Do not go gentle into that good, Night.

May 18, 2009

Night Morrisey by Botgirl Questi (used with permission)

Night M. by Botgirl Questi (used with permission)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a friend who had left Second Life.  Her message was a surprise; she had been gone for months and wanted to re-connect.  While I was very happy to hear from her, given the circumstances of her departure, I wasn’t really sure what to say; when Night M. left Second Life this past January, she wanted it to be for good.

I know some of the people reading this blog knew Night.  For those of you who didn’t, there is no question that Nightflower cannonballed into Second Life and made quite a splash.  She was prolific in her digital life.  She wrote a wonderful blog, collaborated on some fascinating comics, was a rabid Plurker, and designed a sim with a gallery devoted to digital art.  Those who knew her found her to be a good friend and remarkable woman.  Despite her zeal for SL, Night had a hard time balancing her first and second lives and much of her time in SL was kept a secret from her husband.  This secrecy led to a departure in the Fall of 2008 with a return nearly six weeks later.   She dove back into Second Life with vigor but finally decided to make a very public departure on her blog at the end of January 2009.  She did not want to be able to return and deleted her account.  Time has passed, however, and the urgencies of her first life have slowed and she’s started to process what she valued about her second life and, in her own way, is raging against the dying of the light.

Since coming to Second Life, I’ve grown to recognize that having friends and loved ones leave the virtual world is part of the experience.  But what happens to someone who had been active in Second Life after they leave?  I know that it is a very personal experience that differs for everyone; as we talked in gmail about what being Night meant to her, she gracefully agreed to be interviewed and share just a little of her experience leaving Second Life.   Read what Night had to say about why she left and where she is now after the jump.

Charlanna Beresford: Hi Night!  It is so good to hear from you!  How have you been?

Night M:  Hi! Well, the primary answer is BUSY.  Life hates a vacuum.  Within days of leaving SL, I had no idea where I found the time for it!

Charlanna Beresford:  Laughs, “Sometimes I know that feeling ALL too well!” But you’ve been quiet now for months; what made you decide to break your silence?

Night M: Well, I actually never intended to be totally silent.  In my last blog post, I said I’d stay in touch with the people I was close to.  But the RL issues that were clamoring for my attention chose the moment of my departure for a sort of mini-meltdown.  When I dropped off the map – I was totally gone.  It was almost 4 months before I got in touch with anyone again.  THIS IS HARD!  Why in the hell am I nervous?!?

Charlanna Beresford: Maybe because your Second Life is something you didn’t think you would ever really be talking about again?

Night M: No, I really didn’t.  I felt I had made a clean break from Second Life for a lot of good reasons.

Charlanna Beresford: And for those who weren’t lucky enough to know you, why did you leave SL?

Night M: In hindsight, I think it was emotional exhaustion.  My SL was not open to people in my RL, and that caused a lot of stress.  My blog started out as a place where I could relieve some of that stress, but it quickly drew far more attention than I ever would have dreamed, so I felt even worse, in a way; like I had stitched a scarlet “A” on my own chest, and then charged admission to see it! I finally decided I needed to bring the tremendous emotional, creative, and financial resources I was expending in the virtual world, and see if I could use all that to grow in real life

Charlanna Beresford: It sounds like it was a really difficult decision.  What has been the hardest part of leaving SL?

Night M: Well, it was a painful decision, but not a difficult one to make.  At the time it was clear it was the only choice I could make.  And is it really the hardest part of leaving or the hardest part of staying away?  Two very different issues!  Hehee!

Charlanna Beresford: That’s a very good point!  Let’s tackle both.  How about leaving first?

Night M: Two things were hard about leaving.  First, and most obviously, was relationships.  I had such an amazing world of people, all of them fascinating, many of them very close.  And in particular, there was my lover.  SL love really hit me with a level of intensity I really didn’t understand, and still don’t; leaving that behind was so very hard.  And then there were my friends; cutting all those people out of my life in one swing of the axe was horrifying.

But second, I felt like a failure; like a quitter.  I’m a pretty ambitious person (and perhaps a touch OCD) and I attacked this world ferociously.  Between my love life, my friends, my gallery, my blog, my creative projects and partnerships; I did a ton in less than a year.  And yet, it all felt unfinished.  I don’t know what I was trying to achieve, but it sure wasn’t done.  And I just felt tremendous guilt abandoning it all.

