Monday, 3 July 2017

Can you ever really escape?




We often talk about escapism, how necessary it is to our a ability to cope in modern times, and how we must try out best to allocate some of our day in the pursuit of it. The word is defined by seeking distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. This is one of YouTube’s greatest attributes and something it delivers in a word more substantial than abundance. We have an unrelenting stream of videos giving us just that , whether it's  via a beauty tutorial, a haul, a prank, or a fairly pointless but nonetheless entertaining Tag video. But this opportunity of joyful avoidance and distraction is temporary, unless we glue ourselves to the blue light of our screen all day, but even then thoughts relating to real life would undoubtedly creep in.

Everything’s relative of course, but if you knew the ins and out of my year I think many of you could summarise that it’s been another relatively shitty year so far. I think what’s made this one particularly hard is that I’ve not been able to escape from it and run away to a more carefree environment for a week or two. My finances are such that a holiday has been taken off the agenda, and even little trips in the UK have not materialised. Si and I did have a weekend trip to Liverpool scheduled earlier in the year but it turned out that we’d been conned and lost the money and the weekend escape we had planned. I’m very lucky to have travelled as much as I have in my life, I promise I don’t take that for granted, I’ve been spoiled really. But off course my industry doesn’t help those feeling. When your feed is full of being jet-setting and holidaying, and you can’t even manage to get yourself to Liverpool, you not only have that ache of wanderlust but a dollop of failure and inferiority on top of that.

It’s not something my boyfriend can completely relate to either. He’s had a few weeks away from home this year through his work in the band, and although I doubt escapism is the right term for touring and living with fellow sweaty boys in the confines of a bus, it’s still a change of scene and time away from our fairly stressful living situation. Then he got surprised with a trip to LA for his birthday by his generous pal Ben. I was so pleased he had a fabulous time but of course it stung, because it fell at a time I found myself unexpectedly living alone in a strange house while dealing with a Kidney Infection. I usually revel in alone time  housesitting for people gives me. It's such a treat when you're someone who lives with their parents at my age and in turn lack privacy and independance. But in that moment the things I needed desperately to escape from weren't things that changing location would deliver. The dark thoughts in my head, and my troublesome kidneys were part of me, and there was no escaping that.


Let's fast forward to last Friday. I had been offered a luxury trip abroad as part of a press trip that was due to comme on Saturday. I had turned it down as this weekend was meant to be full with some other work events which were probably better suited to the content, and the wheels were already in motion with the PR so I didn’t want to confuse thing or sever ties. Sods law the weekend’s events didn’t come into fruition and I was facing the depressing truth that I could been sunning myself in a bucket list location, but instead I had a weekend on my ownwith no plans.

Unacceptable, I thought. I’m not going to let other people's actions steal aweekend’s potential for relaxation or happiness. Si was due to be driving his mum to Devon to visit relatives in Devon, so I very quickly packed a rucksack and decided to jump in the car and join then. With more than a slight dash of ‘f*** you’ attitude I decided this would be a no-work weekend. I wouldn’t be vlogging or communicating with people about work and I would attempt this ‘escapism’ malarky.The fact that I had used 80% of my phone’s data by watching Naked Attraction on 4 OD when I mistakingly thought I was connected to wifi, certainly helped in my abandonment of communication.

As I gazed out of the window of the car on what would end up being a 7 hour long journey, I pondered a few things. Should I dare to ask to stop for a wee AGAIN? Was it time for that pub lunch ye? But more relevantly I wondered whether I could truly escape this weekend. Would my stress, worries and frustrations follow me to the tropics of Devon? Would there be new/different anxieties and difficulties? Would I end up worrying about the emails piling up and the fact that I wouldn’t be using these days to reduce my work to-do list?


After a long drive and devouring a yummy meal Si’s sister had cooked in perfect time for our arrival, we went to bed shattered and looking forward to a night in their bed, which is so soft it genuinely felt like that cliche of sleeping on a cloud. But within 5 minutes it was clear at least one of our issues from home would continue on this supposed ‘escape’. Si tends to thrash in bed, it’s as if he’s trying to get away from the grasps of Jaws. This is bad for my sleep pattern at the best of times, but his tendency to frequently and swift change position in bed of this smooshy nature meant it would be near enough in possible to achieve any shut eye. He graciously offered to sleep in the lounge, thus delivering the same less than ideal situation we have at home, sleeping apart.

Then I started to get the urgency to wee again. The same feeling I’d had two weeks prior when I came down with a Kidney Infection. Then soon after that the fairly terrifying heart palpitations began again. Twenty pees later and no sleep later Si came into the bedroom at 8am to find me in a fairly worried state with news that would potentially screw up the whole weekends’ plans. I wont’ bore you with the details, but after phoning 111 and then receiving a call from a charming local Doctor I had the medication I needed that would allow me to attempt to keep up with originals plans, even if bed would have probably been more sensible. This was a pesky reminder that you can’t escape your health issues. Some environments will be better suited to your conditions, or put you in a frame of mind where you find it easier to cope with them, but generally they’ll still rear their ghastly heads.

