One of the most common reasons I hear for why people love to read is that it allows them to escape the stress of our real world and escape into a fantasy. Escapism is a powerful tool for releasing the stress that builds up over time, and it also serves to let us view worlds, ideas, and people that we may never experience otherwise.
Escapism is the primary reason that I’m drawn to books. It’s no secret that I have a great deal of stress and anxiety in my life; I’ve shared it with you guys often. I also work a high-stress job dealing with scared, angry, and frightened people over the phone, and there are times when it’s hard for me not to dwell on those situations once I’ve clocked out from work. Mental illness, financial hardships, health crises, a global pandemic… these are only a few reasons that we might pick up a book in order to escape for a few hours.
I started reading at an early age, but I think it was in middle school and high school where I really picked up reading as a serious hobby. I was not a happy teenager. I was severely depressed and untreated; I missed too many days of school, I failed assignments because I was too anxious or embarrassed to present a project in front of the class, and I didn’t feel as though I really fit in with my friend group.
Reading was what I turned to in order to release the stress. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction, and I would get lost in the stories. While I was reading, I wasn’t focused on my speech impediment, being overweight, or overwhelming loneliness; I was going on an adventure with a group of exciting characters! The library quickly became my favorite place to be, and I skipped lunch in high school more than a few times in order to pursue the shelves in search of my next story.
As I’ve gotten older and am nearing my mid-thirties, I still find myself turning to fiction when the real world becomes too much to handle. Sometimes it can be detrimental, and I’m aware of that; for example, there are times when I really should be working, doing chores, or running errands, but I cannot bring myself to close the book. I have to know what happens next. Overall, though, reading has allowed me the space I need to breathe and come back to myself.
Several years ago, I moved away from Asheville, NC, where most of my friends live, to a city where I didn’t know anyone aside from family. I still don’t have a large group of friends here, and when I’m feeling lonely, reaching for a book or talking to other members of our book community makes me feel happier and less alone.
I don’t know what my future looks like, but I do know that no matter what happens, I will always turn to books when I want to feel better, or get lost, or explore a new world. Books have given me so much throughout my life, and I hope I can continue to share my love of the written word with all of you for years to come.