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The stress at work was getting incredibly intense. The worry and knawing nervousness I was feeling began seeping into every part of my life. My time in the office, my home life, my very sleep. Or lack thereof. The pressure began to affect me.

I needed to escape.

I began reading fantasy again. I watched my favourite films set in far-away locations and other times. In places not of this world. I joined in with discussions on Reddit about my favourite fantastical and sci-fi topics. I listened to the soundtracks which, over the years, have fuelled my imagination. I needed, for a time, to feel somewhere else. Perhaps to feel I was someone else. In a different time and place.

There’s something wonderful about those places. Whole worlds created by the human imagination which we can delve into in order to escape this one. Middle Earth, Wonderland, Oz. Places where magic fills the air. Where strange creatures walk. Where we exist under a different sky.

I realised that the fantasy worlds conjured by my favourite stories are where I’ve always gone to escape, either when I borrow worlds already made or, sometimes, creating my own. Books, films, games. These are the channels I use, as many use. But they are channels only. The real escape lies in the imagination. I think it’s why role playing games have such purity and appeal, why part of me longs to open that box again. There are no graphics, no technology. Just pen, paper and the minds of the players. Perhaps the imagination is the closest thing we have to magic in this world.

It made me wonder if there was ever a way of making that love of the fantastical into a career. If I could one day do social media for a video gaming studio, a publisher or even just as a freelance writer. In the same breath, I didn’t want to taint that sacred imaginary space. It’s my sanctuary and my retreat. If I were doing social media and content editorial all day for a bank, my fantasies are still where I can go to forget. To heal my spirit and set it free.

I can’t altogether say why I love them so. Perhaps because I’ve known pain and disappointment in this life. Things that others seem to have been given so freely, I have been denied, or was so for a long time. At several points, I was so alone I did not know where to turn. I cried out and no-one was there to hear me. I think perhaps delving into these alternative worlds and their stories meant I retreated into a place where, although there was life and death and pain, it had meaning. That’s the difference. In this world it can feel like our actions mean nothing. In another place, another time, they have effect and purpose. A place where the banalities of life do not exist – rent, social obligations, the never-ceasing banalities of modern city life.

It’s important, of course, not to get lost in the worlds. You have to remember that they are not real.

But it’s so tempting to imagine.

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