Several years ago I stumbled onto character roleplay online. It evolved by accident just from hanging out in chatrooms on the old yahoo and the old AOL. Overtime it has become a kind of creative lifeline for me. A place where I get my writing yayas out.
It started out as something to do online when I was bored. But eventually it evolved into almost an addiction.
It has been an unwitting path to self discovery in many ways too. More on that some other time.
It's given me ideas for stories that are floating around one day to finally be put to more practical use and its kept me creative during my fallow times. I'm actor who has been too broke for a long time to be able to take the smallest of jobs and so the role playing exercises both the writing and acting impulses.
After my accident, when I was hospital and then home bound for several months, this was a real lifeline. I had plenty of corporeal friends visiting, but not all the time...and when you can't do a lot of walking and you have seen every single rerun available, staying creatively alive is a godsend.
One particular venue that I've been spending my time in for the last few years has been quite an adventure. Without going into detail, I have managed to bond with people and have some very terrific roleplay that has caused me to actually start writing on a particular character I've created to see if I can get a novel of some kind out of it.
And then there are friendships. It's become common now through Facebook, Twitter and all these venues for perfect strangers to become friends (and sometimes lovers) despite (perhaps at times because of) distance. Sometimes you even get to meet the people you chat/play with. I went to see one of the old Batman movies with an entire gang of friends from a comic book venue I was hanging out in. And I've met and been to weddings of friends I've roleplayed with.
One could argue that I spend more time than I should,here, but its been worth it to me.
A few months ago I met an RPer whom I will call James. Now in the venue where I am these days I've had a particularly hard time connecting with other guy RPers. Most I have found were posing jerks using RP to compensate for ego issues. He was one of the rare males that I found it possible to have intelligent role play and conversation with. About my age, also divorced though happy in his second marriage and family. His wife also roleplays and I enjoyed getting to know them both. We also had daughters who were about the same age. There was a lot in common to talk and joke over.
We didn't get terribly close, but it was clear that we were going to become pretty good friends and enjoy some adventurous RP.
Yesterday morning James died. He had fallen ill very suddenly about 3 or so weeks ago and had been in and out of the hospital. His wife would leave updates here and there on a chat board they had set up. Sometimes he would come online from the hospital and it seemed like he was getting better. Then this last week things just spiraled completely out of control. If any of you remember the end of Jimmy Smits' character on NYPD Blue, it felt very much like that. Something rare, seemingly innocuous turns out to be relentless, cruel and random, but this was no tired actor retiring from a TV show.
I spent yesterday in a daze, mourning a friend I barely knew and had never met. Mourning for his wife and children. I spent a lot of energy thinking about connections. How modern life has changed the way we relate to each other for good or ill. I'm of course pondering my own mortality since James and I were of the same age.
Maybe its unhealthy to have bonds with people you don't know. Maybe its a blessing. I know this. James's wife had so many messages on the chat board itself of condolence, love and support, in addition to the real time help I am sure she is getting, that its impossible for me to think its a bad.
I consider my life better for having known him however briefly. I consider my life better for other friendships I have made as well. Some very close indeed. Very rewarding and inspiring.
I'm grateful for all of my friends, both "real" and "virtual". My life is greatly enhanced by presence and meaning in my life. I hope very deeply that their lives are enhanced by mine as well.
Rest in Peace James. Thank you.