New Years Eve in Second Life has always been a special holiday for me. Ten years ago, I had watched a news special about the then new and interesting virtual world, and decided to take it for a whirl. I wanted an experience different than that of my experience as a gay man in America, so I created a female avatar … and stepped foot into this new world.
After the requisite adventure on Orientation Island, I was spit out onto Periwinkle Station, then an infohub where new residents were unceremoniously dumped (Periwinkle Station still looks much like it did ten years ago, but is no longer an official infohub for SL). True to the worst of the rumors, I was immediately attacked by a random griefer who kept bumping into me screaming “SEX SEX SEX!” Let us say that it was in this moment, I became expert at navigating in Second Life.
My first night in SL was a little disorienting. I managed to walk into a forest, and my screen seemed literally black until I bumped into a house. I found a main road and started walking down it – illuminated only by the moonlight. It wasn’t the magic I had been promised from the news piece, and I almost logged out for good … until I saw this beautiful woman, almost like a full-sized fairy – floating by a hillside. Her dress was iridescent … and seemed as if she owned the night.
She IM’d me. She didn’t have to. I’m sure I looked like standard-issue female newbie. She welcomed me to Second Life, and asked if I needed anything … and after a few lessons on teleporting and shopping … I was on my way, never to see her again.
The next day, I decided to change my name, so I dumped Miss Original for another madame with a more sultry name and began building a life other than my one in the Real. Nearly a year later, after a series of disastrous relationships and a faltering business, I decided to match my RL anatomy and created Phan. My female marionette went into retirement … mostly.
While Philip Rosedale and his team were trying to figure out why SL wasn’t turning into Web 2.0, Second Life was and is an alternative reality for the rest of us to grow and learn, to love and be loved, to make families of choice, to laugh … to cry. And that is what it has meant to me. I felt stagnant in my RL job – SL gave me the courage and motivation to complete my education and start a career track in an industry I had stalled in ten years earlier. It has helped me want so much more in my RL … some things I’ve since attained, and some things I’m still sorting out. Although it has easily been a place for me to hide from my RL problems and issues … it never allows itself to be just that. It encourages me to grow, to discover, and mostly I do … the unknown vein of precious metal being myself, my spirit, my psyche, and the rest of my realities and needs.
2016 has been a crossroads for me in so many ways. Second Life has both comforted me and exacerbated some of the things I’m still working on. But, it has kept those needful things on the plate – even when I just wanted to cover my head and hide.
A friend of mine told me that 2016 is a year of ending, and it has seemed that way with the death of so many cultural icons, a critical election, and with the looming threat of Project Sansar – scheduled to open in just a few short months. I have no clue what is going to happen in 2017 … but I know things will change, and I hope SL will continue to be here to help guide me through it … to understand it … and to see how I can apply it in positive ways in my very real life on the other side of this screen.
Happy New Year!