We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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“Escapism - the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”

Middle school came to a rough end, to say the least. Going into high school I was a jaded, moody teenager. Right before high school, I was admitted into a psych ward for what I saw as simply expressing myself. I was a very self-centered kid in middle school brought about by constant praise over higher grades than others around me. For a while, I thought I had my life figured out. Don't trust anybody because when you do, the eventuality was that they'd end up leaving in some way. I saw people as unreliable and a liability courtesy of my pride. At the time, I was a willing recluse, constantly isolated, and deeply depressed. But as time went on, I started to realize that I wasn't exactly enjoying life after a few existential crises, and figuring out the cause of my sorrow was my number one priority. 

I had been writing stories to try and distract myself from these things that haunted me in real life. However, I was stuck on the same stories. There were two that were heavily influenced by my past and perception of the world. A character that I still hold dear to me from those stories is a man I called “Roger James Rust” who was a veteran dealing with a broken social life after an incident with his best friend. This story correlated to my own experiences. Though I was not (and still am not) a veteran, I felt at war with myself and others. His creation was symbolic, and he was a twisted reflection of what was real. His defining clothing was always a camouflage hat and a camo jacket. I myself had picked up a camo jacket as a way to give a nod to someone I felt I had gotten close to, even though he never existed in the first place. I wore this jacket for about two years throughout the process of the following events. 

I had learned about a game called Dungeons and Dragons, which allowed for endless storytelling with friends, gathered around a table, yelling at dice. I had gotten into contact with some friends from middle school and brought the stories I wrote of my past to the table. This game allowed me to create a world not solely focused on Roger and giving me new ideas to work around with the help of others, and expressing what I had bottled up for about a year at that point. It was a turning point for me. I started becoming more social, less focused on one sad, repeating story, and branched out to more and more stories with new characters, situations, and ideas at their centers. It was a change of the old Roger, and we had finally moved out of this single cycle of the same old story. I had stopped wearing my camo jacket as a way to hold onto my past or to hide my body, which I felt ashamed of, and wore it as a cape instead. A symbol of power, childlike wonder, and to me, a way to shed the confines of a normal jacket. It no longer covered my arms, the tools for which my stories were written. Less of a physical and more of a symbolic thing. I felt confident to show my stories to the world instead of hiding them behind that camo jacket. For a while, I wrote stories as a form of escapism. These stories were solely for me, but soon after, I started sharing these stories. I let out my worries. Their hold on me weakened as I told my stories to my friends, who loved them. I was writing stories for fun at that point. I was still depressed, don't get me wrong. The cape still covered what I feared most, and writing sure wasn't a catch-all remedy that whisked away all my problems. Still, to this day, I play pretend around a table with silly fantastical characters with my friends. Life is still not exactly kind, and there are days where my anxiety and the remnants of my isolationist past still consume me, but stories help me cope with the pressures of growing up and having so many expectations around me, and that's all I can ask for.

© Vincent Gonzalez. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.