On a Thursday morning, somewhere in Nevada…
I wake up and twist the hot water handle, shove the cup beneath it, and catch the ridiculously hot liquid that will burn me if I’m not careful and then crank the handle to a close. Tea steeps in silence with the steam billowing up to catch the light in the window and I take these moments to go shuffle around and gather up my wits. Wash my face, brush my teeth, lather, rinse, and repeat and go through the motions that will start the ignition and pump fuel into the rest of my pistons. I stand there in the hallway for a brief moment and ask myself if that’s an actual headache I’m having or if steak knives have been plunged into my skull. Splash some Motrin in my hands and continue forward. When the synapses start to fire off, I clutch my tea and push the lid down to start in on a day filled with phone calls, recording podcasts, audio editing, dozens of email chains, and connection with loved ones. This, my friends, is while balancing a huge family on the other side of my door. Life never stops and my every single moment is scheduled and I live on a constant timeline that, when you call and ask if I want to do something, you can hear the millisecond of terror in my voice where I let my brain rearrange my day to fit you in. The electricity is crackling in the tight spaces between every single activity I have. My naps are brief and never meant for rest and relaxation but a quick re-charge in the middle of the day, like giving your cellphone just fifteen minutes to make it last until you get through the day before yanking its cord away.
This is my every single day.
I am compiling thousands of years of data in mere hours and my memory serves as a library that never dumps its older books. It gets filled up to the brim in here with stacks of old tomes, magazines, and newspapers serving as kindling for the eventual fire if this place ever goes up in smoke. You know what I need sometimes? Just sometimes?
I need to walk away.
But, how do you walk away? I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a best friend, and a lover. How do you walk away from all of these things and not feel that co-dependancy (that you’re quite okay with) start to creep in and addle your every moment?
You escape from within the confines of your own reality. That’s how. These worlds within the Internet have given us countless songs to sing and in every note and key you could ever imagine. I turn to my friends and I see them doing the exact same things and living the same lifestyle where we go-go-go and then quietly adventure from the comfort of our homes. How else can we? For those people who have the ability to stand up and leave for a weekend, scaling mountains and adventuring through the wildnerness at the drop of a hat, I’m impressed. I cannot do any of those things without weeks upon months of planning, so good on you. You post your pictures on Facebook and I’ll like every single one of them. But for now? I’m going to log in to Lord of the Rings Online and pretend I’m an Elf who has to save Middle Earth.
My friends and even my family spend time in games like World of Warcraft and I know I was never built for an addiction to any MMO. Ask my poor friends who plead with me to log on and spend any real amount of time there with them: I’m not coded for it. My brain does not shut off to the outside world for any longer than three hours, and that’s every couple of days. The only way I can truly enjoy any intense form of escapism — be it Lord of the Rings Online or anywhere else — is if I can combine a few of my usual experiences with it. When my family can log on or my friends can be there to play with me, it suddenly becomes like I’m getting to put all of my ducks in a row. I can enjoy myself andspend time with my loved ones so that they know they’re important.
This leads us to Second Life. I have a very interesting alternate reality there and it’s private and quiet, fueled with almost as much work there as I have in my First Life. However, it is creative and inspiring and it is the release I don’t get in my everyday life. There are no complications that cannot be fixed by simple mouse-clicks and every single human being can be coordinated within that tiny space. If I am too tired or too worn out, I simply don’t log on.
My everyday life doesn’t have that option.
The stigma attached to these places is one of addiction, desparation, and sickness, and I have to say: it offends me. There are people I love in these MMOs — healthy and realistic people who do good things. Yes, as with anything, it should be done in moderation, but I’m not here to police a world with a tale to tell. No, I’m simply living through my life and needing to escape into a story once in a while. I can listen to compelling music, hop on my steed, and meet with my friends to form a Fellowship that will defeat the hordes of Sauron. I can do all of this, slash through foes, and turn in the ingredients needed to make an antidote for the poisoned Hobbits and still have time to run to the grocery store to get what I need for dinner later.
Our lives are chaotic and we’re each struggling to find our place in these worlds, be they real or not, and having been on both sides, I can see the importance for this escapism. I need to work on unplugging my real, everyday life a bit more and enjoying it when I can get there — but more people need to contemplate it. When my day-to-day is about struggling, re-adjusting, coordinating, and grinding through the work-related concerns, the familial complications, and my relationships, I need to hammer my fingers down on the buttons that make it all silence for just a moment. I’m human. We’re not all given the opportunity to escape on foot, but if our fingertips can locate a place of fantasy and take us there for a few hours a week…