I Grew Up Today

I grew up today.  I lost my innocence, and I don't think I like it much.

Playing SL ages you quickly... much too fast.  And, I had it good... not like the people who come into the game without a place to go to get their feet wet.  Brigadoon was already partly established when I came.  I wish I had been there at the onset to see it move from plain territory into the beautiful place that it is.  But, it was fine...peaceful...beautiful... water, hills, trees, a few houses, wonderful people to explore and become friends with/family.

My computer had a lot of lag.  So getting around was mighty hard.  I literally stumbled and fell and got stuck, A LOT... until my hubby got me a new video card.  Now it is better.  I learned how to fly and drop gracefully to the ground instead of falling from great heights and getting stuck to the ground (which requires re-logging).  Altho... the other day, I did fall off of a mountain and into a rabbit hole.. yes, a rabbit hole.  One of my buddies on another island has a rabbit avatar and lives in a hole in the ground, all strewn with the things he is working on. Neat.. but i had to call for a tp because I couldn't get out.  :D

I digress.  John took me on my first outing... to a workshop on building by Jamie Otis.  Jamie is a wonderful instructor but I have to admit I got little out of it other than how to make a prim.  Being a stroke survivor, my brain was having trouble grasping what was said and trying to use my view finder to focus.  I finally sat back and just listened.  Went back to Brigadoon and played with my new toy... the cube... the building block.  I built a dock.  Probably a hundred prims of .5m cubes.  And planted some flowers and put in a couple of chairs.... It was home.  I had a playpen.

But, playpens can only go so far... you want to stretch.. so I built a house among swaying trees... from scratch of course... using my buddy the cube.  It came all detached all the time.  Locking and linking just wasn't holding it together. Parts kept moving.  I was so frustrated.  I took it down... I knocked my blocks across the room so to speak.  I felt displaced.  I wanted to quit.  But, Coos saw my distress and came to my aid.  Calmed me down enough to go exploring.

I had tested this island once while looking for plants... I was a gatherer of plants and trees.  I went to wander through a game they had there and was talking to one of the the people there and they adopted me.  Now, I had a Brigadoon family, my core family, and an extended family.  Such wonderful things went on there.  I met people who made fireworks and waterfalls and sculptures and parts of games.  Best of all, they gave me a place to plant...a role...I was island gardener.  I have never been one for doing things without a purpose... this fit the bill!

I became totally immersed in this new society of wonder and pals and invention.  I made friends, created, was accepted (but on the fringe as always) and was having a wonderful teenage life.  I discovered and learned so much.  I developed what I thought was a relationship with the island owner and her sig other/fiance.  I got involved in group projects.

But, my life was cut short by a divorce.  The owner of the land quit because of RL issues and a serious disagreement with her SL fiance.  All of a sudden, no warning.  Disappeared..no contact..just a note on a forum saying she left.  Utter confusion, grief, everything imaginable. Then, the fiance announces his departure.  He was the orchestrator of the structure on the isle.  There was no stability, no structure, no way of finding out anything.  People started to talk of their experiences there, of where to go next.  But mostly, discussions of instability.  The next day, the owner announces (again out of the blue) that she is coming back.  Questions of whether she was really back, was coming back to sell the island, etc etc.  Too much flux.  Too many emotions.  No where to find answers.  No way back.  I was rapidly headed into late high school all within a week.

Yesterday, the day after the return announcement, were the meetings...very interesting meetings.  All of human nature was on display.  Some people couldn't take the emotion and used off-topic chatter or nonsensical inside jokes to deal.  Some people, who just hours before were talking about divorcing themselves from the situation, were playing extremely nice.  At first I couldn't quite figure it out.  How could it be that I felt the betrayal and loss so strongly and yet these people could turn around and start up as if nothing had happened.  Sure there were still questions, but nothing big.  One person did state his feelings of betrayal and broken trust and opted out and another expressed uncertainty but felt he had signed on for a job and had to follow through, but these were people in the hierarchy, not in the rank and file.  I was stunned.

Then I made the connection... the word "hidden agendas" came flashing across my eyes in bright flashing letters.  This is the only place in SL that I had come across that wasn't all chopped up, that worked together but left room for individuality, that supported each other with expertise and goods (not expecting payment), that had enough room for games and projects that could not be supported in other places.  Most of these people did not feel a need for a house to have a home.  The comeraderie and space was their home, their family.  If they did not opt back in, they would be homeless and lose their base... their stability.  (Dissonance theory revisited.)

