In keeping with the "escape" theme of her book, I asked Emily to share her Top 10 Escapes.
1 1. My front lawn – When I’ve got nowhere else to go and I start to feel trapped in this big old house, I head straight to my front lawn. I love it. My driveway is kind of insane – it goes up a steep hill and winds a bit, and its surrounded by trees. But to the visitor’s left of the driveway is this sprawling green lawn that I just love to lie down on. During the summer’s I’ll have picnics with my friends there, but most of the time its just me, my iPod, and my journal, and I just lay back in the sun and write myself out. It’s not as private or secluded as I’d like it to be, as all the cars passing by have a full view of me and what I’m doing, but I kind of like that position. I really enjoy sitting back and being a spectator to the life going on around me – I like taking those kinds of breaks, I think they’re important. And looking out at all the houses and trees, the clouds and the green, just kind of puts me in my place in how much I love the world.
2 2. Disneyland – I’ve mentioned this one often. On the back of my book, even. Disneyland is my ultimate happy place. I have a pass and I’m basically the girl who’s begging to go every weekend. This was especially true when Matthew was in chemotherapy, because I’d get overwhelmed by the hospital and at Disneyland I felt like I could live some of the childhood I’d left behind in the wake of Matthew’s illness. Whenever I go to Disneyland I feel like I’m spending time with an old friend, the part of myself that’s a little girl who squeals when she sees Ariel and tries to get everyone waiting in line to join her in a sing-along. For some reason, I never really feel more like myself than when I’m at Disneyland. It’s the no-worries zone, Hakuna Matata, because once I walk through those gates, my outside world doesn’t matter anymore. Its no wonder my big college dream is to work there!
3 3. The beach – I’m a California girl, the beach is a given. I don’t go as often as I should, but when I do, I value my time there so much. The weather always seems perfect at the beach, and its ideal for just lying back and letting the good thoughts flow. Two sounds in my life will calm me down in times of stress: One is Frank Sinatra, the other is the ocean. I could listen to the ocean forever. I feel a lot of power when I stand in the waves and hear them crash, and its great inspiration for writing.
4 4. Piano – When the weather outside is too cold or hot for the front lawn, I take to the piano. I played piano for five years, and quit when I was ten, taking seven years off. Last year, sometime over the summer, I found a love for piano I never knew I had. A lot of it came with my experience studying voice – my choir teacher had told me at my audition for the choir I’m in, Women’s Ensemble, that it is extremely useful to a singer to be familiar with another instrument, particularly piano, and I can’t thank her enough for that advice. With piano I can read and understand music so much easier, and I love being able to hear a song and think to myself, “I can play that.” Granted, I’m no prodigy that can sit down in front of new music and play like I’d known it my whole life, but it’s a fun challenge for me and takes a lot of patience, and therefore, a hearty and extremely rewarding distraction. Music’s another world. I can’t live without it.
5 5. Frank Sinatra – That being said, I mentioned earlier my love for Frank Sinatra. I’ve been a fan a long time, but it was last year that I especially got into him, because at that point I had never been stretched thinner. I was in two productions, one in school and one outside of school, and had rehearsals for both on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Essentially, my schedule was I’d get up at 5 and go on a run, go to school until 2:30, have rehearsal until 4:30, and then my next rehearsal from 5-9. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I had my Hebrew language courses I took outside of school on the evenings. On Tuesdays I also had voice lessons, and on Thursdays I also had piano lessons. And finally, on Sundays, I’d get up at 8 to teach 3rd grade Sunday School. And then, somehow, two AP classes and honors courses fit in there somewhere. Not to mention the book publishing process. So, you could say, I was a little stressed out. But one day I bought a Frank Sinatra album and the moment I hit Play those stresses would just melt away. Frank is The Voice, by my opinion, and there’s nothing quite like him. One time I was venting to a friend about how stressed and overwhelmed I was, and while I was talking he reached into his pocket and put on Frank Sinatra from his iPhone. I immediately melted into a puddle of relaxation and now he uses it all the time on me. Frank Sinatra is magical. I’m a fan of the entire Rat Pack, really, but Frank Sinatra is simply the best.
