I believed myself solitary in the desire to spend as much time as possible stoned, drunk, out of it. To view the world differently. To alter my state of consciousness by whichever means available, as frequently as possible.
My obsessive consumption of books and movies, watching and reading and devouring as many stories as I could get my hands on.
The countless hours wasted on mindless video games, fighting pretend foes, forging imaginary empires. Hundreds of synapses, firing off pointlessly, in pursuit of fake digital gold and virtual acceptance.
The ability to totally lose myself in music, to feel the rhythm and beats vibrating inside me on a transcendental level, to experience a divine sense of unity with fellow concert-goers at a live show, and connect to a kind of melodic hive-mind.
But it’s not just me, I’ve realized. Sure, my particular forms and devices of escapism might be unique, but the art of escaping, in itself, is most certainly not. The realization that nearly every human on this often-miserable planet indulges in escapism, in one form or another, is incredibly reassuring (albeit slightly depressing).
My dad is a chronic gambler. During the rare weekend visits I would have with him as a youngster, about 60% of our time together would be spent at the races or the TAB. Often I wouldn’t be allowed in, so dad would give me $10 to buy some chicken nuggets and a magazine and I’d wait for him in the car. For hours.
My mother is a pot-smoker and alcoholic. I have never once seen her go a day without copious joints and a never-ending glass of Chardonnay in her hand.
My little brother is a hardcore gamer. I keep waiting for him to have his ‘wild phase’, but he’s just not interested in any real life mischief. I suppose why would he be, when he can kill hookers and snort coke on GTA5 from the safety of his lounge room and PS4 remote?
With the omnipresent Internet and ever-emerging technological advances in the way we can watch, listen and absorb our entertainment, the modern opportunities for escapism are abundant. As a child I was in possession of exactly two video tapes, both of them My Little Pony, and didn’t own a computer or gaming console until high school, so it’s safe to say that kids these days are on a completely different level in terms of the mediums they can access.
I ask myself: what if, instead of squandering all that time during my twenties seeking fulfillment through escapism, I had focused my energies on cultivating a better life for myself? What if I didn’t binge-watch four seasons of a terrible reality show about the (staged) lives of insufferable drunk idiots, but turned the tv off and went for a walk? Or did yoga? Or engaged in any form of activity that would provide a mental, physical, or financial benefit to myself?
Instead of accumulating wealth, or enriching life experiences, I’ve pored over celebrity gossip, memorized the names of characters and fictional places, achieved ridiculously high levels on mobile apps and games. I’ve developed a chronic dependency on marijuana and sleeping pills. I turn down invitations from real-life friends to sit at home alone, browsing Facebook compulsively and half-watching MTV.
When did life become something that I constantly feel the need to escape from?
Are things really so unbearable?
The answer is as simple as it is frustrating. No, life isn’t that bad. It could definitely be a lot worse; I have the privilege of being born white, middle-class, in a first-world country. That’s a fucking triple blessing right there.
Life could also be a lot better.
It used to be easier to ignore, but we have magazines, reality TV, basically all media shoving down our throats the glittery lives of the affluent. The private jets, the plastic-surgeried perfection, the social media adoration. We are programmed to covet. We see all these utter idiots, who’s sole accomplishment in life was to show up for an audition and be as crass as possible, become famous and glorified and eventually idolized within the MTV-saturated pop culture world. Over 7 seasons we watched Snooki Pollizi morph from an obnoxious piece of Jersey ghetto trash who got into fist-fights with dudes on steroids, to a pulled, primped, pin-thin ghetto princess who drives a Lambourghini and has a live-in housekeeper. Whereas us honest, everyday, non-reality TV folk are dragging our asses to some menial, mind-numbing 9-to-5, for the luxury of being able to pay the exorbitant rent on our shitty apartments, or on never-ending bills for the privilege of electricity, water, food, and other items essential for our existence.
I send myself broke trying to keep up with the weekly repayments on my car loan, so that I am able to drive myself to work, to the job that allows me to meet my car payments.
This leaves very little time or money for leisurely pursuits. Most weeks, after my costs of living are paid, I am lucky enough to have $50 left to show for all my hard work. What can you get for that these days? An evening at the cinema? A tank full of fuel to go on a spirited road trip? Me, I usually choose to spend it on drugs. So that, for the tiny window of time I am allowed a reprieve from my corporate prison, I can relax and enjoy myself as much as possible. Do housework, high. Watch a bunch of horror movies, high. Go for a swim in my pool, high. It just enhances everything.
My father, the gambler, loves to point out that he urged me to go to university after high school, to get a proper degree, so i could have a proper job and paycheck. At the time, I thought becoming a beauty therapist was a better option. What 16 year old girl doesn’t dream of playing with makeup and beauty products all day and getting paid for it? Turns out the only glamorous thing about that job was the clients that frequented the salon. After 3 years of scrubbing feet and waxing vaginas for $15 per hour, I called it a day and went into the not-so-lucrative field of music retail, just ‘temporarily’, until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Fast forward 10 years, and here I am, still in retail, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Problem is, time is no longer on my side. In order for me to advance my education and, thus, employment opportunities, I would have to cut down to part-time or casual work while studying. Which I couldn’t afford to do if I wish to keep my car, rental house, and feed myself.
So instead, I just don’t think about those things, and get up every day and go talk about music and movies for 8 hours, for a minimum wage, while the giant retail chain I work for grows, and the CEO’s get richer and richer. I suck the corporate dick, pay my bills dutifully, and piss away the pathetic remains of my paycheck on something, anything, to help me forget how depressing and meaningless life is.
I never thought it would be like this. None of us were born just to ‘get by’. Unfortunately, in the modern world, that is the most some of us will achieve. ‘Getting by’ is my life’s work. Who wouldn’t want to escape from that?
My friends and I, we can’t afford fancy overseas vacations. So instead, we try and make do by taking mini-vacations from ourselves. From our over-burdened, creatively starved minds. Instead of making small talk with strangers as we are forced to all day, we discuss the moon and the stars and atom-smashers and the infinite possibilities of the universe. We ponder the true meanings of gender, sexuality, youth and revolution. We share the weird and scary things we experienced as children, we pool our collective knowledge and try and glean insight from within.
We also watch the same episode of Rick and Morty five times in a row and make dad jokes and giggle like idiots at the word ‘moist’.
We live, we share, we love, we get high a lot, we escape, and the world just keeps on turning.