I guess I am not that flexible.  A serious blow was taken.  I grew up.  The joy, the wonder, the exhileration is gone.  The suddenness of change and thoroughness turned me into an adult.  Until last night, I thought I could keep one foot in each world but now I realize I cannot.

Will I leave SL, no.  It still has regions to explore and so many things to do... Plus, even SL is going through growing changes.  Unfortunately, I think it is making adjustments that will create middle age.  I am not quite there yet.  I will explore jobs now... teaching, discussions, project creation.  But I truely mourn the loss of my all too short childhood.  I hope I can get some of the joy and wonder back but I fear that it will now be only for purpose, not for the exhileration of it.  We will see.

Posted by Jamison Read on January 22, 2005 at 08:43 AM in Jamison's posts | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

3 months into SL

Time for an update, I guess. In the last 2 months I have experienced the personal ups and downs of seeing projects succeed and fail; of relationships begun and ended; of wanting to be in SL and not; the changes in community; the changes in self; etc. that all of us experience in RL.

During a particularly frustrating time a week or so ago, I came to the realization that SL not only had a good side... in helping us to learn our creative sides, being able to explore new ways of doing things, meeting and relating to new people... it also had a negative side.

It brought into focus, in a concentrated form, my weaknesses.  I was faced with trying to deal with a situation (a communication/relationship situation) that I have had trouble with all my life.  I am a compromiser.  I found myself in a position that I felt was not compromiseable and not knowing how to make things "right," I was choosing to absent myself.  Well, sometimes that works in real life.  Often, you can avoid/sidestep the situations where you know from past behavior that will get you in trouble. I am not a quitter.  I have often stayed in bad situations in RL much longer than I should.  But, here, I had the chance to just opt out.  NO penalties... Right?

Wrong.  I really wanted to be in the environment I was in.  It was a good, creative, supportive place.  I had a role.  In rejecting that role, I lost a lot.  (Confused a few people too, I suspect.)  I thrashed around for a bit and realized that participation was more important than my feelings about what was going on.  So, then, I thrashed somemore.  Twice now, I have wanted to quit but my new found friends would listen and give me thoughts for direction (even if they didn't know it at the time).  The light bulb went off.  Why not break out of the role I had put myself in?  There is no penalty.  I don't have to worry about a job being affected by it or a RL relationship.  I can be who I choose to be.  And, I can choose to be a better me.

So, I petitioned my role back and received it.  (Thank heavens!)  Made some apolgies and have set out to explore this new way of dealing with that type of situation.  Maybe it will work... maybe not.  But, I do know that a difference has been made however subtlely (sp).  It has energized me to take a few more risks.

New topic:  I can't wait for the teen version of the game.  I am going to sign my son up as soon as I can.  I think he will benefit and will also see if it will help him decide if he truely wants to explore some aspect of gaming as a career (beyond playing them).  I love Brigadoon but I think he needs a place that he can explore without ol' mom around.  Now that I have had experience with the "game," it will be easier helping him to get started.  Then, it will be up to him to take off.  It may not turn out to be his cup of tea but at least it opens a door.

Brigadoon:  Thanks everyone for your support, your openness.

Posted by Jamison Read on January 21, 2005 at 08:00 AM in Jamison's posts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

1 month into SL

Besides piles of RL work sitting undone as I create a second life....

I'm not sure how to start this. I have been composing it in my head for the last couple of days. I am not sure that the thoughts are going to reach the page, but...

I requested admission to Brigadoon primarily on behalf of my son. He has AS. I wanted to see what the program was before I asked for admission for him. I also wanted to come to know others with AS in order to better help him. I know life is a going to be more of a challenge for him than some people without AS and I hoped to gain some insight into what I can do to better prepare him for adulthood.

After I got to Brigadoon, I formed a third goal: investigating it as an option for stroke survivors. I am a multiple stroke survivor and also have been active on the MGH/Hasty site since 1995. One of the biggest sorrows that rings throughout each person (strokee or caregiver) is the loss of Life as they knew it. I thought it might be a possibility for creating a Second Life for those who have lost their ability to motate or verbalize but not their ability to create and have a life. While I am still considering this goal, I know how difficult it was to get even the most verbal and able communicators to be able to use the chat feature at MGH/Hasty so, while it is ever in my mind, I haven't gone much further with it. (Anyone into helping me write a grant to try it?)

