It took me nearly eight months to sit down and write a post about anything. The past two years have been fraught with all sorts of RL difficulties, some of which were exacerbated by in-world events I hinted at in some of my past posts. It was a very hard, uphill struggle, but I found the courage to carry on through therapy and all other efforts I took to pull myself up. Now, our (yes, our) life seems like it’s back on track. Getting my life back and getting it back in order was an arduous, painstaking process, and it necessitated a serious offloading of baggage – and much of this baggage had to do with SL. A clean-up was in order.
Regular readers of this blog might have noticed I’ve put all my analytical and opinion posts on virtual reality, virtual worlds, and Second Life in particular on hold, opting instead to dedicate my time and efforts to my story titled Arianna, of which I’ve already written three chapters. As I’ve explained in a recent post, events in my SL during the past few weeks have been extremely painful to me.
I wrote my heart was broken recently. That was an understatement. These events destroyed my faith, trust, admiration and love for someone I adored and looked up to. They also opened my eyes to how little regard that someone had for me; you certainly don’t let your new lover hurt, humiliate and insult a “valued and trusted friend and confidante” in front of you. At the very least, you’ll be alarmed by such behaviour and you’ll defend your “valued and trusted friend and confidante” – after all, lovers come and go and friends are forever, right? This didn’t happen in my case.
What happened before that fateful Saturday and afterwards, as I discovered more and more of what has been going on, only served to bring back painful memories from my real life. SL for me is, to a great extent, a form of escapism. I have my own RL problems and stresses; I have my whims, fantasies and desires that can’t be satisfied in RL, and SL largely serves as an outlet, creative, social or otherwise. Because of things that had happened in my RL, I’ve been dealing with depression for many years. I tried to deal with it through sporadic cognitive-behavioural therapy (when my finances allowed it) and by keeping myself as busy as possible. RL circumstances beyond my control during the past few years have not been exactly helpful. What happened recently in SL was the final straw. It was the trigger that brought back all the memories I’ve been pushing away, and the catalyst for the fire to burn more intensely inside me, to burn me more intensely and make the pain even worse.
I’ve been trying to take my suffering in silence. It was one little thing after the other that added and added to the burden on my back. I kept trying to adapt. To fit in. To be and do what would not offend, what would be liked and appreciated. It didn’t work. I was shutting myself up and down, emotionally, verbally… In every possible way. Just to hear a good word; a word of truly heartfelt praise or appreciation. To receive a hug, a smile, or a kiss. I kept trying and trying, but to no avail. And then, whatever little I had, or thought I had, was taken away from me and shattered before my eyes.
I decided I’ve remained silent for too long. If it’s OK for others to hurt me, it’s OK for me to speak of what I’ve been through. In my own voice. I decided to tell my story – my first ever organised and concerted attempt to write a story. Thus, Arianna was “born”. The title was taken from the first name of the first SL account I created, way back in 2006. You could say I am Arianna, and it would be true in so many ways. The story itself is a blend of fictional and real events. It is set in a fictional version of the UK. Obviously, neither Ashworth, nor Dagenhull or Sunford exist. And, unlike Arianna, I haven’t committed suicide. That’s not to say I haven’t contemplated it, though, or that I haven’t been tortured – especially recently – by thoughts of whether people would be better off without me. So, while the suicide that kicks off the story and the exploration of what led the protagonist to jump off the bridge is fictional, the events of Arianna’s life are not. They are adaptations of RL and SL events and dialogues that have really happened. By “adaptations”, I mean I’ve adapted the events to fit in with the environments I describe in the story. Perhaps you could say it’s a mixed reality novel. Well, at the very least, it’s inspired and informed by my existence in both the physical and virtual realm.
I mentioned that this story has very real elements. For instance, in the second page of the second chapter, the reader is presented with Arianna’s suicide note. It’s a real suicide note, from my RL. One I had written ten years ago, but never acted on it. As said earlier, the actions, events, and words that led Arianna to jump off the fictional Ashworth bridge are real. They’re words that were really said; they’re events that really happened; in both worlds: the physical and the virtual. Of course, I have changed the names of the people involved, although some might be recognisable – easily or with difficulty.
The – real or perceived – recognisability of the novel’s characters is something that concerned me as I was beginning to write my story. Would it cause upset? Would it cause gossip? Would it… (add whatever worry or concern you want – legitimate or not)? Would rumours start to circulate? Would it cause drama? Shouldn’t I protect those involved? I thought long and hard about it, considering the past, the present… And what could come in whatever future there can be. In the end, I decided to proceed. After all, it’s my story. It’s my pain, and I need to let it all out. I can no longer suffer in silence. I can no longer keep it all inside me. With every word I write, I bleed, for I relive each instant, each moment.
