Escape

Lo Ra
4 min readMar 15, 2022

Since moving across the country from my family, my returns are typically an overwhelming combination of relief and yearning… quickly followed by an itching need to escape. When I was younger, escape was long nights locked away in my bedroom, reading or writing smut and obsessing over the collection of music on my iPod nano (It was lime green and one of my most prized possessions). The door between me and the ruckus of my insular family universe allowed me to breathe. To take a moment in the only space I called my own to dream of my life as the fierce, independent woman I hoped I would eventually be. Escape was my pathway to transformation, without resources or space to find it otherwise.

During my latest visit home, I spent most of my family’s holiday celebration curled into the darkest corner of my sister’s house with my 12-year-old niece. I was jet-lagged and needed a break from socializing (how do people even do this group stuff anymore??), and I knew the prospect of juicy, middle school gossip would lighten the mood of my night. Our conversation touched on the expected topics of crushes and frenemies, and her latest discovery of The Vampire Diaries (cue dramatized, Ian-Somerhalder-induced swoon).

After an exciting bout of pre-teen angst, we eventually landed on the perennial topic of family and our shared experiences. We exchanged tales of loneliness and confusion, trading perspectives on complex family dynamics and laugh-crying at memories I didn’t realize she was old enough to remember. As our conversation went on, I felt her sink further into her seat. I recognized the worry in her eyes, the look of uncertainty and tension via tears that couldn’t be held back.

At some point, she said to me, “I just feel like it is so hard to be going through all of this stuff at this age, without the skills to deal with it all.” Her words were so simple yet so profound, and I found myself feeling that crunchy sensation in my chest whenever something hits a little too close to home. All parts of myself were unanimous in the response: I know exaaactly what you mean.

When I recall my own pre-teen psyche, I see flashes of slammed doors, Wattpad-fueled breakdowns, and the triple-layered shirts I hoped would conceal the tummy I wasn’t ready to love.

Escape.

I taste the chaos / anguish blend that those of us existing in families with a few too many people still in need of healing are all too familiar with, and my desperate attempt to dull its sensation on my tongue.

Escape.

I see myself — the young, Black, neurodivergent girl with a little too much trauma to see the world like the other kids at my mostly white school in my mostly white city. My niece. Dreaming of cross-country refuge and finally making sense of it all.

Escape.

I learned the art of escape long before I could put language to what was happening. As I sit with these thoughts now, I am left to ask myself: what has really changed?

In this extraordinary time of social and political strife — our health and safety indebted to policies and their makers, our most vulnerable continuously forgotten and dismissed — the need for escape feels as fresh as the days when I first learned it was a possibility. And though I am an adult now (part-begrudgingly, and with the bills and therapy receipts to prove it), I still find myself in search of the skills to deal with it all. The skills to escape with purpose and intention, during a time when it is all too easy to find escape in isolation, desolation, and social-emotional scarcity.

I am in awe of my niece and the other younger people like her who seem to have a keener sense of time and space — a raw intuition I am still learning to tap into well beyond their age. As an educator and as someone with deep, familial, multi-generational bonds, I am very familiar with the ways our young people show up in this world. They see transformation as a given (a skillset they will continue to acquire) and ask questions in rebellion of their uncertainty.

They know escape is possible and push each other to wildly re-imagine: What does collective escape look like? What can collective escape feel like?

Don’t get me wrong — I have watched young people spend mind numbing hours in front of screens (hmm, this sounds familiar). But I’ve also watched young people build communal living projects on Roblox, share mental health advice on TikTok, set up weekly meetings to organize their classmates against the racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc. etc. of their school administrations. Their tools for escaping are unique to their generation, and they are still figuring them out. Soon enough, their Roblox communes will become sustainable farming complexes and their TikToks will become classrooms for our socio-political revolutions. Well, if they have the resources to do it, that is.

Their curiosity and visions for collective escape are nothing new to us. This is a we-walked-so-they-can-run type of situation, but with the pressing question we must answer now, with all of our skills and language and resources: what are we going to do to make this happen?

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