For now, though, let's see where it takes us.
It's been a little over a year since my life was normal. Endocrinology was, is, continues to be involved. (We're not talking about the details. Not here and now, anyway.) In that time my academic career took a phenomenal nosedive—two conferences and marginal amounts of progress on getting science done—and I adopted what is essentially the hikikomori lifestyle. Hikikomori is this wonderful Japanese word that means you're a screw-up. A shut-in. Paranoid. Crazy. Polokonzerva. I was always habitually truant, but this was the big step from going to work three times a week to going to work once every two weeks and not really spending the time away from work even thinking about it. It was okay, I told myself, at first. I was more productive than everyone else when I really sat down and worked on something. I'd always be able to catch up later.
...Except, little known to me, those chemical resolutions brought with them temperament changes and focus changes that were hard to predict. Motivation dried up. sabta and salkza (as I like to call them) became scarce when academics were concerned. Around the same time, I was getting incredibly shaky results in my scientific work—evidence that my classifier wasn't up to par with its competitors, and the looming reality that I would soon have to re-run tests that would either confirm or deny the value of my greatest scientific contribution.
Compound that with the creeping realization that my partner of nine-plus years was seriously affected by something that had happened before we met and that I truly wasn't making it better, and that I almost certainly had no hope of ever making it better...
And compound that with, hey, I just found this wonderful internet community where not only is conworlding something people actually do, but I'm apparently decent and worthy enough that for the first month or two people kept asking me if I'd been there before...
Well, that was a pretty good way to get me started on completely divesting myself of all of my responsibility and retreating into intellectual fantasy land. Sort of. A little. If you poked me with a stick enough times I might respond over email. I might even do some data analysis or revise a paragraph! But—very reasonably—it was not something to be easily patient for.
My boss, fortunately, understood. Very understood. And so I'm still, amazingly, a graduate student, and I still have things to look forward to, et cetera, and now that the clouds are starting to part I may actually get through all of this mess. Will it be pretty? No, definitely not, especially now that it's come to light that I've been functioning for my entire life ignorant of mild ADHD symptoms. (It helps explain the truancy. And the bounce. And the coding blitzes. And a few other things.) It'll be interesting to see how I act on the other side of a second prescription after going my entire life without any medication for much of anything at all.
I'm somewhat scared about it: it's not a small change. My current (and probably permanent) partner has her own share of ADHD traits—and a diagnosis, and medication, which is why she was able to casually point out my abnormalities—and in honesty... I'm not always thrilled about what happens when she takes her pills. Ritalin is a weird drug; it brings out a combination of axiomatic absolutism and an obsession with detail that borders on neurosis in a rather magical way. The possibility of acting that way is not something I'm thrilled about, but, well... if it happens, hopefully the ability to focus on keeping my life in order for once will be worth the price. (Open question: is Adderall less weird? She says it is. Maybe I'll find out!)
Anyway, trivia: what's the deal with Annie? Why doesn't it get love these days? Will there ever be flowers and/or a notes system like you promised, Sam? The answer there is: yes. Yes, there will be, but it will take a while.
The thing that is eating the Annie mindshare of my brain these days is our crazy SL business, which started off as a personal project and an experiment in how far I could ram my tongue into my cheek before I bent over laughing.
It wasn't a business at first, just a lone role-playing character: a mistreated, left-behind display model for a brand of "recreational" gynoids that no longer existed, a side product from a sleazy weapons dealer that had no qualms about funding both sides of whatever wars it stumbled into. I hammed it up as best as I could: from offering people a list of fourteen-year-old fictional job openings whenever they complained about real-world unemployment to spraying disinfectant on sleepers claiming they were "obviously non-functional and likely to constitute a biohazard" (i.e. that they were dead), my interpretation of NS was, very much unlike its Planetside namesake, a blank canvas for Aperture Science fanfic shenanigans that left me without the bad aftertaste of working in a very crowded and well-defined setting.
Much like Aperture, I set the dates to be all in the 20th century, which helped break ties with the far-future Planetside company, as well as jolt people into recognizing that it was a self-contained setting. I went a bit further, though, and used real-world events, places, and numbers—the 1989 Consumer Electronics Show, origins as a University of Michigan imitation of RAND Corp, and slight variations on the Portal ARG BBS phone number—to enrich the environment further. As such, there's a fair amount of Massive Dynamic from Fringe in the soul of NS somewhere, too. The nail in the coffin for my race of love-crazed sex-bots? Public outcry and panic following the release of Terminator 2. (Hey, it could've happened.)
