This week has been one of the most uplifting, fascinating, and emotional ones of my Second Life. There’s so much swirling around in my thoughts, but I’ll try my best to let brevity reign. I just wish I could express how much it means to me that you’re taking a few moments to read my words. ♡
When I wrote about personality types the other day, the site 16Personalities.com was remembered to me as a wonderful place to get some insight into the facets lending themselves to the unique personality brew that makes us who we are. And in all the personality tests I’ve taken over the years, I have always been unpeeled and revealed as an INFP: Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. This summary encapsulates the type beautifully:
“INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. The risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type, but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.”
It was especially timely this week for me to remember and rediscover my INFP roots, as the wonderful Kess Crystal wrote a post on Thursday inviting her readers to find the feeling, pass it on. “[We] often appreciate people for their work in Second Life but so rarely find time to tell them,” Kess wrote. She encouraged people to IM those they follow, but may have never spoken to, on SL social media, and offer them sincere appreciation for their work and efforts. I thought this was such a lovely idea; maybe the loveliest idea I’d heard in a long time. But as I sat there in-world, my fingers dancing a slight tremble in their hovering pose above the keys, anxiety gripped me around the heart like a cold embrace. I couldn’t do it, and I knew exactly why.
“Buried deep as you can dig inside yourself,
And hidden in the public eye,
Such a stellar monument to loneliness …
And the grave that you refuse to leave,
The refuge that you’ve built to flee,
Is the place that you have come to fear the most …”
It’s difficult to write about your childhood troubles and traumas without sounding overwrought, and because so many of us had difficult times going up, it feels indulgent to delve into them too deeply; mine were no more important or deeply felt than anyone else’s, after all. But I can distill it down to growing up as a curious, idealistic girl who always looked for the good in others and the world, but still felt inescapably lonely. Both of my parents struggled with mental illness, and disappeared (emotionally or physically) for stretches of time. So I tried to be stoic as a lighthouse, while finding myself equally as solitary. Books were my refuge, fictional characters my friends. I was misunderstood emotionally and physically, looking older than my age (always taller and more “developed” than the other girls), and apart in appearances too: all red hair and freckles, with skin so pale it betrayed my every blush, much to my torturous schoolmates’ delight.
As I got older, I also discovered that love given freely can be twisted and abused, so trust became a barrier reserved for a modest few. Yet I still had hope, and a gullible naivete, that I wore like an onion skin armor; I felt like I was protecting myself, but it was really just an easily-permeable membrane that let the wrong ones in, time and again. And it brings me to the moment that leapt to the forefront of my mind when I was trying to send off those IMs Kess encouraged.
When I was 18 and fresh into my first semester of college, my home burned down. I blamed myself entirely (it was sparked by an untended candle in my bedroom), and it spun me into a vortex of depression and guilt. After a few weeks of desperate searching, we found a new home to rent, but it was far afield of the school I’d been attending. Getting there meant a 2-1/2 hour commute on foot and bus, but I was determined to keep attending. Even if it meant trudging the deserted, often snow-laden sidewalks of my Upstate NY town in the dusky pre-dawn morning, the inconvenience was a non-issue; I had earned it. I didn’t know how to atone for indirectly destroying our home, so every chilly footfall became a penance willingly paid. I didn’t know if my mom would ever forgive me. I didn’t know if I’d ever forgive myself.
Then one morning, as I stepped carefully through untrodden snowfall, a car drove up beside me. Two young men starting calling to me: “Hey pretty girl, what’s your name?” “Hey baby, need a ride somewhere?” I didn’t know what to do; I was alone and felt under siege, they were insistent and unrelenting. Finally, one of them held his mobile phone out of the window and waved it at me. “At least give me your number, baby?” I hesitated, then moved closer, thinking if I put my number into his phone, they’d go on their way. But as I approached, the phone-waver withdrew, quickly turned to his side, then hauled around and hit me full in the face … with a milkshake. Sticky milk filled my eyes and vanilla flavoring coated my lips, and they peeled off with triumphant yowls of laughter piercing the morning air. “Fuck you, ugly c*nt!” the milkshake bearer yelled as I stood in stunned silence.
I walked the mile or so back home, went down into the basement and stripped off my sodden clothes, then sat naked next to the washing machine and wept with bone-deep anguish. (I’m even tearing up as I type this; amazing to think this was more than 10 years ago now.) I just kept asking myself: Why do people do this? Why would someone lure you in with kindness, only to give you abuse? And what is wrong with me that I can’t see it coming?
When I offer my support to people on Flickr, I do it with such ardent, heartfelt appreciation that I sometimes worry and wonder if it ever comes across as feigned; like our wavering mirages here in the desert that seem real, but when you get up close, you discover it was just an illusion after all. But I mean every word I say, and it comes easily to me in comments, where there’s a “safety” in knowing that the other person feels no obligation to respond. In an Instant Message though, you never know what – if anything – you’ll receive on the other end. Might I be laughed at? Ignored? Will the other person feel undue pressure to say something pleasant in like kind? It’s amazing the thoughts and considerations that swirl around in our heads when we reach out to someone that first time.
But … I’m going to try. I have to try. Because SL is a place filled with unique, fascinating, thoughtful, creative, and often very like-minded souls, many of whom probably fall within the Introspective/Intuitive personality types themselves. Stephen Hawking said that “quiet people have the loudest minds”, and I think so many of us in Second Life are singing on the inside while we whisper our way through the world. And it doesn’t need to be that way.
So if you have very graciously and thoughtfully read all the way through this post (what was that thing I said about brevity again?), please take a moment to consider Kess’s wonderful idea and get in touch with someone in SL to let them know that you admire their designs, appreciate their photography, whatever it may be that sparks you. Because she so sweetly and compassionately reached out to me, I met my bestie/soul-sister/virtual-wifey (we haven’t quite worked out the ideal definition yet, much to our shared delight) in Chloë-Dakota. And there have been so many others with whom I have beautiful connections because of their thoughtful, caring gestures. So to those I’ve not yet had the bravery to send a message to … I’m coming for you. :) Perhaps more as a gentle wave than an avalanche, but still: you deserve the be appreciated for all that you do. People like you make Second Life the colorful, creative, amazing, and awe-inspiring place it has come to be. ♡
Pose & Inspiration
Pose // Sit 026 by !Bang Poses
Song Spark // Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most