Interview: Aaron and the happiness quest

My dear readers,

you surely remember of my friend Aaron. A few months ago, he took the decision to leave SecondLife, he was pretty serious about it and I, and a few of his friends, were feeling sad about his decision, but respectful of it. You could read what I wrote then in “Aaron left SecondLife”.

A few days before I left for the summer, I got an IM from guess who? Yes, Aaron himself. He was back from the second time in SecondLife … does it make it his third or fourth life? Well honestly I have no idea nor do I care. He is back. Of course we met, briefly but we met again and it felt wonderful again, he was back. A few days later he asked me if I would be interested to interview him on the reasons of his unexpected return to the second metaverse. I definitely accepted for two reasons:
1. I was indeed curious to understand his reasons
2. I thought it would be a good post with a lot of tips to make the best of SecondLife and avoid its traps. After all I do not know anybody more experienced than Aaron in come-backs!

I let him choose the place and one day later we triggered this interview at the Rose Theatre.

****

“Aaron, let’s start with the beginning: how did you discover SecondLife, when was it and what triggered the desire to create an avatar?”

“I joined SL in April or May of 2015. I had heard rumours of its existence for years, but had always dismissed it as a haven for introverts and miscreants for some reason”. He chuckled at his own joke. “However, I discovered Caroline Resident’s Second Life Adventures blog and became interested very quickly. I wanted to explore these virtual worlds and see what fun I could have”.

“So in a sense this is Caroline who is the trigger. Caroline’s site had two main drivers at the time: Sailing and Sex. You were expecting to experience sailing?” (I winked at him)

He laughed and blushed slightly. “I admit, sailing was not the main attraction. I was fascinated by the erotic possibilities, of course. However, the biggest selling point of her blog is her very detailed sections about how to make a good-looking avatar. She really helped me to quickly look like I wasn’t a ‘newbie’.’ I will say, however, that I do have a fondness for sailing, thanks to reading about Caroline’s adventures on the sea.”

“So I understand Aaron is the sole avatar you created then?”

He nodded. “My one and only. I’ve gone through three major revisions of my avi, and thanks to the recent flood of Bento options I think I’ve settled on a look I’m happy with. My next planned upgrade is Bento hands, if a compatible model becomes available.”

“So we know that you decided to take a break of SecondLife twice. We are going to talk about this first period after you created your first avatar and until you decided to have this first break. Tell me how it was your first times, was SecondLife welcoming?”

He rubbed his chin. “Well, at first I was a bit of a hedonist. It was all new and I wanted to experience as much as I could. Being who I am, that meant visiting sex sims, mostly. I searched for adult sims, had lots of sex, paid lots of strippers and escorts, and shopped for good looking clothes (not the best at the time; I wasn’t well-versed in the difference between sculpted and mesh). I was a monthly subscriber to SL at first, and so had one of the little Linden Homes.”

“So were you satisfied? Did you find what you were looking for?”

“It was exciting to be sure, and I was having fun, but I didn’t have a goal or direction. I was just out there, sowing my seeds, as it were. I made some friends and even tried getting a job. I approached Caroline Resident and was hired as an advertising salesman for her blog, which is where I met you of course.”

“Yes I remember. What were your best moments you remember of that period? What were the worsts?”

“The best time was when I was working for Caroline. I had a job, I had direction, I met some interesting sim owners, and I met you (one of my oldest and best SL friends). I made a few sales commissions and moved out of my little Linden Home and into a rather nice seaside house (though not on the mainland). I made more friends and upgraded my avi to full mesh. I started exploring sailing, bought a handful of boats, and discovered how beautiful the sea can be.”

“However, that was followed by a low point for me. In RL I have…well not full clinical depression, but stronger than just mood swings. It comes and goes, and hasn’t improved since my RL divorce in 2007. I was struck with a particularly hard depression and decided that I needed to cut SL out of my life for a while to sort myself out.”

“And this closed that first period of SL. You would say it was mainly because of your RL that you had to end your SL at that time … or was it because as well you were not fully satisfied with your SL? Or maybe it was taking too much time? Something else?”

“I’d say a bit of both. I needed to take care of myself in RL and SL was taking too much time and money. I think you’ll see that I have a hard time learning from my mistakes, as this happened again, resulting in my second break. But we’ll come to that. I let my SL relationships crowd out my RL relationships. I needed to take a step away and rediscover myself.”

“How long was that break? What is it that made you decide to come back?”

“It was a few months, I forget how long exactly. I returned because I got to a point where I felt happier in RL and I started to miss my SL friends. I didn’t realize until I was away for a while that my SL friends are more important to me than I knew. So, I returned and re-connected with people. Caroline invited me to her new home (at that time) in the Saratoga Springs community and I rented a home there.”

“Did you define new rules based on the previous experience?”

He smiled and chuckled. “No, but I calmed down. I cut down the number of adult sims I visited and focused on furnishing my house and making the final upgrade to my avi. I enjoyed making a ‘home’ for myself, but as I rarely had visitors it ended up feeling big and empty most of the time.”

“Ok second period …. what brought you satisfaction then? What on the contrary was upsetting or frustrating?”

“Most satisfying were the new sims I discovered and people I met. I found some new friends. But, once again, I found myself sinking into self-pity, as the relationships I had in SL were making feel more lonely in RL. Obviously I wasn’t handling things well. So, in a fit of unnecessary drama, I declared that I was going to quit SL ‘for good.'”