In terms of the first two goals...I have had a lot of success. My son wants to go into "gaming." He is usually focussed on action games rather than creating games and has not been really keen on joining SL. However, as I have learned more about scripting, building, animations, etc. (and I admit I am still very largely a newbie), I can look at commercials on tv and his games and it is all starting to make sense. I have been talking to him about the connection between SL and the things he likes to do and I think he may want to sign up. Therefore, this will be a bridge between what he likes to do and seeing if it might fit into a career choice for him down the road. (BTW, should he ever join, I'd like to delete this post.)

I have learned more about the challenges that people with AS face... the commonalities and the differences. I don't feel like an outsider altho some may view me as such. That's the nice thing about SL and this site, it strips people of external things and lets them be who they are. My fellow community members on Brigadoon are family to me.

Brigadoon offers a safe place to refuel and create. I have missed being creative in my post-stroke life. My son does not feel that he is creative. Yet, there are so many tools available through SL to tap into pretty much any area and to allow exploration. I have learned SO much. It is a quiet place or a place to converse or a place to try out new things. It is very beneficial to have a smaller place without non-community members and in discussions with others of the Brigadoon group, it sounds as if people who have off-Brigadoon sites appreciate Brigadoon as a safe place.

Not that it doesn't have its ups and downs. After all, we are all different people with little knowledge of each other. But, it is easier to practice new communication/socialization strategies there. For example, as I've told my compatriots... I am working to separate each individual and value them for themselves. It is so easy in RL to be pulled into one faction or another, to ally with one person's thoughts or another person's actions. I am working really hard to not do that. To see each person for themselves...to understand the person outside the AS and what part the AS may have in what each of us says and does. (BTW, my husband says I am more AS than my son. It is possible with my family history but since my son is adopted, his AS is not inherited from me.) Anyway, I am making headway in changing my communication patterns... both within SL and outside of SL.

Using the typing method of communication is difficult. It takes longer than speech. But, the "History" does allow you to go back and sort out information that you may have lost when many people are talking. I can see where people who have more difficulty in typing may get frustrated. I think all of us have given up proper punctuation and spelling when the need to put an idea across is more important. And, in a way that is a plus. You, again, get to the core of the communication without making judgements about the person based on preconceptions of what a person is/is not from their writing skills.

Life outside of Brigadoon is a real opportunity as well. Some of the groups of people who hang out there are... well, let's say different from any I would encounter in my RL. Again, stereotypes can be broken down. There are a lot of helpful nice people out there with ideas different than mine who are willing to work on common projects.

The socialization factor seems to be the biggest burden in AS... from what I have seen in my son, other children in the school where I volunteer, adults I have met in my community, and the people here. It is not a unidimensional problem but it seems to me that there are recurrent threads of areas of difficulty. Brigadoon (and SL) offers a way to work through some ideas on how to deal with the lack of structure/control, miscommunication and trying to figure out what is really being said, and the isolation that life in RL can create because we just plain don't "fit." (Actually, I don't think anyone really feels like they fit. I was talking to someone at a class reunion that was a leader of the "in" crowd and she said she always felt like a misfit.)

We can support each other in exploring other ways of dealing with situations if we trust each other enough to ask for help instead of automatically accepting defeat and returning to our typical patterns of behavior. I see this positive interaction frequently in Brigadoon. It is there for the taking.

xxxx's earlier post was a good one. However, it was fraught with uncertainty (my perception) because she was putting her thoughts out there for the rest to see and not knowing if she would be adversely judged by her words. I can relate. This is hard. I am not one to open up my thoughts for group public consumption. It is threatening. Two months ago, I wouldn't have written this post. I will trust that if anyone has questions or comments that they will come to me with their thoughts so we can agree or agree to disagree.

This post has taken a completely different tack than I was intending. I hope I am not too far off the track from what you wanted/needed, John. I guess my opinion of SL and Brigadoon is that it opens up so many opportunities for learning and being creative and finding/expanding talents in yourself that you may have not otherwise discovered. You have the opportunity to meet many people with very diverse backgrounds with a common goal: Creating something...whether it is an object or a thought process or a comaraderie (sp?). You can erase mistakes with no residual. You can create a garden with no weeds. You can explore or you can retreat. It is all there. Brigadoon provides the added safety and quietness to individualize and become a part of a SMALL group.

It has been good for me and I think that soon, it may be a good for my son. He is opening his mind to the possibilities it offers. It is nice to see.

Posted by Jamison Read on January 21, 2005 at 07:58 AM in Jamison's posts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SL and Dissonance Theory

These last few days in SL have been REALLY rough.  It doesn't make me want to quit but does make me wonder if I can hold up.