Charlanna Beresford: And the need to focus on RL outweighed the horror of leaving?

Night M: Well, it did at first.  Have you ever heard of the pain-gate theory?  Apparently the body can only truly register one major source of pain at a time.  And at the time, RL had my full emotional attention.  I hardly registered the pain of leaving SL. It’s only since then, as RL has become more balanced and peaceful, that I’m really hurting from the loss.

Charlanna Beresford: And what has been hard about staying away?

Night M: The hard part about staying away is that I haven’t found a way to fill the void that Night left in my life.

Charlanna Beresford: So, along those lines, what IS the loss for you?

Night M:  Let me start by saying that I’m not delusional, nor do I have multiple personality disorder.  I know that there was no part of Night that did not come from me.  But at the same time, there were parts of Night that were expressions of me that I had never found before, and haven’t been able to find since. Most obviously, the creativity.  I loved writing, working with Botgirl on comics, working with the artists at the gallery, and crafting my sim.   And in RL, I just haven’t found satisfying substitutes.  I tried blogging for a while about the only subject in the world other than SL that really excites me, which is being a mom. But while I do think motherhood rocks, I couldn’t find my voice to blog about it with any heart.  It was really a disappointing failure.

But it’s not just creative outlets that I miss about Night; more importantly – though more intangibly – I miss who I was as Night.

Charlanna Beresford: And what do you miss about being Night?  How is she different?

Night M: Night was born with a clean slate, in an environment of limitless possibility.  Yes, it was my personality at the helm.  But it expressed itself differently; as if I could go back into my past and make all new choices.  I’d be me, but I’d also be a totally different me, you know?

I would say that the primary difference is Night’s confidence.  I actually don’t thing I realized that till this moment.  Night is smart, funny, sexy, and stylish; she’s so strong-willed, unstoppable.  And under the surface, maybe all those seeds are there in me too, but in SL I found the confidence to let those seeds blossom in a way that the circumstances of life have not allowed.  And maybe I should be able to just shake my head and say, “I AM Night, dammit!”  and suddenly manifest all that I envy in her in the real world.  I don’t know; if you figure out how to do that, let me know!

Charlanna Beresford: Well, does Night have to really be an all or nothing proposition? I mean, can’t you find the pieces of her in your first life?  And use the strength she has in SL in your first life?

Night M: Umm, no. And I know I’m the one being interviewed here, but can you? Do you feel that everything that you love about Lanna, everything about being her that draws you into this world. Can you fully possess and live that in your first life?  If I could, maybe I wouldn’t want a second life in the first place.

Charlanna Beresford: Not always, but parts almost always can.

Night M: Yes, true.  You can carry some things across worlds but not everything.  Well, the ability to find a level of personal expression I’ve never known before; it’s a pretty potent thing.

I guess I would have to admit I was addicted.  And the proof wasn’t in the time I spent in-world, or even the money I spent.  It’s in the amount of headspace my second life took up.  It was always, always on my mind, at some level or another.  And because it was the last thing I did before going to bed, I dreamed about it.

Charlanna Beresford: Am I right that I hear a little bit of a battle raging within you?  Part of it is wistful feelings for your time as Night but also concerns over balancing with RL and getting sucked in. With all of that said, are you glad you left?

Night M: Well, I’m glad my family has my full attention.  It has made a huge, huge difference.  I’m glad I’ve had the time to land some extra work – and do it well –because we sure have needed it.  And I’m SO glad that I no longer live under the shadow of being caught, my whole day sculpted around how I can support a secret existence.

Is that the same as being glad I left?  Maybe not.  I guess what I really wish is that I hadn’t gotten to the point that it was necessary to choose one life over the other.  I mean, some people balance it, don’t they?  Maybe not.

Charlanna Beresford: Don’t you think that depends on the person?

Night M: Perhaps more importantly on their RL circumstances.  For me, I could have juggled everything indefinitely, if it weren’t for the strain of secrecy.  That’s what did me in.  I envy those who have an open second life.  It must help so much.

Charlanna Beresford: I’m not sure if I should ask this, but what do you think your future holds?

Night Morrisey: Heheee!  Well worded!  TRANSLATION: Will you ever come back to SL?

Sometimes I want to.  Sometimes it’s just a mild, wistful feeling.  Sometimes it’s the ache of loss.  And let’s be honest – sometimes it’s the wracking shakes of a crack addict!  I want to come back, but can I?

