Dear Rachel,

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved fantasy. I never get tired of my favorite books, TV shows and movies, and I daydream about a world filled with magical people and creatures. As a kid, it was a way for me to expand my imagination, but as an adult, I wonder if I’m living more in my fantasy world than the real world. What should I do?

Living in Fantasy

Dear Fantastic,

Some people are introverts and love to curl up at home with a good book, while others would rather go out with friends. Some people love fantasy, while others prefer realism. Just because you enjoy a certain genre, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

We all like to escape reality a bit, especially as our lives become more fast-paced and stressful. Just look at the explosion of social media—an altered reality if there ever was one.

Having said that, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Is your lifestyle too sedentary? Are you spending too much time sitting and reading or watching shows? Make sure you’re getting enough exercise and sunlight.

Do you get so involved in your book or show that you stay up too late or don’t eat proper meals? Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and adequate nutrition.

Determine Your Priorities

Is your fantasy world the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you think of when you fall asleep at night? Do you wait all day to get home so you can watch your show or read your novel? Do you spend an inordinate amount of time consuming fantasy media? Would you rather watch your show than spend time with loved ones?

There is no problem with taking some time to relax and unwind at the end of a long day. However, if the world of fantasy has become the highlight of your life, you may need to rethink your priorities.

Think of ways to enrich your “real” life so that it’s more satisfying. Consider devoting more time to your relationships, volunteering, or taking on some new studies or self-actualization projects.

Maximize Your Mitzvahs

Judaism believes that time is the most precious commodity. We are allowed to transgress all but three mitzvahs in the Torah in order to prolong a life for even one minute. Time is so precious, so valuable, because every minute can be used in service of G‑d. There are many stories told of holy people who went to great lengths not to waste even a second of Torah study, or simple people who earned a place in the world to come with just a moment’s action.

Take some time to think about why G‑d put you in the world. Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you maximizing your time to learn Torah and do mitzvahs, or are you wasting your time?

Of course, relaxation is included as part of a healthy Jewish life. Every week we have Shabbat to unwind, and there are a plethora of Jewish holidays throughout the year dedicated to feasting, praying, relaxing, recharging our spiritual batteries and enjoying family. So don’t go to the opposite extreme, where you deny yourself any pleasure or distraction. That could lead you to be more stressed-out and unhappy. But do be cognizant of how much time you’re spending on fantasy media, and balance that with time spent on holier pursuits.

Channel Your Passions

Chassidic philosophy teaches us not to shut out the world, but to transform it into a vehicle for serving G‑d. In recent decades, there has been a deluge of Jewish entertainment on artistic par with secular entertainment, without the questionable content. Music, books, movies, even television shows abound with good, wholesome, soul-enriching entertainment, with songs and topics that focus on the desires of our souls as opposed to the desires of our bodies.

Think of ways you could use your passion for fantasy to serve G‑d. Perhaps you could write a story or create a film that combines fantasy and Jewish topics.

At whatever stage you are in your spiritual growth, be true to who you are, but always aspire to loftier heights.

Wishing you a happy ending to this issue,

Rachel