I remember the first time I tried to do social VR. The most popular app at the time was VRTalk. Colorful and exciting videos of streamers meeting and chatting with strangers across the VR-verse flooded by MeTube inbox, and after perusing a couple of these enticing videos, I committed. It was time to get friendly, something I had been awful at as a lifetime skill. After downloading the app on my Retina Journey, walking through the movement tutorial, picking a short and adorable (dare I say, kawaii?) avatar to masqureada as, and joining the starter world… I was wholly overwhelmed and unimpressed. I remember a tall hotdog approaching me, demanding that I speak. I was taken aback, confused by this jolly wiener’s aggressive tones, and when I reached the unmute button to speak, I froze. The voice that would come out, would not suit my avatar. I wasn’t me here, I was someone else, someone way shorter and cuter. The desynchronzication between the me in the physical world and what could be me in the virtual world would be shattered. The hand I lifted return slowly and dejectedly towards my side. No longer waiting around for my obvious non-compliance, the giant hotdog scampered away to go harass another nearby user.
Decicing that despite this souring first experience, I would go on. There would more worlds to explore, and more experiences to make. And that sentiment was the last sentiment of optmish I remmeber.
The rest was awful.
As great as the Retina Journey was, it was still a phone processor inside of a wireless helmet, and could not process higher-end environments or multiple users in the same room, lest it overheat and crash. That limited the amount of worlds I could explore as they would have to be optimized to run for Retina Journey users, and no one wanted to optimize for us. We were the neweset kids on the block, and had very little to offer to a somewhat long-standing communitiy.
From the few worlds I was able to explore, if the performance wasn’t dog-awful, the people were. It was mix of preteens and social awkwards emerging adults, shouting obscenes, reciting quotes from popular may-mays, changing into all manner of avatars for the pure prepubscent enjoyment of all spectators present (I vividly remember one preteen turning into a talking toilet. It was both hilarious and extremely unnerving). Disappointed in the clear lack of objection in this endlessly chaostic spaces, I closed VRTalk and turned off my headset for the day. I needed something real to wash down the aftertaste of tatking toilet out of my mind.
Weeks later, I decided to step into the arena once more. The Retina Journey app store noticed my interest in social VR after trying our VRTalk, and thus recommended to my VR home hub page: OtherSpace VR. Figuring why not, I downloaded the app, strapped in, and was met with… a confusing bunch of signs. I found myself on a penthouse suite, completee with rootops games, a lavishly furnished apartment, and even a basketball court. The buildings adjacent ot mine where highrises masking the obvously missing cityscape behind them. I pulled up the navigation menu, and the menu fed back to me: HOME. I wondered what VR’s facination was with creating extravanagnt spaces for the user’s home world. Maybe it was the longing to have more somewhere than nowhere, and if we can’t be wealthly in the physical world, the virtual world could make due as well. Rumminating over these fascinations, I found the door out of my penthouse suite. It was a giant portal, and it was laabeled as WORLD’S CROSSING. I accepted the prompts to agree to enter another world, and soon found myself traveling to somewhere else.
Several somewhere elses later, and I had stumbled into a OtherSpace Creative Writing meetup. I had seen this weekly event pop into the featured event’s tab time and time again, but always neglected to make time to join in. This week was different. I had cleared my entire afternoon, and was reading to go somwhere else once more. I remember thinking to myself, “Hah, this is going to be a riot. There is no way I will cry at a Creative Writing Meeting.”
“In 5 minutes, using only verbs and adjectives, how would you describe yourself?”
Having my trusty pen and paper ready, I let the words flood the page, and stopped at the 5 minute mark to stare in complete shock at the aftermath of my brainstorm. The person I described myself to be, was nothing like the person I wanted to become nor the cheerful and pleasant persona others identified me as. Panic might have been the first emotion I could remember, because just the sheer amount of detetable and odious things I wrote about myself petrified me. Where the :dolphin: did all these emotions come from? Where was it all going wrong? Have I just been a fraud and a liar this whole time? What… is going to become of me?
But there something here, something writhing. Like an obligation I needed to commit to, but had forgotten until this very day. I was excited to even feel this way, it had been so long since something stimulated me to look so deeply within. I made mental commitment to return next week, there was more to my self-story to unfold
“In 5 minutes, try to describe the first memory you can recall. Not in words, but just in feelings alone.”
To be blunt, I can barely recall anything before my first year in the corporate world. What I originally shrugged off as something unimportant, made me slowly start to realize that I was oppressing something. But I had an amazing childhood free of dilemmas, what traumatic events could I possibly be running from?
And therein lies the issue.
Trying my absolute best to recall something from my past, I began to realize that I used to be… happy. All the earliest memories of my childhood felt simple, carefree, warm, and if I were to use a color to contain all these feelings, I would describe it as yellow. The further along the memories I traversed, the more of these childhood feelings began to fade away. A once prominent bright yellow began to lose it flare and slowly start to drip into sadder and sadder colors, transitioning from blue and eventually into gray, truly falling into the trope when something loses color in this world, it loses meaning. When I really paused to reflect on my mental recollection, I remembered last week’s prompt, and suddenly it all clicked.
