A Meandering Attempt to Understand Why I Can’t Enjoy Escapist Writing

I’ll be honest with you all–I started writing this one during a down period a couple of weeks ago. I’ve mulled it over since and decided to finish and post it because I think there’s something important here. Anyway, just keep that in mind as you’re reading, and remember that you can always click away if you need to.

***

I think it went wrong somewhere around the time I entered high school. Right as all the upbeat tales said I was supposed to meet people who would like me for me, and help push me towards the best version of myself. I wouldn’t have to work at it, the stories said. It would just be fate. After all, everyone deserves to have friends, right? And life always makes sure we get what we deserve, right?

Maybe it wasn’t high school. Maybe it started sooner–perhaps even back in elementary school. You know that scene in every book and movie, every good escapist story, where the protagonist is getting picked on, maybe even beaten into the ground, and someone comes to the rescue? And that someone becomes a real friend they can depend on?

In my story someone was a teacher who sneered at me like I was a piece of freshly-pressed dog shit. She made it quite clear by manner and tone that she was only intervening because she might get written up if she didn’t. She didn’t seem to care if I realized this–she probably figured the little retard Aspie kid couldn’t understand her cues.

Except, I’ve always understood. One of the worst moments of my life was realizing that there was no hidden secret to why people always told me they’d help somehow, or look out for me, and never did–humans are just like that. I, the supposed socially-inept ASD kid, was never at fault. There was no secret I was missing, I wasn’t left behind because I annoyed people or I said something wrong or I just didn’t try hard enough; they just all noticed I was the one who got left behind, so they kept leaving me behind.

They probably told themselves I liked it that way, and I’d do just fine. “He’s smart and talented,” they may have said, as they often told me in person while never once engaging with the writing and other projects my smarts and talents produced. “Someone’ll make sure it turns out for him.” It never occurs to them that maybe they should be that someone, or else no one will.

If you’re reading for the moment where this gets better, I should be courteous and tell you to stop. Come back on one of my happier pieces. There’ll be another soon. Right now, on this little corner of the Internet I pay web-rent to call my own, I need to scream from the soul again. I understand if you don’t want to hear it. Go read something that helps you escape. I won’t think any less of you for it.

Well, I mean, I won’t even know you have, but if I did know I wouldn’t think less of you. “It’s the thought that counts” and all.

I’m 26 now. All around me I see other writers, and artists, and various creators all fulfilling their dreams. Their blood prices are small compared to mine. Blogs with two posts at the start and then nothing have five times the followers I do, six or ten times the likes on posts after multi-month silences. They have spelling errors and awkward phrasing and derivative ideas, corniness and cliches, so so many pieces which openly repackage the ideas of others… yet they succeed, and I do not.

Is it just because they’re not bitter, like I am? Does my following stagnate not for want of skill, but because I vent against the stagnation? Because, after months of holding it, I need to express my frustrations just one time–but bitterness is a death sentence even if it comes from trying to be better? I suppose that would make the most sense: a self-reinforcing cycle of futility.

Somewhere on various corners of the Internet, there are doubtless snippets and archives containing gauzy tear-offs from the 100+ blog posts I deleted during my rebranding–the echoing ghosts of my dissected sallies, all sliced away because I felt they just weren’t up to snuff anymore. I loved every single one at the time I wrote it, but I cast them away all the same. Nearly all were inventive, insightful and enjoyable even as they were overworked, overlength or just over-saturated. I’ve reached a point where tossing away that much effort seems banal; I don’t even feel the loss anymore.

My blood-prices have also involved literal blood-prices, and scalding water rinsing seeping blood from lacerated palms because I need the extra pain. I joke about being an edgelord because the best way to make sure people never take the wrong parts of you seriously is to make so many quips about those parts they forget you could be serious.

I do this because it’s better than reliving the false hope any more. It’s better than having someone go through the motions of seeing how much I’m hurting, how desperate I am for a shoulder to lean on for just a few seconds, and have them offer it with empty words only to step neatly aside and let me drop to the ground yet again. I’d rather fake that everything’s alright than be lied to any longer.

I realized recently that I just want to burn. I don’t mean to death. I mean that if I could have all the incoherent agony of total immolation without permanent damage, I’d find it cathartic. To just let myself collapse into mindless, tortured nothing for a while–there’s nothing rational about how it appeals to me.

I did write twice that you were welcome to escape at any time. Go find yourself a nice cuddly tale of a young boy full of bright dreams who fights a few battles, faces some challenges, grows as a person, and is rewarded with a sweet shiny victory and probably a kiss or two. All, of course, won before he takes too much damage to go back; it might make him hard to relate to.

This is not that story. You’re looking at that boy’s husk. He’s a man, now, tired and bitter and worn. Characters like him have no place in those escapist stories; he has become what people read to escape from.

This revelation actually came to me as I typed; this exploration has served its purpose. That’s my answer. How can I possibly enjoy escapist stories when the mere fact of their existence is a reminder that no one wants to know my story? It doesn’t matter which story it is, be it my lore, my short pieces or my novel… or just plain my life. No one wants to hear what I have to say. In pursuit of their cheery, fluffy other universes, they’ll turn away from me. They turn to stories which tell them it’ll be fine, someone always comes along to help.

Someone comes along. They don’t want to hear what I have to say. They leave seeking happier stories, stories where it’s always fine because someone always comes along to help.

Someone comes along. I don’t bother speaking to them–I can already see them seeking those happier stories. Why pretend I can tempt them with my dour gaspings? They don’t find any comfort in a universe that could keep me in it. With consistency that borders on sociopathy, they’ll find jolly little yarns about how everything turns out right in the end. It’s okay that the world doesn’t really work this way–it’s just an escape!

Meanwhile I sit here in the gloom and steel myself for one more battle. Someone comes along; I get up and offer them my seat with a false smile. Hopefully they’ll find it restful; for me, it can never be more than motionless.

You’ll note there’s no request to share or like this, here, no request for follows or Patreon support. I did consider it, but I can’t decide whether it would be fitting or hypocritical. So, as ever when there’s doubt, I’ve erred on the side of silencing myself. I don’t know what that says; right now, I don’t have the energy left to figure it out.

Say something, darn it!

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