You see the wall closing in on you.
A puzzle in pieces on the floor mocks you as the sound of the ever closer wall inches towards you.
You panic for a good 3 seconds before you look into the eyes of your companion and you speak into existence that you can complete this puzzle together even though you really don’t believe it. You take a deep breath, and then you focus all your anxiety, fear, and energy into solving the puzzle.
You see a digital timer counting down from 6 minutes.
You don’t seem to have enough information to short the required circuits in their proper order. Damn. You hate 45 minute escape rooms.
If only they gave us clues when we needed them.
Frustration wells up as you wish your companion could read your mind.
You take a deep breath and re-assure your companion that you can solve this together and that it isn’t too late to escape.
The icy hand of fear travels up your spine as you step into the room that was made accessible by a creaky door opening.
Pitch black is all you can see with the exception of an eerily lit mirror. It becomes apparent that someone has to be sacrificed in order for the room to be completed.
You always wanted to be the hero and it’s just a game, right? Into the coffin, I go.
We all have a various assortment of addictions. Some of us find relief in alcohol. Others are constantly binging media. I could go into addictions and write a blog and a half about them, but alas that’s a conversation for another day.
This past year I discovered a healthier albeit more expensive addiction that my therapist approves of: Escape Rooms.
If you’ve never heard of an escape room, then here is a quick run-down.
You basically pay a set amount of around 25-50 dollars to be locked in a room or series of rooms with a given time limit that is usually around 60 minutes. You have to use your wits and the information and tools given in order to escape the room.
I know, it’s a privileged world that I live in when I pay to escape from and artificial entrapment when some people live in real life circumstances that they wish they could escape from. Reflecting on this revelation is what helped me discover why I keep seeking out escape room after escape room.
I’m at a stage in my life where I’m trying to prove something to myself. I’m no longer living life for the expectations and favor of my family. I’m not trying to find out who I am and what I can offer to the world so that my significant other considers me an equal or a suitable companion. I’m not trying to win the approval of bosses or climb any sort of corporate ladder.
At this point, I want to prove to myself that I am something that I do not see in myself.
I want to be resourceful.
I want to be a good leader.
I want to be able to operate and deliver under pressure.
I want to be the one who perseveres through immense adversity.
I want to be able to bring people together and accomplish things corporately.
I want to prove to myself that I can lead successfully without being a tyrant or someone who manipulates people by throwing temper tantrums.
Really, I want to be a hero.
Escape rooms give me the unique opportunity to be all of those things in a fictitious environment while slowly learning what it means to be that hero.
How does one manage to tackle daunting puzzles with a team that is constantly changing and evolving as individuals join and leave?
How do you lead graciously but with confidence even when you are unsure of where to go?
How does one communicate in a clear and concise manner even when under immense pressure and when so many variables are unknown or changing?
Or my favorite question: how do you encourage yourself or worse yet others to acknowledge the fear they feel but to somehow push through that paralytic state and to take action?
I’ve been blessed with the resources to do about 47 escape rooms since July. A chunk of change for sure, but one for me that was more than worth it.
My favorite part of the escape rooms is the memories that come from the experiences that I have with different friends and family. I learned recently it wasn’t really about escaping. It’s nice to feel that satisfaction from being able to corporately escape from adverse circumstances, but the part that keeps me coming back is the fact that I get to make memories with friends that are unforgettable.
There’s the memory of opening a secret passage for the first time and having Marco exclaim that we need to “grab the daggers and fucking go.” There was also that time when a wall started closing in on Dina and me and we had to take a breath and rally our wits and skills to finish a puzzle before we got squashed in an Egyptian pyramid booby trap. Or maybe it was the time that Julian touched a rubber snake and flipped the heck out. Or was it that one time when Will and Mike grabbed the knife from the possessed uncle that was gonna throw us in the incinerator. Maybe it was the time Emma said she wasn’t insane… but she was. Or maybe it was the post-escape room discussion that my sisters, Mary and Hannah, and I were having about corporate recreation when we got approached by that one lady.
Life sometimes feels like an escape room.
You are given a set amount of time to “escape” the part that you’re in. Adverse circumstances like those tire problems, academic probation, relationship issues, family drama, or terrible bosses get placed into our lives. We get some friends that experience those seasons with us and we are tasked with somehow surviving by using our wits, conquering our fears, and persevering until the last second.
But just like the fictitious circumstances posed by the escape rooms, life isn’t about escaping the circumstance. It’s about who is on your left and right when you are struggling. It’s about that group chat that you hit up when it’s puzzle time. It’s the memories that you make along the way that make the experience worthwhile. It’s trusting that the game master and the game designer created the room to be escaped from. It’s also seeing the best in those that accompany you so that when challenges arise that certain individuals have strengths facing, you can both place them in the spotlight while also learning from them.
I’m learning in this current season that life is so short. Not only is life short though, the people who you get to experience life with are also only here for a short and brief period. I’ve made so many great friends over the course of my life, but I’ve recently had to say goodbye to many of them. Sometimes I want to gripe over the circumstances surrounding the goodbye or I want to emotionally shield myself from pain and disappointment by saying goodbye early so that I can get over my sadness on my own terms.
Yet, something about 2018 made me appreciate the seasons in which certain people are placed in our lives. Why be sad that it’s over when we can appreciate and remember all that happened over the course of those friendships? There will never be another person that is quite like that one classmate, that one coworker, that one great boss, that grandparent, that parent, that sibling, or that friend.
We are obsessed with the future, 401k’s, good jobs, and commas so much so that we defer living life to when we are financially able to or when our ships come in. But if we constantly defer living life until the future arrives, when will we actually ever live?
I guess you could say that escape rooms helped teach me how to escape from my fear of the future. They taught me that life is too short to be obsessed with escaping. I mean what fun is escaping if there is no one to experience that thrill with you?
Stop deferring living life. Appreciate the moments and treasure the people you get to experience it with. Take a deep breath and face that fear. Life is too short to be paralyzed.