The Closest Exit May Be Behind You

Last week I spent an inordinate amount of time on airplanes, during which I was treated repeatedly to the safety guidelines announcement—something that (like so many of you) I could easily stand and recite on command should the flight attendant be having an off day.

On my last flight, however, I was struck by the phrase, “Bear in mind that the closest exit may be behind you.”

Now I don’t generally wax philosophical, but this struck me as a directive that might serve many of us off the plane as well as on.

What do I mean by this?

I’m talking about those moments when you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall with a difficult person or situation. You’ve tried persistence, you’ve tried humor, you’ve tried candor; you’ve been easygoing, you’ve been wily, you’ve even taken a crack at tough love…

All of which has netted you nothing.

It is in these moments that I recommend taking a break from trying to move the situation or the conversation forward. To consider that, in fact, you might be better served by stepping away for an hour, a day, a month, a year and turning your energy toward a person or a pursuit that you hadn’t considered because it wasn’t in your crosshairs but in your peripheral vision. 

Because, in fact, the closest exit—the route to freedom—may well be behind you.

Frances Cole Jones