Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Prescribe Escapism (aka I'm Not Emotionally Intelligent Enough to Deal With This.)

I am an escape artist. An escapist, for short. And, no, I'm not talking about physical Houdini feats. I'm not great at magically freeing myself from a tank of water. Nor do I want to try to get out of a straight jacket.
Better yet - how DO you reach the food!? 
I'm talking about mental escapism. Fantastical, creative escapism with which I'm guessing most writers are familiar. My life within this phenomenon began when I was very young, although I didn't realize it at the time. It started with a lot of reading. When I discovered fantasy novels, I would sink myself into the trials and tribulations of characters dealing with situations that could never exist in this world. It was magical, and fascinating, and so much more enticing than my life. And, at a certain point, being able to venture into worlds like that of Harry Potter wasn't enough. I had to create my own. Become other characters. Bring myself out of the stunted frustration of being a young, awkward kid by dreaming up angels and demons in my developing brain. So, I started to write. And, as you know, I never stopped.

To reiterate, at a young age, I was able to live through my fantasies. Whenever the world got to be too frustrating, or unfair, or terrifying, or boring for me, I would sink into my thoughts and try to transfer them to the page in large, loopy letters. And, sure, this kind of imagination is characteristic to growing bookworms like myself. But, here's the secret - I never grew out of it.

The older I've grown, the more escapism has become a part of my daily life. I find myself sinking into my thoughts often, crafting unrealistic scenarios and putting myself in the bodies of my characters as they wind their ways through different worlds - the worlds I have created.

This constant bordering on the edge of reality makes sense with my routine. For example, I'm a distance runner, and I do most of my running on a treadmill. The only thing that keeps me from passing out from sheer boredom during daily seven mile runs is the fact that my eyes glaze over and I'm suddenly somewhere else. I'm no longer in the gym - I am instead dancing in a nightclub, or being followed by a mythical beast, or exploring the deep underground of New York City, careful not to wake the creatures that lurk.

And, being fully in the present on the subway? Forget it. I turn on my music and I'm dashing through the woods as a teenage warrior, with an assault rifle strapped to my back. Or I'm watching Expressive Kitty flit across a notebook page as a comic character, giving life and acting advice.

And, I'll admit, sometimes my escapism gets intense. Sometimes I'll escape too far and get lost. End up somewhere in real life and not quite remember how I got there, because I was too lost in my fantasies. I retreat into my mind without realizing how deep I'll end up.

But that's what escapism is for me. That's what writing does. It shields me from boredom. It protects me from pain. And, I've recently realized, it has helped me build up walls. Large, brick walls within which lies a maze of stories and characters. I'm supposedly somewhere in the center.

This is what people close to me have to understand. I've been using the escapist method for so long that different pieces of me are scattered in my convoluted maze of storylines and plots and subplots. My writing has been my means of escape since it began, when I was around 5 or 6 years old. As a result, key pieces of me are stuck within my stories. My wants, secrets, desires, even rationality, are all locked up in different crevices in the many worlds and characters that exist in my brain. My true thoughts about one thing may have been woven into a tapestry in Eleanoria years ago, in a message that even I cannot yet decode.

And maybe my confidence about another aspect of myself or my life has been stolen by a shadow in the underrealm (see? These words mean nothing to you, but they make perfect sense to me. That's how interaction with me gets tricky.) And maybe that's why I'm so hesitant to let people read my writing. Because it contains so much of me. So much of my thoughts and fears and hopes and beliefs about myself and my life and the world. A lot of which I haven't even realized.

So, when I don't communicate things, it's not that I don't care. Nor is it that I don't want to. At this point, I've been too caught up in burying pieces of myself in other worlds, other people that I dream up in my head, to be able to know exactly what I think. Exactly what I want. Exactly who that person at the center of the maze is. Or if there even is a person at the center of the maze.

I mean, let's face it, the only real, nonfiction, story I've ever written - a piece solely about me - is tucked away in a Microsoft Word document on my computer labeled 'How to Make Meringues.'

This is Escapism. This is what it brought me. Do I apologize profusely for not being able to voice all of my opinions? Thoughts? Wants? Secrets? Of course. But do I regret my constant exploration of fantastical regions? Of the lives of gifted people, or even just people in the wrong place in the wrong time, that exist in my head? Do I regret spending a lot of time in my thoughts, and even more time struggling to get these thoughts down on paper?

Absolutely not.

Because that's asking me if I regret being a writer. And, yeah, it's frustrating. It's crazy and emotional and probably even futile. It has probably stunted my emotional intelligence in more ways than one, and made getting close to people much more difficult than it would have been otherwise. But there is no question in my mind when I say that I wouldn't trade writing for the world.

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