The room was hot and sticky. The fans buzzed underneath my teacher’s voice as I peered outside the window, staring at the pink flowers blooming in the distance. They reminded me of strawberry ice cream. The perfect cool treat. A gust of wind blew through; I dreamed of being at the beach, surrounded by the ocean breeze. I hadn’t moved an inch, but my mind had wandered beyond the walls of the classroom.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve probably escaped reality. Escapism allows us to cope and divert from the problems of life. It provides relief from trauma, quells stress, and allays boredom. It is there to assist us in whatever inevitable misfortunes we will face in life.
While the concept of escaping is universal, its application is unique to each individual.
I sat down with the president of Overbooked, an Ithaca College club for book fanatics, to get better insight into how others experience escapism. The president, Rory Gould, is a freshman exploratory student who often finds solace in reading graphic novels. It helps to subdue her anxiety about the state of the world. Existential problems like climate change create an atmosphere of suffocating urgency and lingering feelings of hopelessness.
“Escapism for me is a breath of fresh air, a little reprieve from the world,” Rory said. “Escaping [through books] allows me to live vicariously through other characters.”
Most experts agree and recognize that escaping reality is necessary and intrinsically a part of the human condition.
“We humans have a challenge that other organisms don’t have,”Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D., MPP in Psychology Today wrote. We are confronted with way more reality than any of us can stomach, and we are afforded way more ways to escape it. “Hobbies, pastimes, daydreams, and fantasies are how we discharge the tensions that accumulate in our anxious, exposed human lives.”
In essence, escaping allows us time to digest our dilemmas and indulge in temporary bliss.
However, it is also a slippery slope.
When misused, escapism can be a symptom of a larger issue. Escapism shouldn’t be achieved through unhealthy methods like overconsumption of drugs and alcohol. Signs of overindulging include being unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy or isolating from friends and family to indulge in fantasies.
Instead, healthy ways to engage in escapism could be reading a book, drawing a portrait, dancing in the moonlight, meditating in the morning, exercising, etc: activities that stimulate your brain and calm your nerves. The goal is not to circumvent responsibilities but to balance living in reality and escaping into fantasy.
Existing is painful, and being human is hard. But, it is imperative to realize that escapism should be used to alleviate problems, not avoid them.
As we emerge from the pandemic, many of us are coming out of a two-year-long hiatus of escaping reality. The hardest part about escaping is coming back. When the artificial bliss subsides, you’ll feel a dreadful pit stirring in your stomach and anxiety seeping back into you. Returning is never easy but always necessary. It is through facing fears, tackling challenges, and overcoming obstacles that we grow as people and become more resilient to this planet we call home.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius.
Chelsea Coichy is a second-year journalism major who knows the fun of healthy escapism. They can be reached at email@example.com.