Escape is one of those words that sounds somewhat negative, doesn’t it? This thing where you have a sense of urgency to get away, any way you can, to survive. It sounds dramatic, truly, but we all have our moments where we need to just make a getaway. When your job gets a bit too hectic for one day or even one lifetime, when the kids and the family wear you out, or even when the stress of everyday life just means you want to be anywhere but here: that’s why we need to escape.
I was talking to one of my dearest friends, a young business owner, wife, and mother of two beautiful children under the age of three. This woman, Amanda, hasn’t even hit 30 yet, but through moving into the world of steady adulthood, she’s found the need for escape. Listen to her tell her stories about her day-to-day and you hear it in her voice: the exhaustion and the need for a quiet moment of her own. We discussed the fact that she is running a strong, Internet-based marketing and design company while being the primary caregiver to the children during the day and how it leaves her wanting to scale the walls by the time her loving husband comes home in the evening. You can sense that she has this fear that, like most, wanting to escape means she doesn’t love her family or the life she has built.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Escape from Planet Overwhelming
Now I asked her quite simply what her “escape” was, and she listed off a few things that she did for enjoyment, like gaming with her family or even doing yoga. But I noted that she didn’t take the time to really just zone out. I started recognizing that she was stuck right where I was before I started taking my escapism by any means necessary. When we think that there’s no time, we have a thousand things that are “more important,” and we don’t deserve it because there’s so much more to be done, that’s when an escape is in order to make things right again.
The truth is, nobody is going to be able to force escapism on you. You have to take it. Your mental health is nobody else’s responsibility but your own, you know? It was with all of this in mind that I comprised a simple checklist that I had to put together in order for me to utilize my time for escapism as well as I possibly could. Maybe they’ll help you? Maybe you have your own (in which case, please share below)!
How to Make an Escape (For Your Own Sake)
- Have the Right Reasons. Don’t use this time that you’ve set aside to fulfill any other obligation but your own escape. Don’t set time to game with a friend or family member; don’t use it to entertain others. This is just for you. If you’re filling a “Good Friend” category, you’re still not escaping.
- Imagine a Light Switch and Flip It. You need to start looking at this activity as something where nobody can get in and take you out. You have to have the only switch that flips you from your everyday life to your escape. Whenever you go into it, envision a switch being flipped and let it stay there until you’re ready to come out. Flip it again. Before you know it, your mind will start making that excuse whenever something might threaten to take you out before you’re ready. Your phone is ringing and it’s a client? Nope, switch is flipped for now. You can answer it when you’re back.
- Leave It Open. Playing video games is a fun escape for many people, but if you feel that your life is already too structured and you want to escape from that, try something that isn’t linear. As I told Amanda, one of my escapes is the role playing and photography I can do in Second Life. Why? Because I make my own rules there. I can log in and do, essentially, whatever I want with the time that I have. Nobody there knows me or how to contact me unless I allow them and it makes for the most brilliant sandbox for escape (if used properly) for me and many others. Go in there, build, role play, and immerse yourself in whatever world you want, and then flip the switch and go back into your real life. Don’t ever limit your escape.
- Demand That Time Be Yours. Let’s face it: real life is constant. Sometimes, you’ll be in the middle of your escape and someone will call you, tug on your ankle, or even try to force their problems into your bubble. That’s when you need to sit your loved ones or even clients down and be real about the time you set aside for yourself. People who work from home need this more than anything because there’s nothing that looks visually different about work and play from home. I, personally, need to make demands of those around me to let them know this is my time and I field all questions, requirements, and demands before I flip my switch. Make sure people respect that you need it.
- Take Your Time. Last, but not least: take your time with it. It’s not going to be easy at first and the guilt from not being at everyone’s beck and call is going to be difficult to push aside. If you only get 30 minutes to really shut off and go into what makes you your own person, then that’s fine for now. That’s a huge step, truly. Nobody will mind if you need to take baby steps into getting some sort of clearance, internally, to take a break from the world on the other side of your escape.
Years in the Making
So there you have it. It took years for me to come to terms with the balances between my real life and the escape I needed to take. Figuring out what is reasonable, where to go, and what to do and who to include were the biggest hurdles. Amanda sighed and explained that she’s used to being able to escape in ways that were familiar when she was younger, but that those times have passed. One can’t hold onto the freedom of being young and living in the city forever; sometimes we all grow up and our sacrifices are for the greater good — but nobody tells our souls that. A lot of people have the option to walk outside of their front door and just exist, however they want, and that is their escape — and that’s great — but some people just don’t have that option. Some of us — stay-at-home parents, housewives, and househusbands to name just a few — we need a way to actually break free from how we define ourselves and exist on the outside of our self-made lines.
What do you guys do to escape? Where do you go? Do you have video games you play, places outside where you can run, or books and activities in which you take a part? Share them with us and rest assured that you’re definitely not alone.
Image: Feet in Chains, Public Domain (with modifications by author)