In my dream this morning I found myself in a 2-story shopping mall and remembered I could fly. I see my friend Joey and tell him he can fly too. I tell him and another woman to stand like a superhero about to fly, then jump up. They both fly easily, which not everyone in my dreams who I try to teach to fly can do. (Some look at me like I’m crazy and won’t even try.) I tell them both that the most important thing for being able to fly is believing you can. We all fly outside, and it feels so nice and empowering. I tell them they can try flying in different ways if they want, but I don’t tell them they have to do anything in particular.
Dreaming of flying generally means you feel empowered and free. When I was in high school, I often dreamt of trying to fly, then having my mother hold the hem of my clothes and tell me to get down before somebody saw me. In my dreams, it felt like she was afraid of standing out or having me stand out. It seemed like she was afraid of what other people would think, while I really didn’t care about their opinions.
I thought after I woke that maybe going online is kind of like flying in dreams. I feel so free once I go online that it’s easy to get distracted by what’s interesting, rather than just doing what I need to do. I feel much the same when I go into Second Life, except that’s more immersive and more fun.
Lately I’ve felt limited by only having 10 GB of higher speed data to use per month on my mobile hot spot. This isn’t enough to play in SL or watch Netflix. It’s barely enough for my job search and watching a few short YouTube videos. When I first get online, I spend a couple hours clearing out email junk, which is not fun. If I go on Facebook, I feel trapped by other people’s posts, like I have to “Like” or comment on them. I feel like I have to use my precious data allotment on making other people feel better. Then I get annoyed by the algorithms that Facebook, YouTube and Google use to feed me suggestions for things I might like, while hiding posts and videos that I might actually want to see.
When I’m in Second Life I don’t have these annoying feeds. My groups might post teleport links or notices for events, but I can turn these off easily if I wish. I’m free to explore where I want to go, to follow my own impulses and ideas.
In physical reality, I can get in my car and drive places, but then most of the time I’m still being led to spend money on something. It’s hard to find pleasant things to do in the physical world that don’t cost money. I could read a book, but that’s going within, not going out. Reading doesn’t take me out into the world around me. Going to a movie costs money and doesn’t really take me out into the world much either. It just takes me into the world of the movie, rather than into the world of a book or TV show.
Going to a park or river with my dog lets me experience the real world around me, but then I feel like I have to be careful so other people won’t think I’m crazy for being out alone with my dog. When I was homeless for a month, people might even pick up that homeless person vibe. I once had a small child ask why I was sitting in the park. I said because it was lunch time. People seem to think it’s odd to be out in a park on a weekday, especially if you’re not there with another person.
Shopping allows me a way to go out into the world without other people judging me too much, because shopping is a more socially acceptable activity than sitting alone in a park or mall. Shopping at a farmers market or pagan fair are socially acceptable ways of going out into the world, much like going to a mall, but in these places I don’t feel out of place because I’m poor. I can use CalFresh (food stamps) credit at the local farmers market to get fresh food for half price, which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. People at a pagan fair also don’t seem judgmental if I’m sitting at a table and watching people while I wait for a lecture or something. The only negative vibe I got at the last pagan fair was when I was sitting at a table near a food vendor, eating food I brought instead of buying the food for sale.
When I’m in Second Life, on the other hand, my poverty, weight and age are all invisible. My avatar looks pretty good – not like a newbie anyway – and my text and profile represent me as someone with intelligence and varied interests. I can go wherever I want in SL without feeling judged or like I don’t belong. I can “window shop” without feeling like I’m expected to buy something. I can go to a beach, a private island, a city in another country, an art exhibit, a fantasy land, or even an adult club. If someone bothers me, I can teleport away. If I don’t mind chatting with someone, I can do that. And if I get annoyed by feeling like I “have to” chat with a friend when I really want to be alone, I can log out and pretend like I crashed out.