Hi there, everyone! So today marks 5 years of me being in Second Life. To some of you I’m sure that seems like a really long time, and to some of you it seems like I’m just a kid. I’d say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: I’m still learning new things every day, but I’m starting to become, gasp, an eminence gris.
It was a day much like any other day when I finally decided I should enter Second Life. A friend of mine had been inworld for a couple years and had gushed to me about how much fun it was, how awesome the people he met were: I felt quite sure that if I allowed myself to use it, I’d probably disappear down the rabbit hole, and never see another human being in the flesh again. That didn’t quite turn out to be true…
So when I initially rezzed, my friend took me around to show me where to find cool clothes, what a good shape and skin were (do you remember when you didn’t even know that a shape and a skin were separate things?). When I was done, I looked something like this:
Gads, I thought I looked AWESOME! The first person I met inworld was, I’m not actually ashamed to say (though I do wish it were somewhere else), at a gay pick-up joint inworld. We’ve been chums for nearly 5 years, now, and I am frankly amazed that he’s put up with me all these years. Despite the constant flux and shifting that Second Life is, Charley’s been there through thick and thin for me.
In my initial experience of things, I was startled at how everywhere in SL seemed to just be… empty. Empty shopping malls and silent nightclubs, gamerooms with clattering slot machines talking to one another. I eventually realized you had to start following people around from place to place- you like this nightclub? Then you have to join the club’s group and you’ll get a notification when the club’s got a DJ in, and that’s the time to turn up. If you turn up a half-hour early there’s NOBODY there, but right on time and there’s a ton of people acting like they’ve been there for hours. In that respect, Second Life is the opposite of Hemingways’ moveable feast: the meal’s always being served up, but you have to figure out where it is.
After a bit, I decided I would engage in a Grand Experiment. That experiment was rather simple, but rather astonishing. For a year, I tried out not putting any RL currency into SL, and instead raising all money I wanted to spend inworld by working inworld. I started dancing for a newish club (as far as I could tell anyway) called Premier Entertainment. Met some of the best people I’ve met in SL there, and some of the ones I’ve known longest, too! And… I did manage the experiment, for a full year never buying lindens but instead earning them. Indeed, earning enough of them to rent an island parcel for that whole year, and having enough to shop when the mood struck me.
There was one moment, rather early on, that frankly damned near killed my interest in Second Life altogether, and one I’m sure you’ve all been through. A big chunk of my inventory just… went missing. I pursued every avenue I had of getting it back- no luck. I was out about L$15k of goods! The folks at the club were awesome with me through this, up to and including (I’m quite sure) throwing the drawing on a prize for the club employees so I’d get the big win. It was that generosity and kindness that kept my interest inworld, and kept me exploring. I wondered what kind of awesome people were out there that’d make such an effort to help out a near-total stranger. That really warmed me up to Second Life: there must clearly be some pretty terrific people around, if all that effort happened just because someone had a crappy day!
I view my Second Life as two things, really. First, a means of keeping in contact with friends from around the world (I’ve participated in a tabletop RPG group via Second Life, for instance) and also to find new friends to share ideas and thoughts with- and partly as a medium for the strange and bizarre. Second Life affords so many opportunities: where else can I ride a bicycle hanging under a blimp through the skies over a landscape of gothic cathedrals and castles? How else would I have the chance to be a tiny and altogether overly cute dragon? My Second Life is made of both the familiar and the strange, the comfortable and the uncanny, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Over five years I’ve seen a lot of things come and go in my time – to pick two, the club I worked at isn’t around anymore, and I’ve seen a magazine start and go well past anyone’s expectations in a mere year. I’ve met people who are still with me to this day (Nigel and Charley, Mirah and Dillon and Getty and Dybbuk) and I’ve made new friends with whom I’ve found an easy and casual friendship, like Byrne and Dox. I’ve walked away from a writing project and I’ve started a blog, I’ve held loved ones close and I’ve let them leave. I’ve learned more about modifying my shape than I ever expected I would, and I’ve laughed myself silly at my pathetic attempts to make clothing. I’ve built a house and landscaped a parcel, built a waterfall and even learned how to take half-way decent landscape photography.
When old favorites have closed, then I’ve found new places to spend my time and my lindens. But I have yet to find that one true shining holy grail, the fulfillment of all my dreams and hopes for my Second Life… sadly, I still have not found the perfect hair for my avatar. Someday, I know I shall: some day.
I look up and I notice that I’ve written mostly about the people I’ve known, not about myself. But in SL, aren’t the people we know how we express who we are, and what we do? At the same time, remember this: Second Life is a big place. There’s room for you and the gal whose sexual fetishes you Just Don’t Get, as well as for the child avatar who’s frighteningly precocious and the ubermasculine vampire clan chief. You don’t have to get along with everybody to be having fun, and they don’t have to conform to your desired fun to be having fun themselves.
You know, I told you people something a long time ago, and it’s just as pertinent today as it was then. Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants, and slide on the ice.
So, Nath, what’s next? I don’t know, none of us do. But I, for one, cannot wait to find out! If you want to, please feel free to join me on the adventure by following my blog. But whatever you do, I hope that every day you spend in Second Life brings you new joy and new adventures!
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NATHANIEL PEVENSEY is the blogger whose meanderings can be found at http://whatfreshsl.wordpress.com
In addition to having too much hair and being surprisingly pale, Nathaniel’s interests include gachas, musical mash-ups, and primtionary. He does his best to keep his sharp tongue in check… or at least, amusing.