For years now I’ve had a rich and fulfilling second life. In it I’m younger, thinner, sexier, more outgoing, and more well-known than I am in my everyday life. It’s quite intoxicating, actually. This is me, standing in front of one of my fractals with a fractal necklace around my neck:
I discovered the virtual world of Second Life at a time when I was feeling very alone and unfulfilled and in need of positive and intelligent human interaction– something I was sorely lacking in my first life. Oh, who am I kidding? I hated my life. I desperately needed a change, but I had no idea how to get out of my miserable situation. To make matters worse, I was working the graveyard shift at a one person drawbridge, and when the rest of the city is asleep, you often feel like you’re the only person alive on the planet. It can be very isolating.
Then one day in 2007 I was watching an episode of CSI New York and they were discussing Second Life, and I decided to give it a try. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s when my life changed entirely. Isn’t it funny how something you think of as a random choice turns out to be the thing that completely changes your path in life?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that Second Life is just another one of those online gaming worlds, like War of the Worlds. While you can play games within Second Life if you so desire, that’s just a very small part of that world. Second Life isn’t a game that you play. It’s a community that you become a part of. In there, you can go places, do things and meet people that you’d never have the opportunity to meet in your everyday life. Always wanted to go to Paris? Go there and climb the Eiffel Tower. Love live music? On any given night there are dozens of performers there, and many of them are amazing. Like to dance? Go to a club. Get to know the DJs who play the music you like. Into Philosophy? There are places where you can have philosophical debates with some of the most intelligent people you’ll ever meet. The art galleries in Second Life are amazing. Dress up in your formal best and go ballroom dancing. You can also swim with whales, parasail, explore castles, wander through botanical gardens, shop for clothes, design your dream house or build anything you can imagine. Take a class. You can also ride horses and even fly! More and more businesses have a presence in there. It’s a great way to have a staff meeting when everyone is not centrally located. A lot of universities also have a presence in Second Life. You can even attend the church of your choice, or join a support group.
It’s also a wonderful place to transcend your first life limitations. Someone who is wheelchair bound can go in and dance. Agoraphobics can explore the wider world. The deaf can communicate with the wider community without being stigmatized. The home bound can attend church or hike in the woods. If you live in a land locked country, you can go to the beach. If you are relatively poor, you can own waterfront property. The only limit is your imagination.
Yes, Second Life does have a dark side. That’s why I don’t recommend it for teenagers, although they are allowed to enter. There are plenty of people in there who will take advantage of you. There are predators who will identify your weaknesses and exploit them. There are mentally ill people who would be better off seeking help elsewhere. When I see women in there who are offering themselves up as sex slaves, it sickens me. Slavery exists in the world. It’s not a game. And it’s quite possible to get tangled up in an emotionally abusive relationship. I’ve seen it happen all too often. You can even be stalked in Second Life. I’ve experienced that myself. That’s why it’s very important not to reveal your true identity to anyone unless you’ve known them for a long, long time, perhaps even years. There are orgy rooms and strip clubs. If you’re into that sort of thing, fine. I am not here to pass judgment. But I will always maintain that the odds of encountering people who do not have your best interests at heart in those places are much, much higher. My watchword in Second Life has always been respect. If people do not treat you with respect, they are not worthy of your company or your time.
After a while, you begin to get a very strong sense of the people behind the avatars. It’s very important not to forget that there ARE real people there, who have feelings and histories and motives. You learn who your friends are. I have made some amazing friends from all over the world in there. I’ve also encountered true evil. The longer you are in that world, the quicker you can suss that out. Some people go in there thinking that they’ll be able to lie, but in truth, Second Life exposes you in ways you can never imagine. You don’t have your body language or your possessions or your appearance or your social status to hide behind. Everyone is on an equal playing field. Everyone is attractive and healthy and can own whatever they want in there. So the thing that sets you apart is…you. You can try to be someone else, but that façade tends to crumble quite rapidly unless you’re the world’s most heartless sociopath. Sadly there are more than a few of those wandering around. Mostly, though, I’ve found that the vast majority of the people in there are good but lonely people who lead lives of quiet desperation and are seeking an outlet.
I first went in to Second Life because I was lonesome, and I have found good friends. I also was there because I felt unloved, and indeed, I found the love of my life in there. To this day I am convinced that he is my soul mate, but to my everlasting regret, some relationships cannot or will not make the transition into real life. But I will never regret learning that I was capable of loving again. Another thing I found in there was self-confidence. I learned that I have artistic talent that I never had the courage to pursue before. In fact, I now have an artistic presence in there, and quite a few people collect my art. So much so, in fact, that I now sell my art in the real world in the form of calendars, mugs, posters, puzzles, ornaments and greeting cards. I have over 1300 products available. Check them out here: www.zazzle.com/serenity_questi .
Discovering that I could be successful in Second Life gave me the courage to try for success in my first life. And indeed, I’ve made a great many changes. I’ve still not reached the heights I have in the virtual world, but now I know that I can love and laugh and make friends and be artistic, and because of that, I have hope. I’m rarely in Second Life anymore, ironically. Because of the many gifts it has given me, my first life is now so busy I don’t have time! But I know that many of the friends I’ve made in there will be friends for life—this life.
If you wish to try second life, got to www.secondlife.com and sign up. Once you’re in the world, here are some things I recommend: