A New World Notes guest post by Night Flower
I once created a Second Life avatar named Night Flower, but in 2008, gave her up. I left Night to save my marriage, my family, maybe even my own soul. I left Night knowing that unless I could claim in earnest the kind of life I'd only been living vicariously through her, I could never come back.
For me, never lasted 17 months.
Two weeks ago, I found myself staring at the familiar Second Life login screen, my fingers tingling above the keys. I knew that long-time Residents commonly feel compelled to take extended breaks from the virtual world. But after all this time, and all the grief Night caused my real life, why would I return?
As that question burned within me, I keyed in the familiar name and password and watched the world take shape. At its center was a sleek figure, cast in featureless gray. Night's silver silhouette instantly triggered a wave of nostalgia. As a beautiful cartoon in a virtual world, I'd found passion, love, and a level of personal achievement I'd never known before. In her, as her, I was sexy, confident, and strong.
But in the real world, I was none of those things. My marriage was cold, my husband distant. We had long been caught in the separating drift that so often happens after years of marriage, before I tore the gulf immeasurably wider by living a secret double life. He didn't understand Second Life, didn't think it was healthy, so I proved him right by hiding it altogether. For nine months, my mind and heart were wrapped up in an existence he knew nothing about. Our sex life dried up as I spent my passion on virtual love. Our friendship withered as I shared my soul exclusively with other avatars.
He finally came to me in tears. "I'm losing you," he told me, with an edge of fear in his voice I'd never heard before.
He was right, but he wasn't alone. My kids had lost me. My job had lost me. I had lost myself. The better half of me was purely a fiction. The real me, the flesh-and-blood me, was no more solid than the cloud of smoke that always preceded Night's arrival in-world.
I shivered at the memory of the pain as I sat waiting for the world to load. Had I been away long enough? I'd been gone nearly a year and a half, and if time in Second Life feels more like dog years, I'd been absent almost a decade.
But I didn't need to measure by dog years to know my break had been substantial. I could measure by the strength of my marriage, which healed with surprising speed when I returned to it with a passion that shocked both my husband and I. I could measure by the unforeseen joy I found in meals cooked, laundry done, and stories read out loud to little faces that seemed to glow more brightly every time I kissed them. I could measure by the unexpected traffic on my real world blog, where I truly claimed for my own the voice I'd first discovered in the virtual world. But perhaps most perplexing, I thought I could measure by the force of my own personality. For the first time in my life, I felt sexy, confident, and strong.
So why come back at all?
Finally, the last of the textures and prims snapped into place, painting Night's form with vivid detail. For the the longest time, I just stared at her. It was a while before I realized that I was grinning. And then I knew.
I had come back for her. For Night.
Second Life didn't throw my world into turmoil. My life was a mess long before I typed "Night" in the name selection box and clicked CREATE AVATAR. But I now realize that it is the strength I found in her, as her, that allowed me to find and claim myself in the real world. With the passion I found as Night, I re-lit the fire in my marriage. With the confidence I found as Night, I took my writing into the real world. Night began as a way to numb an aching void within me, but ultimately became the strength to fill that void with a life that I can only describe as REAL.
And now, I miss her. Not as my escape hatch, or my better half, or even my alter ego. I miss her the way you miss a friend who holds you and heals you and makes you a better person than you could ever be on your own. The rational part of me knows how crazy that sounds. The wiser, truer part of me takes Night's hand, and settles in to reminisce about old times, wrapped in the warm glow of a virtual sunset.
After the best 17 months of my life, I come back to the one who threw me headlong into them. And it feels like coming home.
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About the author
Unwilling to endure the tech nightmare of setting up yet another blog, Night Flower now lives as an itinerant writer. Look for her to pop up in unexpected places, sharing her musings on loving, living, and the joys of watching virtual turtles gettin' busy. You can track Night's exploits on Twitter @ nightflowerSL.