6 6. Movies – What’s better to take your mind off reality than a good movie? You sit still for a couple hours and watch another world. What’s not to like? I depended heavily on movies when my brother was dying, and while I don’t watch them as frequently today I still can’t ever resist the temptation for a good movie. Naturally, I’m a huge Disney buff, so I’ve got most Disney movies as they become available and watch them often when I want to smile, sigh, and relax. But when I really want to get invested, I’ll put on a movie like The Dark Knight or V for Vendetta. Essentially, anything with Christian Bale or Heath Ledger in it will leave me thrilled (I know neither are in V for Vendetta, but that’s my brother’s favorite movie and one of mine, too). I also love musicals – Singin’ in the Rain is my all-time favorite movie, followed by Chicago. I really prefer movies to TV because I get a full story, but there are some TV shows I’m absolutely obsessed with – I really love British television. Steven Moffat, now there’s a writer. I escape a lot into his shows – Sherlock and Doctor Who – frequently.
7 7. Books – How could I not include books? Whenever I’m particularly sad, I’ll take out my favorite, Little Women. That kind of feel-good book (much like feel-good Disney and feel-good Gene Kelly) really picks me up when I need it. Other times, I love a deep, moving story. The Lovely Bones and She’s Come Undone will probably haunt me forever. My mom used to make a fuss over me reading Chicken Soup for the Soul books when I was younger, but I couldn’t get enough of those real, thought-provoking stories. I love reading about people, much more than plot. But, of course, I love and grew up with Harry Potter and the Pendragon series, so they will always stay close to my heart.
8 8. Yoga – I’m just starting to get into Yoga so I can’t speak as an expert at all, but from what classes I’ve experienced its just unreal. I’m a person who hates exercise, and while Yoga’s not particularly cardiovascular, it combines my preference to stay in my mind with the need to relieve stress by getting the body moving. It takes me out of my mind just enough so that I can relax, but not so much that I get bored – I’ve tried just working out and I can’t stand it. But being able to really connect with my body and my mind is the perfect key to a calm and good week.
9 9. Animals – I have two German Shepherds, a male and a female, and they are my life. I’ve never had a time growing up that we didn’t have at least two dogs, and when the going gets tough, I get ruff (I did not just do that). The older one, Rocket, whom I affectionately refer to as either Scooby or Bear, used to be a little ball of energy, but he’s never done a bad thing in his life. He won’t bark at any stranger unless he knows they’re a threat, and it’s truly remarkable how intelligent he is – because he can always tell. He’s very protective over me but a total sweetheart, and whenever I need a good pair of eyes to rest on me and listen, I go to him. He’s really my perfect dog. But then there’s Nala, named after the fierce lioness of The Lion King (yeah, that was my idea), who’s nearly two. She’s essentially me in dog form, because she doesn’t shut up, loves to sing, and never wants to be bored. She’ll always hide with me when the vacuum comes out, and lays under my feet when I play piano. She gets really pissed off when I play the wrong note, and will always let me know by whining at me. I love playing with her because she’s really quite a funny dog – I sometimes refer to her as the Psycho Fuzzball – but when I really need it she’s there for me. Puppy love is one of the greatest escapes you could ask for.
1 10. Friends – How could I not put this one? I love my friends to death. My two closest friends both moved to the East Coast a few months after Matthew died, and while that was really hard on me, we’re still as close as ever and Skype as much as possible. They have an understanding of me that sometimes is just plain scary, but I love them for it. Back home, I’ve got friends who I just spontaneously make plans with and I love it. Sometimes things get really stressful second semester senior year – deciding where you want to go, how much you don’t want to do homework, etc. – and it is so great to have the freedom to let all of that go, call up a friend, and say, “Hey, it’s 1:30 PM and I’m bored, wanna get pancakes?” You gotta live for these things, and I’m so lucky.
Find out more about Emily at her website, Emily's Reality