On the last weekend of August, Franz and I headed to Tofino to escape life. On the drive there we talked about our fascination with Tofino. Not just because it’s a gorgeous small beach town nestled at the edge of Vancouver Island, but it always brings a sense of complete escapism for us. No matter if it’s just for 2 days, we feel completely disconnected from the world, our problems, our anxieties, and our endless thoughts. It is our sanctuary to escape from our lives. We laughed because in reality, we escape from nothing. As soon as we get off that ferry in Vancouver upon our return, we are back to normal life. Nothing has changed. But there is optimism during the drive there, where for a brief moment we think everything will take care of itself magically, and that we’ll be okay. Silly, really.
Humans have a fascination with escape. It’s the prize after crazy work hours. The release after going through a personal tragedy. The cure to boredom. But it never truly fixes anything. But we are obsessed with the idea that it does. We countdown the days to a trip we’ve booked, every day caring less and less about our every day worries. The hope growing with every checked off day that by the time we’ve reached our destination, none of it will matter ever again. Since most of my life involves travel due to my family being scattered, I get mini bouts of false escapism. A short week to Berlin feels like visiting a sanctuary sometimes.
The first time I learned the harsh lesson that escapism doesn’t work was in the summer of 2011. I was in an emotional state I’d never been in, and not quite sure how to deal with it. I had planned a euro trip with two of my best friends, and I started counting down the days for our departure. I thought that by the time I’d be in another continent, I’d be fine. When we got to Greece I almost believed it. I had occupied myself over the past 2 weeks with amusing vacation times with friends and left no room to think about what was bothering me. One night, after a 4 hour dinner on the beach on the small island of Naxos, my belly full of fresh seafood and wine, my friends beside me making me laugh and the warm summer air caressing my legs that still felt salty from our swim earlier, my thoughts caught up with me. It hit me like a brick. My breath caught in my throat and I excused myself. I walked down to the edge of the water and sat down on the white sand and cried my eyes out. I realized running away had led me right to my problems. They had traveled the 6172 miles to meet me. I suddenly became aware that they were real. No matter my beautiful location and amazing adventures, they were still there.
My spring didn’t get off to a great start this year, and it didn’t get much better coming into the summer. I felt the itch of wanting to run away creep up on me. When my boss informed me I could have the summer off I didn’t even hesitate one second before saying yes. Within a week I had plane tickets booked to Berlin, London and Ottawa. I was leaving for the whole summer. I needed a mental break. I had the fear in the back of my mind that this was maybe a bad decision, that I was fake dealing once again. Whilst in London I shut myself in my mother’s apartment while she spent all day working at the Olympics. I hid under a blanket and slept for hours and hours. I was so mentally exhausted from everything that had happened. From this year. From last year. Everything. It was the first time I had put myself in a place where none of it touched me. And I breathed for the first time in a long time. I realized I was fucking exhausted. On the short plane ride from London to Berlin I felt a sense of calmness wash over me. I was escaping, but escaping to people that would help me wake up. By the time my feet landed back in Vancouver I was comfortable to admit things to myself I didn’t want to before. It took me 2 weeks to realize I was back in my regular life. I could barely hold a normal conversation with my friends. They wanted to know all my exciting stories of my summer. But I had none. I hadn’t done anything exciting. But my brain and heart were finally in a comfortable place.
The other night, after some martinis with Alexis and Caley-ann at my apartment, I finished the night lying on my couch listening to sad songs. Suddenly I shot up and realized I didn’t need to wallow anymore. More importantly, I didn’t want to. I changed my iPod to another song and started dancing in the middle of my living room for half an hour. Pure, spastic, sweaty, dance it out marathon. I laughed and felt a warm spread of joy come over me because this person, this person dancing in her apartment in the last week of summer was someone I recognized, and I hadn’t danced with her in a long time. This summer I hadn’t escaped. This summer I had the courage to shut everything off and fully focus on myself. I had run away to find me, and grab some of the pieces I needed back.
Escapism is a beautiful fantasy, and one I will always indulge in, it’s human nature. But I learned that escapism could have different sides to it. What is the number one thing we try to run away from when we “escape”? Ourselves. But the beauty is, when we DO run into ourselves, we actually escape. We let go. Sometimes you got to drop the fear, and talk to yourself. Stop running away and run right into you. Cause you, you’re kind of awesome.