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  • Valerie Stunning

Gone Feral

There should be a Nobel Prize for well executed Irish exits. While they seem to really grate on some people’s nerves I’m positive they’re just misunderstood and when done right can be a true public service. Personally, I’m a big fan. Particularly during large social gatherings like networking events and soirees of most kinds. If it’s a public congregation in celebration of people’s pets, scholastic achievements, work promotions, and unborn babies you best believe I will eventually Houdini my way out of there.

The way I see it is by rsvp’ing I have agreed to show up and participate. I’m not a savage. When I arrive I greet the host and thank them for having me. I’ll schmooze with other guests or not, savor a snack, down a drink or three, and shake my ass on the dance floor (off duty and event permitting of course). My end of the agreement is to show up. It is not to spend forty minutes tracking people down to offer a half assed farewell. No one cares.

Frankly I feel it’s rude. It’s rude to interrupt people who are still in the throes of merriment, or at least selfie-ing like they are to announce my departure. “I wanted to let you know I’m taking off…getting out of here…headed home.” To what? Feed Fluffy or eat the over-ripe banana that’s been dying on my kitchen counter, binge scroll memes, and then clonk out. Hard pass. I can send the host and whatever folks I connected with a thoughtful message the following day that will get across any appreciation I had of our interaction. And mind you, be home forty minutes ago scarfing down my over-ripe banana whilst propped up against the kitchen counter trying to sober up.

Just so we’re clear this has nothing to do with social anxiety. Never heard of it. Nor have I ever been accused of being shy. What I am is done. And once I’m done it’s time to go. Like right now.

I consider it a sign of respect. One that I also apply to my relationships. Well, sort of. Sort of because I’m still not a savage and when it comes to the meaningful connections I’ve shared with people, projects, and places an actual Irish exit feels too much like ghosting, and I’m a grown ass woman. Instead when it comes to my interpersonal relationships and commitments, I have always made the decision to change course very carefully and in discussion with any parties involved. Not an Irish Exit. Although executed with the same shrewdness once I’ve concluded I’m done.

It’s a life skill I’ve been honing for over twenty years. And when I say “honing” I mean moving my life in the wrong direction regardless of any and all red flags present. From my late teens through my early thirties I exhibited a self sabotaging arrogance that propelled me to ignore my intuition in favor of simply willing reality to exist on my terms. Or so I tried. I stuck around in relationships I had long outgrown or should have never been in to begin with because of hints of potential. I pushed projects I didn’t connect with up rigorous mountains because I’ve always had the smarts and confidence to do something well, but I haven’t always had the humility to ask myself should I be doing it and why?

Too many times I overstayed far past my desire to be somewhere. As I inch closer to forty I can see that I did so because I was convinced that the time, energy, and resources I’d invested were only worthwhile if the outcome lived up to whatever cockamamie expectation I had attached to it. Even if it were painfully obvious that changing course would have been for the best.

I learned recently that this is known in corporate speak as the sunk cost fallacy. When you google the term, it reads: the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial. Bingo.

The last time my gut signaled that it was time to go was a couple of years back. The calling was to get off of social media so I could relearn how to be present in my own life. On my own terms. In my post A Tough Pill To Swallow I share about the time I was feeling disconnected from the life I was living. Chasing a dream that I no longer felt connected to in a city that no longer inspired me. I explain how taking a break from the internet helped me reorient myself which eventually led to me making new life choices. After all, nothing changes if nothing changes.

When I recall that experience in 2021 of disconnecting from social media and intentionally re-engaging in my analog life, I see it was the planting of a seed to return to the wild. In a way I’m like a house cat that was let outside after years of domestication. Although I’ve returned to the place that seems communal and comforting, I keep going back outside, each time for a bit longer.

The longer I’m out here, the more I remember what it’s like to create for the sake of creating. Not with relevance in mind, but because it’s what lives inside of me and what needs to come out. I recall the exhilaration of pursuing something because I want to and not because some corporation’s algorithm brainwashed me in to thinking I have to. I remember what it’s like to engage fellow humans in a sensing caring way. To navigate these interactions in real time and based on my genuine interest, or lack thereof. Instead of every interaction being reduced to a calculation of engagement by an entity that curates what I’m exposed to based on how much advertising potential I’m worth.

What I realize is that I’ve gone feral and I’m done.

Next Post: 10/18

Photo: Barranquilla, Colombia. Feb 2023


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