Saturday, December 27, 2008

Walking Forward, Looking Back

I borrowed this title from a friend’s book (John Labriola, 2002), which pictorially chronicles the destruction of the World Trade Center while trying to figure out how to move forward - a moving book and highly recommended. The title seemed appropriate, as I wanted this post to be a reflection of my year in Second Life and first life and what I hope for in the coming year.

I did not say “real life” for I truly believe that my virtual world is as real as my physical world – just a different space. And that is what has made SL so rewarding and at times so difficult. I have lived, laughed, cried and loved in both worlds. I have developed new friendships and nurtured old ones in both worlds. I have been both a shoulder to cry on and in need of a shoulder to cry on in both worlds. In fact, I am no longer sure where Amy ends and Yamis begins – or whether there is a distinction at all.

So to reflect: My Second life has been full of changes this year. Most basically, my avatar itself has morphed from newbie-ish (despite being almost a year old this time last year) into a pretty woman with wings – my butterfly self. That happened when I learned to be free – to be me inworld. When I allowed my true self to come through. It was at that point that I realized this wasn’t a game and that I wanted people to get to know the real me. The real me has a need to be a free spirit, to be social, to fly, to soar, to flutter from friend to friend and to love. The real me also has responsibilities to my family, my work, and my education that dampen my wings in first life. So here I’ve learned to walk more. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that – except that I am often lost in the trees and cannot see the forest through which I travel.

The friendships I have made in both worlds have been so special – and a few have crossed worlds. I have brought friends (and one sibling) into SL and I have brought friends from SL into my first life. I love that my children recognize and know my SL friends as well as they know my first life friends: “oh, Kitzie looks pretty tonight” and “did your friend Jon change how he looks?”

The environments I’ve lived in in both worlds have gone through peaceful times and difficult patches. What I have learned from this is that nothing stays the same. Life – no matter where – is as unpredictable and dynamic as the people who inhabit it. But the good part – is that nothing stays the same. So I have learned not to expect the high times to stay high and that the low times will not stay low. I’ve learned that love comes in waves, and that honesty and forgiveness to lovers and friends in both worlds are not just good suggestions but are required components of love.

So, to look forward: I will continue to work on the FL/SL balance putting more emphasis on my FL to care for my family and work on my dissertation. I will continue to nurture my relationships and friendships in both worlds. And I will most of all do my best to care for myself physically, mentally, and spirituality.

Happy New Year my dear friends!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Friendship - by Kazzabee Runningbear

This post is from my dear Second Life friend, Kazzabee Runningbear, who has much to say on SL/RL friendships and requested a place to publish it.  For the record, I share her perspective, and in some cases, have bridged my SL friendships into RL.

I don’t have a blog but I do have an idea, so I’ve asked my friend Yamis if I can borrow her space. She is my friend and that’s what I want to talk about. Friendship. What is it?

Yamis lives in the good ol’ USofA and I’m a true blue died in the wool Aussie sheila, we met in SecondLife sometime in the last year. I’ve never stood in front of this lady but I consider her a very good friend. People tell me that’s an illusion. How can I be friends with someone I’ve never met. To them I say “phooey”.

How should I define my friends?

In my real life I have a variety of friends and each has a different level of importance to me. I have friends I have known for 30 years (let’s assume I met them in kindergarten ha ha). After such a long time these friendships don’t need a lot of maintenance, we’re always going to be friends. I have some new friends I’m still getting to know, they’re a bit more maintenance heavy, but it’s all new and exciting so it’s fun to do. There’s a range of people that fit inside those time brackets.

Some of my friends I see often, others I see rarely, some I talk with regularly in person or on the phone, others I haven’t spoken to for years. I have friends who live near me, friends who live far. One of my closest friends lives a 3 hour plane ride from me. My best friend lives a 2 hour drive from me, I see him 5 or 6 times a year when we meet for lunch, but we talk on the phone almost every day.

Those friends are people I met, in most cases, by being in the same physical place as them at the same time. Their priority in my life is not related to time, distance or regularity of contact.

I also have a vast range of cyber friends. Some people collect friends on facebook and myspace. Mine are from SecondLife. (Enter Yamis. J) Are these people less real to me. Absolutely not.

In SecondLife I have repeatedly heard or been told, RL and SL are separate, RL & SL don’t mix, SL friendships are not real friendships. Well to that I say poppycock (it’s a British saying).

In SecondLife as in Real Life my friends have a varying degree of importance to me. Some are special, some are fun, some are acquaintances, some are transitory, some are keepers. You see the thing is that behind the SecondLife avatar, the representative cartoon, is a real person. Just like me over on this side. If I make friends with that cartoon, and over time we share experiences, life details and develop trust, then I am building a real friendship. There is nothing artificial or superficial about it.

In SecondLife I have a friend who is: a doctor, a banker, an engineer, a postie, a philosopher, an alchemist, a financier, a horse breeder, an artist, a snake breeder, unemployed, a programmer, a lawyer, a teacher, an addict, a farmer, a childcare worker, a student, a professor, a landscaper, a nurse, a realtor, a carer, a swinger, a cantor, a musician ad infinitum. There are old people, young people, men, women and children (yes).

I have supported some of those people through major life events – relationship breakdown, reconciliation, divorce, job loss, death of a pet, terminal illness, loneliness, addiction, family issues, work issues, the list is almost as endless as the possibilities. And then there were SecondLife issues to deal with as well. Some of them have supported me back, one of them has become my career mentor.

I talk to a number of these people who I’ve never seen or touched for hours and hours each week. Others I see, irregularly or haven’t seen for months. To me they are my friends as much as any person in my so called real life.

There are people who may consider that their real life friends are more important - whether they are the ones they meet for coffee every third Thursday between 10 & 11.30 (if there wasn’t a full moon the night before and as long as the schedules don’t clash), or the person you used to go out drinking with when you were both young and you had lunch last February after you bumped into them in the shopping mall car park, or the work colleague, or the team mate - just because they have a physical presence.

To me my friends hold my heart and trust carefully and in return I treasure theirs, and that is true no matter where I met them or how we interact.

So you see if one more person says to me “SecondLife friendships aren’t real friendships, coz after all it is only a game”, then I think I will scream.

So that was my thought. Thankyou Yamis, my friend, for the space. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

I never had the nerve to make the final cut

Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I'm spiraling down to the hole in the ground where i hide.