’s always a part of the gig . . . people leave and often they leave in herds.  So, in the context of finishing another year of school, making preparations for summer travels and continuing to build relationships with this years Newbies and next years Stayers — we’re saying goodbye . . . again.

We’ve been on both sides of the Exodus now and there are two things I’ve noticed

ONE: When you’re a Stayer it doesn’t get easier.

In fact, if you do this right, it probably gets harder every year (although some are harder than others).  As long as you continue letting people in, it’s hard when they go out.

TWO:  When you’re a Goer there is a huge difference between LEAVING HAPPY and LEAVING WELL.

Everyone wants to leave happy but not everyone wants to leave well.  In fact, some people are so committed to leaving happy that they absolutely refuse to leave well.

Leaving happy puts on a big smile and sticks like glue to anything that doesn’t threaten the vibe. It thinks happy thoughts and says happy words in the happy places.  It hangs out with happy people who take them to the airport and cry happy tears because the sad tears get crushed by happy lies . . . like, “we’ll Skype every day!” or “it won’t even seem you’ve gone”.

Thanks Michael W. Smith.  Thanks for that.

Leaving well is tougher.  It goes deeper.  It hurts more . . . but it is SO much better.

Leaving well stands toe to toe with the paradox and doesn’t back down.  It recognizes that leaving is hard but it’s hard because the stay has been good.  It also acknowledges when the leaving is good because the stay has been so hard.  It addresses the broken and strained relationships because it realizes that distance doesn’t heal.

It digs in deep with the solid relationships and offers more than a slap on the back and a “love ya’ man.”  It lets people know . . . like, really know . . . with specific examples, when they’ve had an impact, and what that impact is, and how it has changed the people around them and what exactly is different because they exist.  It makes eye contact and gets intentional and creative and awkward.

It considers the pain of the Stayers who are getting left and it does everything it can to leave a solid landing spot for the incoming Newbies.  It’s not afraid to fall apart at the airport and it can still be excited about what comes next.

Leaving well sets you up to land well and happiness is only one piece of the picture — a significant piece, but not the only one by far.

So if you are leaving — are you leaving happy or are you leaving well?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

•  Is there anything that you think is going to be made better simply by flying away?

•  Are you running away from any relationships?

•  Are you carving out your best time for your best relationships?

•  Do you have a leaving well plan?

•  Are you helping your kids process in paradox?

•  Are there issues or stressors that you think you’ll be leaving behind . . . but will probably come with you?

Trust me.  I’ve seen it both ways.  I’ve done it both ways.  It is so worth it to LEAVE WELL.


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Jerry Jones

Jerry lives in China with his beautiful blended family. He is a trainer, a speaker, an adventurer, a culture vulture and an avid people watcher. He writes about all of that at www.thecultureblend.com

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