The Escapist

Here, on the shaded pseudo patio in my back yard, the air is warm but dry. Birds and chipmunks are chattering away against the soothing backdrop of the new pump’s gentle murmur, and stray sunlight is reflecting off the water onto a handful of shimmering leaves hanging from the lone adventurous branch threatening to swallow the northern end of our pool.

This serenity is shattered by the sudden screeching start of the air conditioning unit,  and my mind wanders back inside, to the basement already cool, growing frigid, and the television now off, still warm, and the various devices which have, of late, served as coaches, cars, and convoys to carry my stagnating soul, well, anywhere but here.

An escape artist puts on a show that fools everyone but himself; they see him trapped and are awed by his salvation, but he knows he was never really in danger. I’ve pulled the reverse: I’ve felt like I’m getting away, all the while remaining trapped in a cage of my own design, handcuffs forged with my own hands, key intentionally placed out of reach.

I’ve felt like this before, compelled to run but frozen by my inability to decide which way to go. Turning to the stories of others for guidance in my own, all I’ve really managed to do is fall in love with a fable; unable to decide where I want to be, I’ve longed to be where fictional people are, to live the lives no one leads, to trade my boring burdens with ones that aren’t so trivial.

That triviality is the primary excuse I’ve used for writing so little lately. If a blog is a chronicle of what I’m doing or thinking, there’s been little worth sharing. Scattered thoughts here and there make their way into a newly-started journal, but as for public writing? If I can’t care, I can’t expect you to.

Still, that compulsion to move, to go, to be — it won’t let up. As of the end of this month I’ll have spent an entire year living in my parents’ basement, drained ever so slowly of all money, all energy, all ambition. I hit my 23rd birthday in less than two months, and that’s a little startling because, in the story of my life, Chapter 22 may as well be entitled “In Which Nothing Happens.”

There’s not much that can be done to change the events of that chapter, but as an author I realize I’m not completely without agency. If I work at it, I can make something of the rest of this year. I can scratch out the title and replace it with “The Calm Before the Storm.” But if that’s going to happen, I need to work on my rain dance.

When at my best, I’d like to think I benefit the lives of those around me. I thrive off of talking and writing, but neither of those really make me happy unless they leave an impression. I may struggle with brevity, but that has always been to avoid detriment to understanding; I’m thorough because I want to ensure the eradication of uncertainty.

For months I made the mistake of thinking I wasn’t working because no one was telling me what work to do. That’s the wrong way of saying the right thing; in truth, I was made to provide answers, and I’ve languished due to lack of questions.

To say I’m naturally inquisitive is half true. When something gets my attention, I become obsessed with it. I don’t let go until I’m satisfied and, in cases which preclude satisfaction, I may never relent. But there’s a fundamental lack of consistency regarding which and when things grab my attention. I feel less like a bear awaking from hibernation and more like a search engine no one’s bothered to power on recently. All that’s missing has been self-awareness; a computer that can generate its own tasks will no doubt achieve thrilling inertia.

I wrote, a few days ago, that I want to “hit 23 going strong.” I still don’t know for sure what that looks like. But where once was darkness, I’ve begun to see shadows and highlights, a horizon slowly taking shape. And that thrills me.

So to the few of you still reading what I have to say here, thank you. Here’s to turning on the engine. Here’s to bringing the rain. Here’s to revising the story. Here’s to the escapist.

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