Those of us who make emotional ties with the community in which we live and work on SL make them with deep commitment (sp).  We care about the people who impact on us.  We make friends... albeit SL friends.  The problem is, those SL friends can just be gone in a second.  Whereas, in RL, we usually have some warning or a way to track them down for explanations or to make apologies or what have you.  On SL, it is now you see them and are a part of things and then, whap! you are not.

Outside of Brigadoon, which is my "home" in all senses of the word, I was spending A LOT of time on another sim.  They welcomed me in and gave me a role to play.  So important to me, as a person, as a stroke survivor.  A role tailored to myself... not as a mom or a wife.  It was a stretch to accomplish my goals but I was making progress.  Over the holidays, I lost one of my best friends to RL.  A couple of days ago, the owner of the island decided to ditch us and then the other leader abdicated last night.  No warning for us who depend on the comraderie or support that has grown there.  They had their reasons.  Of course there is turmoil.  But, it goes beyond the what are we going to do stage.  It goes to the very heart of each one of us who were invested in the place.  We had emotional investment in each other and the projects we were accomplishing.  All of a sudden... all the stability, our work, our relationships are gone.  Because, you see, on SL... everyone can pick up and leave at a moments notice.  You put things in your inventory... change ownership of land.. whatever, and poof... all gone.

So, what does this have to do with dissonance theory, you say.  I was thinking about how sad, frustrated, displaced I feel this morning and then I started thinking about an old interest:  Dissonance Theory.  Basically, that has to do with the need to keep stability in your life (homeostasis).  The Theory applies to people in many ways but emotionally, I guess, it is the tendency to want to be content (homeostasis).  If you are on a "high," eventually you do something to bring you back to center.  If you are on a "low," you do something to become more centered.  Your body can only take so much dissonance before it makes changes to bring you back whether or not you intellectually recognize it or make the move.  Over the last couple of days, working in SL has been making me feel sick.  All of the hurt feelings and anger running around.  Losing something again and again that I am invested in.  Thinking I have a niche and then finding it disrupted by something out of my contol... sometimes it seems like it is on a daily (hourly) basis.  I know I am not the only one in this position.  Having too many things come together at once.

I can't afford to get sick.  My RL depends on it.  So, the dissonance needs to be reduced.  I could leave SL but I have projects here that other people depend upon me for... plus, I really don't want to.  I will have to find a way.

But, back to Dissonance Theory.  I am a multiple stroke survivor.  I have a son with Asperger Syndrome.  I may have a tinge, too.  Both groups seem to react highly to positive and negative dissonance.  With Aspergers, there seems to be a high need for control, for keeping things in place, to be able to plan for things and not have them change rapidly (and in some cases, at all).  With stroke, too much is in flux all the time and we can't depend on our bodies or our minds with the consistency that  others do.  Many of us have lost our "roles" in life, the things that used to bring us pleasure and stability may not even be within our grasp.  I used to love to do research and to teach.  Now, I can not work.  So, the place I find here.. that can use my residual abilities... is oh so important. 

There is no stability in SL.  Land is there and is not.  People are there and then they are not.  Places are there and then missing.  The trick is going to be finding a way to make this instability tolerable.  Will it be through deadening myself to the demands of the game?  I hope not.  I hope it provides the challenge that will keep me evolving into a more diverse person.  We will see. 

Posted by Jamison Read on January 20, 2005 at 08:30 AM in Jamison's posts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jamison Read's Journal-Introduction

I am going to use this as a journal... with the first entry an introduction and the journal in the comments section.  Hope that works. (The 2 subsequent pieces were moved to separate entries 1/21/05)

My name is Jamison Read.  Not the same name I use in SL but some of you may recognize me by the things I say.  I have a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder/Aspergery Syndrome (AS). 

When I first joined BrainTalk (it was called something else at the time) in 1995 or 1996, it was a time of great turmoil for myself and my son.  He was having serious neurological issues (non-AS) and I was at the beginning of my stroke career. I can not tell you how much BrainTalk has meant to me.  I credit it with saving both of us.  The support and information we got there was invaluable... and continues to be invaluable all these years later.  Besides the support/information it gave us, it gave me a purpose when I had no other.  So, when John put out the call for people to be involved in the Brigadoon Project, I jumped at it.  Mostly, I wanted to see if it would be appropriate for my son but have found it to be immensely helpful for myself as well.  (Besides, according to my husband, I am more AS than my son... LOL)

John was looking for information on how SL impacted the members of Brigadoon.  I wrote the following entry a month after my arrival in-game.

Posted by Jamison Read on January 15, 2005 at 10:07 AM in Jamison's posts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack