Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: “The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment and engaging in fantasy.”
I am, by definition, an escapist.
I leave behind my sorrow and mood.
I sink beneath the urge to brood.
Run as far as I can from the feelings.
For as long as I can remember, reading has been one of my favorite pastimes. If I wasn’t reading, I was watching TV or a movie, failing that, playing a PC game. But when I got older, there was less of the encouraging “go read” from adults and more of the “stop reading.” It’s strange to see how reading became a lesser form of education once I could fluidly read and once I began reading purely for entertainment. Don’t misunderstand me; my parents were never ones to vehemently ban reading or take away books, and they have continued to fund my voracious appetite for printed material (thanks, Mom and Dad). But the reading, specifically around the age of sixteen and up, started to become guilt-tinged.
Reading is not an activity that produces tangible output, so it can feel quite counterproductive. Instead of reading, I could be writing or studying or working, anything that would, in a more concrete fashion, further my knowledge. This is when reading became a kind of escape — and I, therefore, an escapee.
It’s not as simple as procrastination. I see it as the urge to slip out of your own life and into someone else’s/something else — maybe because your own life is uncomfortable or there are tasks and issues you do not want to deal with at present. Escapism has become a bad habit; instead of processing, I de-realize, I drift away smoothly, assuaging my own conscience with the pre-prepared “I’m just reading.” It’s not even just books; it’s movies and YouTube videos and music. For the most part, I do it subconsciously, which is why I’ve started to question myself every time I start to delve into entertainment, with niggling guilt in my head that I would normally squash without much effort.
It’s not a healthy way to live. Running away from your problems is never an answer, and I’m sure anyone reading this may find it cliché — and I agree. If someone had told me before that escapism and entertainment overdoses weren’t good, I wouldn’t have listened. I think it’s one of those lessons you have to learn for yourself the hard way.
Escapism is easy for our generation, with all of our social media and our entertainment-focused lifestyles, and it’s even easier for us privileged percentage who have access to so many routes of “freedom.” I don’t have much by way of a solution, other than learning to be self-aware and exercising tremendous self-control. I firmly believe that unless we speak about the trouble we face, no one can help us, nor can we help others. So, I hope that this helps someone realize where they’re headed before they’re in too deep. Escapism isn’t a fairytale release; it’s a dangerous spiral that distracts you from the reality of life.