I spend a lot of time in Second Life. Not as much as some, from what I can tell, but a lot. Am I just having fun? Most of the time, yes. I claim, however, that I learn things about myself through SL. I suppose this assertion might seem like rationalization, but I think it's actually true.
One of the most important things I've learned, perhaps even the most important, I cannot yet discuss here. If I can ever make it public, trust me, you'll be the fourth or fifth to know. It's a good thing, though. SL helped me come to grips with something that I've sort of known for a long time but could not admit to, as liberated and free as I thought myself to be. Just goes to show you, there's always more growing to do.
One thing I've learned is just how powerful and alive my imagination is. I thought I'd lost that, if indeed I ever had that much before. Well, yes, I did, because I write songs, and I trained as an actor. But I haven't worked as an actor in a long time, and songs aren't exactly flowing out of my pen these days. So the way that SL woke up my imagination has surprised and delighted me. As I know I've mentioned, I'm neither a gamer not a veteran of any other MMORPGs, so this hit me quite recently. I'm still enjoying the expansion of horizons that an active imagination can bring.
Along those lines, I find that I am more volatile and emotional in SL than in RL. Something about SL tends to heighten emotions and make little things seem bigger. I've described the place as "high school on steroids," and I imagine that's not an original observation. We're in the middle of an improvised play in which each character has a different author and the story is constantly being written. When people say they want to avoid drama in SL, well, good luck! Since being in SL, I have laughed a lot, wept a lot for various and sundry reasons, and felt a whole range of emotions from elation to rejection. Patrice and I have done a pretty good job of keeping the drama to a minimum, probably one of the reasons we have been together for this long—we hit three months of partnership today—but I have to watch myself to try to stay on an even keel.
Which leads to one more thing I have learned. In First Life, I am often solitary. In SL, I find that I am much more social. And while I am interested in building and scripting and taking advantage of the things that SL has to offer, I find that I am more interested in people and in their interactions among each other. I find that I am a pretty good listener when people need to talk and that, sometimes, I even give sound advice in return. This is why I have set myself up as a counsellor in SL. I have an office on my tiny parcel of first land and am open for business. So far, business has not been open to me. Close, but no cigar yet. Meanwhile, there are always friends who need a caring ear or a shoulder to cry on. I'm not making any money in SL, but I'm happy to be at least somewhat useful.