There are two kinds of people on Second Life. Those who play it as a game, and those who use it as a Second Life. It’s a point that is often covered in nuance really, but the effects are profound. Second Life is an escape from RL, where they can be who or what they want to be, however for some, there is no difference from who they are in the real world. The person behind the keyboard is the same person as you meet in world, while others are less pleasant, seeing their avatar as anonymous and when they press the X Button in the top right, they return to who they are.
I tend not to get on with those that think SL is a game, because my experiences over the years has taught me that Second Life is a real thing, as real as the keyboard I am typing on, with real people and real feelings.
A few weeks back, I was tired, and elated. I had just been finishing up the last pieces of the sim reworking project. It was just past midnight and I had been forcing myself to get this job done, having worked for over 14 hours straight on the project.
Juggz came on, and said something to me that just stopped me in my tracks and left me sitting there stunned, shocked and with an awful feeling of heartbreak.
Roughly 4 years ago, I had a new company come to rent with me in the mall, and I got to know the owners a little, however I learnt the creator of the products was a different person who was quiet and had brilliant mind. I got to know her, and I instantly clicked with her. She was funny, naughty, sarcastic and was very typically british.
Over some months of on and off talking about business and design, I grew to have a deep affection for her, and when she said she was struggling to find somewhere quiet she could build without interruptions from her friends, I offered her a spot in my lab which she happily took.
At first I took my usual role for a young and obviously very talented designer. That of a mentor, however while there were certain areas she struggled with, I soon learnt that she was more of an equal to me, who occasionally needed to bounce ideas off me and I found myself learning from her.
And for me, it was a happy time, having someone with a thirst to learn in my lab, whos presence just lit the room up and she made you laugh.
She was always very frank and open, and shared pieces of her Real Life with me, however one day in the lab she was quiet and I knew something wasn’t right.
It was at that point she told me about her long struggle with cancer.
When I first met her she was in remission, and confident it was being fought effectively, however she had just learnt it was back.
From there, she started coming on the grid less and less, and then one day, she disappeared.
A year later she did pop on to say hi, however it was a passing visit and I didn’t get to talk to her properly. After that, I didn’t see her again.
That was near enough 2 years ago but she remained in my thoughts.
Earlier this year, while cleaning up my sim lists, I stumbled across someone in the access to my home sim I had forgotten about. While she was working with me, she had a fellow builder and friend pop through, and I had added her to the sim list.
She was always in my thoughts in one way or another, so I thought I would check in with her friend to see how she was. I had been watching for signs of her both here and on her Deviant Art account which we followed each other on and on her DA account it was the same as Second Life. She hadn’t logged in for two years, so obviously it was worrying me.
In short, she was still fighting, and was happy to hear from me as her friend talked to her over Skype and I was relieved and pleased she was okay. I have kept in touch with her friend since then.
Which brings me back to 2 weeks ago, sitting here staring at the computer just feeling like I had been knocked for a six.
Juggz had just told me she passed away, at the time of me writing this roughly a month ago.
Last night, I went to a Celebration of her life on Second Life. I knew her through her work, and her thirst to learn and I knew about what she was involved with on Second Life and the celebration was being held by those people she spend not only her work time with, but her free time and for many years more than I knew her.
The room was full and for two hours I stood and listened to so many precious memories of her, her infectious wit and humour, her brilliant and quirky mind, her perchance for misbehaving, and the generosity and kindness she gave without question.
And I heard this from people who loved her dearly.
I didn’t say anything. I was amongst her dearest friends who all knew her for so long, and her was I, and outsider to this community who never had the real opportunity to know her as long as they had.
And what could I possibly say that they didn’t already know of her.
There was another reason though I didn’t say anything.
I was angry.
In my life, I meet a lot of highly creative people. Some have been trained to be creative, some see their creativity as just doing a job, and other think they are creative as they stand on the shoulders of others.
But there are wonderful and very rare moments you meet someone who is a natural.
They exude talent and skill through their skin, and they have this thirst to learn more.
In think in my many years I can count on one hand the number of people I have stumbled across who were so gifted.
What broke my heart the most was she was barely in her mid 20’s. This person so full of life and creativity and passion, now gone.
She enriched everyone she met and made the world a better place to be in, and now the world feels colder and more empty with only memories to hold on to.
And thats why I am angry. She was taken before she could ever realise her full potential.
And I certainly didn’t want my anger to taint those wonderful people who knew and loved her.
So I will simply say this.
I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there was one, the idea of you causing chaos and joy to everyone you meet there does comfort me.
It was too short a season for you, but it was wonderful.
Goodbye dear friend.