I began to hate myself because I never allowed myself to fail, and became a miserable self-indulgent wreck because of it.
My childhood never challenged me, my parents said I was amazing, and whenever ANYTHING put me out of my comfort zone, I would immediately scurry back into a place where everything was okay. The more I ran from the chances to try something new and possibly fail, the more I began to miss out on life, and the more I began to feel empty inside. The worst part was, I didn’t even REALIZE I felt this way. Not until I took a deep breath and finally had a chance to take stock of what was silently falling apart around me.
I can’t be alone here I can’t be the only one who feels Like I’m going nowhere Just wishing somehow this dream will carry me
A lot has changed since the onset of the pandemic. A lot of the fear, self-loathing, and general helplessness that swalloed me home seems almost like a memory in the rear-view mirror of yesterday. It’s almost unreal to try and even remember how I used to be, because I am here, ever-present, and in the moment like never before. Change is an intangible aspect that seems to be almost romanctized in existence: something amazing will happen, but only if and when the world is ready to call upon you to answer. That calling will never happen for most: the world we live in is too ordinary for such an event to ever materialize.
And there-in lies the problem.
Rounding the bases in what I’ve written about not only in Nano 2020 but also in the Creative’s Workshop Summer 2020, I’m coming into something I would have never thought possible. Absolute truths, somthing to intagible and so raw that it might as well be considered imaginary. But in this space of things that should not exist, lies possibility. A famous modern-day philospher known only as DD once stated in a renowned piece that:
Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. Imagination moves us towards creating better circumstances for ourselves and for others in a time not yet arrived. To imagine or not to imagine is a choice, and the repercussions of not imagining may lead to a less fulfilling life. Our actions dictate where our lives lead, and we cannot blame others for things we never imagined.
Tied together with the archaelogical dig of my my remnant past, DD says in another piece:
Every artist I know wants to be more creative, yet few understand that imagination ignites creativity. When I first started this journey to understand imagination I had no idea where it would lead me. Like my artist friends, I also want more creativity in my life and yet I didn’t know why. Then I read the following quote by Ursula Leguin and I started to understand that there might be something that needed to be set free, “the creative adult is the child who survived.”
And suddenly, it all clicked.
The youngest version of myself was an avid reader, a Seeker of Worlds ever-voracious for better and better stories.
The middling version of myself was a huge gamer, a Vicarious Liver of Worlds, demanding to be validated as a hero in fantasy realms he could not be in the real realm.
The latest version of myself is an budding software engineer, now studying Virtual Reality development to become a Creator of Worlds.
Tying all the versions of myself together, something beautiful is waiting to emerge.
And I’ll swear just one last time They say the world is yours so I’ma make it mine
Lately I’ve been dreaming of fantastical visions of the future. A neat little future where an entrepreneur of my own AR/VR Development firm stationed in my hometown, a place where people tend to start (growing up as kids) or stop (settling down to have kids). Very little people my age stick around, and if they do, they are extremely hard to find. They live in the shadows, almost forgetten by the town itself, as some sort of symbol of shame that they couldn’t escape the town they grew up. I’m one of the few I know who came back on his own volition. I “escaped” and left the town, but for some reason always find myself coming back. Maybe there’s something here that is only here, that I could never find out there.
It is here where I begin a new tale, and my legs buckle just a bit thinking about it. I want to create Augemented Reality and Virtual Reality worlds that inspire its travelers to make a change, trying something new, and inspire a new emotion that can be brought back to their physical selves: that maybe, we can be our own heroes, matter where we are. The reason I wante to make it in my hometown is simple: why not? It’s proof that ingenuity and innovation can come from anywhere in the world with an equal footing in the digital frontier, and I want to leave proof behind that anyone can be amazing too, no matter how far they feel as though they gave been left behind.
There is so much uncertainty in even moving towards a nebulous and fantastic dream. And for most, uncertainty is unneeded and undesired stress, and then we scurry back to the places we call safe, even if unsatisfactory. But I want proof, for myself and the others that will come after me, that the stress of uncertainty is just the tension streching us out to remold us into something new. Something amazing. Something beautiful. It is here in this uncertainty that I want to keep searching for whatever’s out there, because I know that whatever I find will be more amazing than anything I could ever imagine now.
‘Cause nothing is stopping you You can set the world on fire Nothing is stopping you And if I go out I’ll go out screaming
The best time to have made a change in your life was yesterday.
The second best time is today.
And if you’re ready, I’ll be right alongside you to ride the winds of change. And which way does the wind blow?
Today’s word count: 2,116 words
Total word count until today: 29,380 words
@mariasokolowska @michellebasey @sabweld @ParisaR @sydneydobersteinlarock @wildcat @dragon @homeroom11