SARA LAWRENCE-LIGHTFOOT / Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free
Acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, MacArthur prize-winning Professor of Education at Harvard University, takes a serious look at the moments both large and small that define how we transition through our lives. EXIT asks whether there is a "new language and way of seeing that would encourage a different approach and attitude toward leave-taking."
As Lawrence-Lightfoot notes, there are few examples in our culture to suggest how to approach exits with grace and understanding. We are focused instead on the idea of beginnings, the start of something rather than the acknowledgement of an ending. Questions of exiting are particularly timely as we live in a period when many people are leaving jobs, by choice or through circumstance, as well as a time when technology makes murkier the idea of final farewells.
EXIT explores the experiences of various people with stories of transition and exits, including an Iranian teenager who leaves the political strife of his native land to come alone to America; a middle-aged gay man who remembers his long exit from the closet; a nonprofit founder whose stepping down after 25 years makes for a confusing and difficult ending; an anthropologist whose exit from the field raises relational and ethical challenges; a boy who bullied for years until his parents take him out of school; a psychotherapist who discusses how she guides her patients through terminating therapy; the director of a hospital ICU who oversees patients making a recovery or facing death; an ex-priest whose protracted exit from the Catholic church leads to a new life in medicine; an man who exits his job as CEO of a major philanthropy with a big public leave-taking; a woman who reflects on her many vocational endings as she considers her next step in life; and a woman who promises her husband that his death, the final exit, will be both beautiful and triumphant.
Woven through all of these stories are ideas of home and voice, freedom and yearning, wounds and graceand the concept that our developing the habit of small goodbyes and everyday transitions helps us "master and mark the larger farewells." In this way, EXIT moves the idea of endings from the shadows to the light, "witnessing the ways in which exits can become moments for listening, storytelling, imagining, and creating choices that were unimaginable before."
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard University, where she has been on the faculty since 1972. Educator, researcher, author, and public intellectual, Lawrence-Lightfoot is the author of Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools, Beyond Bias: Perspectives on Classrooms, The Good High School: Portraits of Character and Culture, Balm In Gilead: Journey of A Healer, I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation, The Art and Science of Portraiture, Respect: An Exploration, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other, and most recently The Third Chapter: Risk, Passion, and Adventure in the Twenty-Five Years After 50
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