Undefeated I said we should still do the coastal walk we had planned, reassuring myself that if things took a turn for the worse Si would look after me, hang at the back with the straggler or take me home if it came to that. The first view we were greeted with upon parking up made it all worthwhile, and any pain or fatigue I was feeling a lot less easier to bear. Then we mooched on down to a pub with the most incredible views. I perched on the wall gaze at all the boats outlined agains the lush green backdrop and gliding across the aqua waters. If it wasn’t for the aroma Devonshire cuisine entering my nasal cavity, the Cider glasses and local accents chatting on a nearby bench it would have been Greece. A few moments in this location I genuinely felt relaxed and dare I say…happy. I don’t think any negative thoughts bullied their way as I raised my forehead towards to suns glare and breathed in the sea air. However the realities of my everyday life did surface as I soaked in my surroundings. I found myself asking questions. Could I be happy living somewhere like this, away from the city and the life I’ve made for the last ten years?
Could I be content with a simpler and more laid back lifestyle? Would I miss the bright lights of the city and the buzz it delivers? These queries deserve a blog post all of it’s own….


We continued on from the pub, stopping for ice cream on the way, letting Henry the dog off his lead to have a swim in the sea once we reached one of the picturesque bays. Although in company at all times, there were some solitary moments when there were breaks in conversing and I could appreciate the stunning vista again in silence. Once again I felt completely detached from person who resides stressed and sad in Surrey. When we did converse while walking it was largely about the present, the scenes in front of us, the cute things Henry the Spaniel was doing, or laughing at one of us tripping up on the rocky terrain. It’s only when we sat down for meals or a rest that conversation would lead to the normal topics. How’s work? For instance.

Of course being forced to think about work immediately lowers my mood and causes me to reflect on an area of my life I am hugely dissatisfied with. I try to keep it light and optimising in tone, but that of course drains energy as it’s not the natural or genuine feeling and requires some acting.

A huge chunk of my friends have made away to new parts of the country or completely different countries incredibly far from the place they’ve always called home. They weren’t just looking for temporary escapism or rest bite, they were looking for a fresh start. They were looking to say goodbye to aspects of their life they felt were hindering their ability to be happy or bringing undue stress. Did they get the new life they were hoping for? Did they leave the notable negatives behind them?

One friend who worked in the music industry and did similar work to me fled a new country to continue to the same work but a very different lifestyle and quality of life thanks to it’s location. The incestuous London music scene, and the frustrating way it functions, had been wreaking havoc with her confidence and anxiety. While anxiety hasn’t disappeared, fear of the new contributing to its appearances in her new home, she finds her ability cope and recover is much more efficient, and in general her mood, self worth and happiness has been elevated. Of course new issues will arise with any drastic move. Missing important family moments, both celebratory or heartbreaking. You’ll feel forgotten by friends you thought were forever cemented on your lifeline. You’ll get pangs of fomo when you see your old friends partying at one of your old haunts. But do they outweigh the positives?

Another friend escaped their tired, draining and financially unrewarding career, moved abroad and now has a fiance, a house and from the outside…pretty much everything you could ever want. They’re pretty much blissfully happy but of course they miss their friends, the longstanding ones they became an adult alongside . You can make lots of great new friends but those friends that have seen you in those tricky years of growth are irreplaceable. 


So what have I learned about escapism from my weekend away and from friends experiences?

Holidays and short trips away are good for the soul, no doubt. The have a way of reminding you about the positives of the world we live in, the beauty of nature, the value or enjoying the moment and spending quality time with either the environment or the person you’re with. The effects are all too fleeting though. They’re like a pause on reality. They don’t tend to make significant enough changes, which is why we feel we need to do them regularly to maintain happiness. It’s as though their effects run out, then it’s time for the next one again. Then there’s the issue of that feeling of delaying the inevitable. It’s hard to shake the awareness of knowing everything at home will be the same when you return and potentially worse because you’ve neglected certain things while you’ve been away.

YouTube videos and similar methods offer much needed distraction of course. But could we find a way to do achieve distraction in a more beneficial way. If you’re adamant on sticking to YouTube for your escape you could hunt out videos that teach you a new skill or enlighten you about something that could enrich your life. But perhaps instead of staring at a screen to forget your life, you could enrol in a course, take up a hobby, do something for someone else that will put the focus on someone else rather than you for an hour.

I think it’s important we access whether we should be finding escapism from certain things. There are things that happen in our lives that deserve attention and should be dealt with rather than being  put to one side or running away from.

I can’t help but conclude that we need to do what we can to make our lives one that we don’t feel requires escaping from, to such a degree at least. There will always be things that cause tention, stress, tiredness and heartache, that’s life, and of course it’s helpful to give ourselves times of where we can seek peace or pleasure. But we need to look at our lives in their entirety and work out what contributes to our lows, battles and difficulties. Are they things we can change? I suggest in many cases the answer is yes.

In some cases moving away to a different location may solve some of the most prominent difficulties - perhaps a location with a lower cost of living may reduce money related stress for instance. Some health issues (like CFS) will be improved in sunny locations.

I suggest you do what I have done. Look at what you are wanting time out from when in pursuit of escapism. In my case it’s my living arrangements and work stress. Yes I’m slightly limited in terms of options when it comes to work due to my health issues, but is there something else I could do? Yes there is. What aspects of work stress makes me want to run away? Well that’s unreliable people and the pressures of social media/numbers. So could working for myself in an industry that isn’t about followers, subscribers and cool points make me want to stay where I am a bit more? Yes, I believe so.

So that’s how I’ve ended up where I am now. Something which this weekend away delivered in a moment of clarity when basking in the seaside sun. I’ll share my new career epiphany with you soon. In the meantime please ponder your own need for escapism, find the root of that need and compulsion. Are you seeking out the right remedys? Is there actually a solution to eradicate that particular need for escape? I wish you luck. Wouldn’t it be nice not to want to flee your situation?
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