Learn to Leave Before the Party’s Over
When you’re having too much fun, you lose track of time.
You’re so busy enjoying yourself, you forget to look around for signs that the party’s over, and you’re the only one left dancing — to the music in your head.
The decorations are coming down, there’s no more food, and nothing to drink but vodka. No mixers. No ice.
The lights are already on. The DJ has been replaced by a questionable Spotify playlist on somebody’s drunk uncle’s cellphone.
Most people already left, only a few drunk warriors remain. You’re not even that drunk, but just by staying behind, you’ve made yourself one of them: another clueless shmuck who’s just getting in the way of the cleaning crew.
Instead of starting to question why you didn’t leave two hours ago with all the sensible people, you hold on to the hope that something great might still happen. There might be an afterparty worth staying for. One for the books.
You remember how great it was when you went to a club to dance some more after your best friend’s wedding. Your friend walked in still wearing her white gown. She looked fabulous among all of those people in jeans and t-shirts and black mini-dresses. And so did you, in your soft pink bridesmaid’s dress, hair and makeup professionally done.
You had a blast.
You also remember the ending to another wedding, when you attended an afterparty by the beach, where you danced in the sand around a bonfire.
That’s the kind of glorious stuff you keep expecting will happen every single time.
Except there isn’t always an afterparty, let alone one that’s worth staying for.
Sometimes all there is are a pair of exhausted hosts who just want to go home, looking at you side-eyed, and asking themselves where the hell is that Uber you supposedly called to take you away. “Just around the corner,” you assure them, reading their minds — a super-power you seem to suddenly acquire in awkward situations like this one.
Sometimes, you have to down that vodka because you’re thirsty AF, and then sit in a corner for a minute as you consider every bad decision you ever made, such as telling your ride she could go ahead without you, you were having too much fun to leave early. You’d find your way home somehow, once you were all partied-out.
Except the fun died-out about 10 minutes later.
Leaving before the party’s over is a useful skill for life.
It requires you to decode the signs of an imminent shut-down. It teaches you how to find the sweet-spot between leaving at high-point, with nothing but great memories to take home and cherish, and staying until you start seeing things you can never unsee.
It requires you to know how to read a room, and the people in it, for signs that there’s going to be an afterparty — one that’s worth hanging out for.
Leaving before the party’s over is knowing how to walk away before you’re completely spent. It means you value your energy and time more than you value the possibility of a little bit of extra pleasure.
It means you do well with delaying gratification, with having just enough of anything to satisfy your craving.
It means you know that nothing — not even a great party, is meant to last forever. It means you have enough confidence that there will be other parties. Better parties.
Once you learn to leave before the party’s over, you begin to teach yourself how to get out of anything before it turns south. A job, a friendship, a relationship.
You learn to tell which of those will hold up for an afterparty at the beach around a bonfire, and which you better walk away from before they leave you drinking unmixed vodka by yourself in an empty ballroom.
You learn you don’t have to wait until all the lights are on to judge whether you should stay or leave — you learn to fine-tune your instincts to see in the dark.
You learn that your dignity, self-respect and limits comes first, so that when you set out to have a little extra fun, you know it’s going to be worth it. And you’re not disappointed.