I know people may get upset with what I have to say, but I need to do it. People around me do what they want, and, as far I’ve seen, without asking if and how I’m affected; this time, I’ll do what I need to do. It must also be said here that, just like my post on the “drop” in D/s relationships (which, ironically, is my blog’s most popular post by far), Arianna is something I wished I would never have to write… But there you have it. And you can interpret it in any way you want, depending on your perspective.
As to my “other” blog work… It will continue. I’ll keep my other articles coming, if perhaps at a slower rate. But Arianna is something I need to do. And if anyone gets upset by it… I’m sorry they feel this way.
Chapters already published:
Time changes many things, for better or worse. Not always for the better. Hearts get broken. Mine did a short while ago. As part of that change, the latex look that had become an integral part of me suddenly felt like a robe soaked in Nessus‘ blood. It became impossible for me to stand to wear it anymore. Or even look at it. So, here I am… Out of it. In the process, I’ve also ditched my previous hair (from Zero Style), and went with the “Chilali” mesh hair by Truth Hawks, which has also helped me reduce my render weight significantly.
This picture, which will soon become my profile picture everywhere, was taken for me by the extremely talented and gifted Liara Okiddo. She asked me to pose for her, and for this I’m flattered and honoured. As can be seen from her (often risqué) Flickr photostream, Liara’s aesthetic standards are exceptionally high, and she’s extremely picky as to who she chooses to be her sitters. As she has explained to me, for her to ask someone to pose, she must not only like their style a lot, but she must also hold them in high regard.
- Nessus (mythology) – Wikipedia
- Chilali mesh hair (black & whites) by Truth Hair (SL marketplace)
- Liara Okiddo’s Flickr photostream
As is the case with every user of any of the existing (or defunct) virtual world platforms, I do everything in there through my avatar, which is basically a graphical representation of my real self – a graphical representation of a fairly typical woman who works, runs errands, does all sorts of chores, pays bills, goes out, has friends, family, relatives, etc. I immerse myself in the metaverse because I want to (a) escape from Real Life, (b) indulge in my fantasies and whims, (c) enjoy surroundings, settings, happenings and experiences that RL simply can’t offer, and (d) meet friends I have made here. With my avatar, we coexist in a “meta-symbiotic” relationship. She – obviously – depends on me. She’s active in Second Life only when I’m logged in. I pay the tier for the sim that is her home. I buy things for her. I build things through her. I participate in various activities and events through her. Without me, she cannot exist. And, in a variety of ways, neither can I exist in SL without her.
Through her, I express myself; I have put a lot of my creativity, personality and soul in her. One could say I’ve breathed myself into her. This is a point that I would like to expand a little. I cherish, enjoy and guard the privacy and the disconnect from my RL identity that SL affords me as much as everyone else. However, I have found out that, regardless of the appearance I choose for my avatar at any given moment, she’s really me, because it is my personality, my attitudes, my values, my desires, my wishes and my way of thinking that manifest themselves through her.
My avatar is, therefore, a manifestation of myself – and in this, I can’t help but view her in a way that’s not entirely dissimilar to the Hinduist definition.
I’ll give a little background information on my manifestation within SL. I manifested myself in SL for the first time in September 2006 and kept her until early 2008. Then I deleted that account; if you want, I killed that first avatar of mine. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the reasons that led me to killing my then avatar could even be considered silly. At any rate, I came back a few months later – by a weird coincidence, it was September again. To be honest, none of these two avatars were really meant to be “me”; I viewed them both in a somewhat superficial manner and intended to use them firstly for savouring desires and fantasies that I could not easily or practically enjoy in RL; whatever attempts at being creative were secondary and, from time to time, merely coincidental, depending entirely on my mood.
In my second manifestation in SL, things eventually evolved further: whereas my first avatar was merely a tool for me to explore and enjoy what SL had to offer w.r.t. a small set of interests that I had (and still have) and was frequently modelled and remodelled to reflect this, my second avatar, the one through which I now exist in SL, became what it is now: a reflection of myself in the digital domain and a way for me to express aspects of my personality that RL doesn’t give me opportunities to express. Finally, I have found that my interactions with others through her has influenced, to a certain degree, my views on certain RL issues.
- My Alt is just Somebody I Know in Second Life – by Honour McMillan
- She’s not me – by Exotix (Inara Pey)
- Avatar (computing) – Wikipedia
- Metaverse – Wikipedia
- Avatar (Hinduism) – Wikipedia
- About me – this blog