My real life seems to be divided into segments that are factors of seven years. I was married soon after I turned 21. I was divorced 14 years later. I worked in Corporate America for 14 years. I owned my first condo for 7 years, and I’m about to transfer another family property after holding it for almost 14 years.
Opal is seven years old today. Come October, I would be 49 years old. Come November, I would be divorced for 14 years. Would this year be significant for me? Or would it mark only the halfway point of a cycle?
For most people, SL is just a diversion, something to do in their free time, while they worked day jobs and took care of their families in real life. But it was different for me.
I chose to immerse myself. Fully.
It was an experiment on myself. Like people who sealed themselves in biospheres [http://www.biospherics.org/biosphere2/experiment/] in the name of science. Like the thousands clamoring to be among the few to be sent to live in a Mars colony [http://www.mars-one.com]. Except my little experiment wasn’t so extreme.
For me, SL became work and play, public and private. I created a wide variety of content, I started businesses, I helped non-profits, I analyzed relationships, I blogged, I wrote a book, I walked runways, I ran trails, I burned temples, I taught, I explored, I danced, I hugged, I talked, I laughed, I cried, I loved. In many ways.
When I joined SL in 2006, the whole concept of virtual worlds was incredibly exciting. It held so much promise in so many areas and at so many levels. I met the most interesting people from all over the world. I did things I would have never done. I experienced situations that I would likely never encounter in real life.
Those of us who invested our time and effort on the platform have been called many things – addicted, marginalized, irresponsible. At times, I wondered if the critics were right. I wondered if I had wasted my time. I wondered if I should have stayed with a secure career that I abandoned to search for a more meaningful life.
Yet, I still believe that we are only at the infancy of something big, a slow cultural shift toward greater globalization at the individual level, enabled by technology. People who have never lived in a virtual world cannot truly comprehend what it’s like to confide in a friend whom you’ve never met. Or to fall deeply in love with someone who lives in a different continent and barely speaks the same language. Or to collaborate with people whose real names you don’t know.
We are not addicted, marginalized, or irresponsible. We are creative and adventurous early adopters, who see potential where others see a sinking ship. Time will either prove us right or wrong, and it’s too early to tell. Maybe, seven years from now… or fourteen years… or twenty-one years, someone would read our words and view our works. And they would realize that we were, in fact, visionaries.
The digital avatar Opal Lei is animated by the biological avatar Lea Tesoro, author of “Love, Like Dim Sum,” a book about virtual relationships (lovelikedimsum.com). She is also the human behind the ever-wandering photographer Dim Sum the cat (wheresdimsum.com), and the creator of Mer Betta mermaid tails (merbetta.com) and Ms.O.Lei-ny miscellany (msoleiny.com). You can find her complete virtual-world CV at opallei.com .
Images to Opal’s Flickr Page: HERE