“I remember that very well … so this time you were decided to never come back … and still we are discussing about your return today. What happened?”

“He took a deep breath and let it out. “As you know, I was gone this time for about four months. I was determined not to return. I did not cut SL totally out of my life, however, as I still wanted to keep up with your blog and Caroline’s, and a few choice photographers on Flickr. I was feeling good about my decision, until I read your blog post about my leaving and how sad it made you.”

“He laughed lightly. “Now, I’m not blaming you! It was a really sweet post and it ended on a positive note with you hoping that I was taking care of myself. A lot of your readers reacted to it, some with their own experiences with gaining and losing friends in SL. It struck me then that I had done something wrong.”

“I hadn’t realized that what I had done was, actually, pretty rude and uncaring of the friends who may have missed me. Friendship works both ways, of course, and I had been very selfish in just pulling up stakes and leaving so abruptly.”

“So, I took a look at where I was in RL and what I wanted from SL, and decided to return with self-imposed rules so that I won’t, hopefully, repeat past mistakes, and also get more out of my SL experience.”

“First you have to know I expressed probably what a lot of your friends were feeling. I am pretty confident I was not alone feeling sad. But we were all respectful of the decision because your health was at stake and we would not compromise that in any manner. Now, I want to hear about those rules if you are ready to expose them.”

“Of course. My first rule is, Second Life is not Sex Life. I am not here just to fuck anything that moves anymore.” He laughed and smirked. “Sex without connection is ultimately empty and gives me no satisfaction. I want to have more conversations with my friends and meet new people without the goal of fucking them. I will cherish my friendships, and some of them will, of course, remain lovers.” He smiled at me and I smiled back.

My second rule is, no long-term expenses! I will no longer have property or rentals. A big part of my dissatisfaction with SL in the past was that I was spending a lot of money for no real purpose other than surrounding myself with things. Furnishing and keeping a rental house gets expensive! So, watching my spending is very important. I have more in my inventory than I will ever need again, so other than a few future avi upgrades, I have put strict limits on my purchases from now on.”

“My third rule is, explore more. I want to discover more interesting sims and artwork in SL. People can be so creative, from small-scale pieces of sculpture to massive sims, and I don’t want to just while away my time in the few sims I frequent. So, I will search the SL Destination Guide and take suggestions from people I meet for new places to explore.”

“And finally, and most importantly, my fourth rule is, if I need to take a break (and I suspect I will at some point), it’s all right to do so with no feelings of guilt or abandonment, and my friends can be assured that I will return when I am ready. I don’t want to leave for such a long time again. 🙂 whew, long answers I know!”

“Well that makes sense you had a long explanation to provide. In your opinion we should all do breaks?”

“I don’t like to assume that what works for one person should work for everyone. We’re all different, of course! You (and I use the universal ‘you’ here) should find a happy balance between SL and RL, though, whatever that ratio may be for you. Some people really immerse themselves in it, and others pop in occasionally when they feel like it, or when their schedules allow it. I do think, however, that in general taking short or long breaks can help you recover perspective on what is important in your life.”

“When I joined SL nearly two and a half years ago, I thought it was going to be just whimsical fun and games all the time. I didn’t expect that I would make friendships that would bleed into my real life. I think that the breaks I took helped me realize that SL is part of my life now, and I should be respectful of myself and others just as I am in RL.”

“Well that’s a good conclusion I think.”

“Thank you for interviewing me, Cathy. I enjoyed getting my thoughts out, and I’ll be interested to know what your readers think. And finally, thank you for being such a wonderful friend to me.”

“Well …. I am glad I am your friend and a bit sorry if I made you feel you had to come back… still I am glad you’re back.”

He reached out to gently squeeze my hand. “Please don’t feel bad. It was my decision, and you helped me. I’m glad I’m back, too.”

****

We parted with a shake of hands. I feel Aaron’s philosophy is full of common sense and I could apply some of his principles to my own SecondLife too … though I won’t tell you which ones ;-). I hope you found the Aaron’s experience interesting and I am now curious about you my dear readers. Did you experience comebacks? Did you loose some friends? Do you think Aaron’s tips could apply in your SecondLife? Would you share some of your own tips?

Big kiss to all of you.
Cathy

2 thoughts on “Interview: Aaron and the happiness quest

  1. I think Aaron has some sensible points there, the most important one being the fixed boundaries for spendings. There is nothing wrong with owning or renting, or madly increasing your inventory size, as long as it happens in sane proportions.
    I wouldn’t say that he acted selfish though, like he sees his action. Having parted completely myself just like he did, I can relate to that very well indeed. SL has a very strong lure, and when you get completely lost in it that is the only solution. As saddening as this experience might be, true friends will understand that.

    But enough of that … it is such great news, that a remarkable person of the community is back, enriching the experience of others.
    Maybe you should introduce him to a secret society … you know which I speak of *mischievous smile*

  2. Hi

    I wasn’t aware I had such a big impact on peoples Second Life.
    In fact, I did not even know that my writings brought Aaron to Second Life to start with.

    Maybe I should be a bit more considerate than I am.

    Aaron was and simply is a good friend. And yes, when somebody needs a break , for whatever reason, I would not feel bad about it, nore would I want that person to feel guilty about it. RL always comes first…always.

    @Aaron

    Good to see you back , my friend. When you need a break again, you do not have to justify it, nore do you have to feel bad about it. Come back whenever you feel like it.

    We will be here. 🙂

    Carol

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