First there would be all the crow I’d have to eat for making such a big deal of leaving!  And that’s exactly why I did it that way, to make it as hard as possible to come back, to guard against the ease of just popping in from time to time.

But the real question is: Can I make both lives peacefully coexist? Until I’m comfortable with that proposition, I need to stay in exile.

Night M: <—prays for strength!

Charlanna Beresford: I know this has been hard to talk about but one last question, if you don’t mind.  I know you were close with many friends who are still in-world.  Is there anything you want to tell them?

Night M: I want to start listing names, but it’s just not possible.  Too many people.  But I guess I would want them all to know:  I haven’t moved on.  I haven’t forgotten you.  I haven’t forgotten anyone.  I wish I could tell you all that I’m better for having left, but I’m not sure I can.  And honestly, I wish I could tell you I’m better off for having known you – but maybe I’m not.  You have all touched me, and changed me forever.  It’s like reading a beloved book – except the cast of unforgettable characters are somehow utterly real.  Is the joy of discovering that worth the pain of having to someday close the book and move on?  I’m not sure.  God, how maudlin. 😦

Charlanna Beresford: Not necessarily, because it is how you feel.

Night M:  Yeah, I’m a real pick-me-up! Hehee!

Charlanna Beresford: Thank you so much, Night. I really appreciate your willingness to openly share your challenges of leaving Second Life.   It really has been good chatting with you again!

Night M: It’s been so very good… TOO good!

Night M: <–reaches for the soap to scour SL from her brain!

Charlanna Beresford: Maybe I should be a bitch now?  Would that help?

Night M: Noo, I’d cry. Hehee.  I’m feeling all squishy now.

Charlanna Beresford: *hugs tightly* No, you don’t feel like you’re all squishy. 😛

Please take care, sweetie.  Thanks again! And find a way to keep us posted, k?

Night M: Bye! Take care of yourself, too!

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  1. It is SO good to at least see that she’s out there still. Night, the typist behind Night, whatever – she’s a charming person and I really hope all the best for her in whatever she chooses to do.

  2. loves this thought/quote, “It’s like reading a beloved book – except the cast of unforgettable characters are somehow utterly real. Is the joy of discovering that worth the pain of having to someday close the book and move on? “

  3. For those who have family and relatives understand SL, they are lucky to be able to balance it. I still wonder if the reason why Night left SL was due to her family’s refusal to understand?

  4. haha, how intensely human! I wanted to smack her a few times in there, and to hug her for most of it. Thanks (to both of you) for it.

  5. Lanna and Night, thank you both for this, a beautifully authentic demonstration of how uniquely personal the very shared experience of SL (and RL) is. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so much for the interview. I have never met Night, but only recently read Botgirl’s blog suggested by a friend. As Michele said, it was very touching, an amazing beautifully authentic experience of the struggle most of us face with our real and second lives. Although I am one of the lucky ones, who don’t have to hide Second Life as I am single, people don’t necessarily understand and they think us deviant for living a second life. Which is a struggle in itself. I hope to someday meet you Night, and I wish you good luck in the future. Please know you are not alone!!!

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. And thanks to Night for sharing so much. What has fascinated me is the range of reactions to this post (from comments, to Plurks, and IMs). Some have seen Night as being at peace and others have seen intense turmoil. Perhaps some see themselves within Night’s struggles?

    Thanks again, all!

  8. For someone I have never met, why do I feel like I know this person? I think we all do. Her path and struggle and growth are paralleled by thousands, at least dozens that I personal know. Reconciling our avatar with our self is one of the greatest exercises in self-help available and despite the dangers, one of the great benefits Second Life has to offer. Often, there is nothing virtual about friendship.

  9. This just brings back what a thoughtful, charming, joyous person Night was/is, and reminds me what a good writer she always was/is. Everything she said about the amount of ‘brain space’ SL takes rings true for me. I wish her well.

  10. Lanna! What a wonderful interview! Thank you for presenting such thoughtful, in-depth work!

  11. That was fascinating, both the questions and the answers. It sounds as though Night is having a hard time getting everything she needs from First Life but isn’t willing to let her First Life go under while she’s meeting her needs in Second Life. Not a rare or an easy problem!

    ^^^\ Kate /^^^

  12. Night was one of my closest SL friends and she was my mentor. She had affected my life positively (both of them) and I will always miss her and wish her well. Night if you are reading this – I love you – be happy, be safe, be well… HUGS


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