And so, inch by inch, people started taking it more seriously. Other people wanted to play in the garden of the venerable Perfect Digital Courtesan™. What started out as a personal metaphor for facing feelings of neglect gradually turned into a complex narrative, and when I found people as retentive and egotistical as I was about maintaining continuity and character cohesion, I'd let them in. It meant a huge turn-down rate, though, as about only one in forty people seemed to display the right kind of personal weirdness to fit the mould, and the rather oblique intersection of the polytopes of "people I call friends" and "people who fit the mould" gradually started generating friction. It's not a great feeling knowing that your friend doesn't want you to play in her sandbox because your writing style isn't exactly right.
This took the back burner for a while as I discovered just how severely my newfound medicated personality anomalies altered my patterns of dealing with people. I ping-ponged back and forth between my two significant others, dragging progressively larger amounts of baggage from one figurative household to the other (or back again) every time things shifted. What had been a sporadic affair for years started to manifest into something I deeply coveted but could not commit to completely. (And if 'coveted' sounds like an inappropriate word to use there, that's because what I felt was definitely amoral and selfish.)
By the time it was November, things were blow-by-blow; the oscillations started obeying the Pauli exclusion principle, and planting my flag on marble arches turned into a full-time job. Almost by coin-toss, the first Nanite Systems store ended up under construction with my first partner, on some mainland property in a region called Taupentown, with plans to move it to a more meaningful location later. This was very quiet time; I was still in some contact with my second partner, and we maintained some contact with our usual circle of friends. I registered a new account, in fact, to go out and hang with them, although for I while I (not very convincingly) pretended it was someone entirely different.
Then, the magnetic field flipped, I ran off, tearing the store down, to focus instead on decorating a temple of Wanisin in another mainland parcel with my second partner. It gave me solitude, for a while, and I spent the first serious chunk of time on the grid outside of robot mode in half a year. Things were, generally, looking up; past wounds were healing. Lovecraft was listened to. Old crushes (and sources of strife) became mutual friends between the two of us.
...But there were loose ends; she had been supporting my first partner out of pity and wasn't truthful about how much. I was hurt, deeply; I was hopeful the support had worked. I pressed the button. The magnetic field flipped again.
Suddenly I was signing up for a new rental with my first partner, this time to build a real store, in a wonderful estate called Coghaven. My second partner had turned down this idea months earlier in September due to some age-old bad blood between her and the owner of Coghaven. (For reference: she'd known about NS since about July, shortly after it became manifest, while my first partner had been unaware of the whole idea until October.)
This was a weird period, lasting from mid-December to New Years. Interest in the company grew immensely, but my hands were tied as far as utilization and exploitation of this interest was concerned. We got two products on the market, tiny accessories that were bare suggestions of what was to come. Despite compromises in personal goals to rush forward the release of bigger things (i.e. the DAX/2, the final and ultimate democratization of my cathedralesque robot fantasy), stumbling blocks arose, eggshells were walked on, and delays happened anyway.
After that, there was one more flip, on January 1st. I'd like to say it happened for the right reasons, but I've never been completely sure about that. Two and a half months later, and it still takes so little to make my innards feel like minced garlic. To complicate the guilt further, others have gone in to stand where I once did, attempting to solve a profound psychiatric problem without the assets or skills of a professional psychiatrist at their disposal.
I want to say that I'm standing in the rubble of my life looking up at the vultures and asking why things had to turn out this way, why a simple quest to heal an underlying flaw in my biochemistry has put the rest of my life into chaos and left me with nothing, but I can't. The titan isn't rusting like I thought it would. Annie's still alive. Nanite Systems is evolving at a vomit-inducing rate and has broken even on every investment (and cute skirt) that we've paid for on the grid. And, perhaps most importantly, my employer is still patient.
(...ish. I need a supervisory committee soon or bad things will happen. Hopefully, the ball on that is rolling now.)
At first it was hell, I will be frank. Two flips ago, in early December, while I was sobbing my heart out sitting in a conference room in a ski resort in Snowmass, nursing my malnourishment/altitude/underslept headache with chilly water as people rambled on about yeast cultures and PPIs, the separation anxiety was too much to handle, and I couldn't stand up straight. It's a fine thing to miss half of a three hundred dollar conference when it's in your backyard; it's quite another to miss it when your presence is supported by a couple thousand dollars of airfare and hoteling. The result was not pretty—although I do have a new appreciation for the Music of Erich Zann that will never go away.
This time around, it's been a lot more bearable, and it's been a lot easier to see the dysfunction that kept me miserable where I was. I wish I could say I spent December studying my partners and weighing the pros and cons of really committing the rest of my life to them, but it wasn't exactly that intentional. Now that the deepest collateral wounds from all of this rampant chaos are sewn shut, I can even convince myself that I'm not an irredeemable monster for all of it.
The most interesting finding from all of this? That there are things harder to tell your parents than "I'm making ends meet by selling sex bots in virtual reality," and that once you face those things, it's actually not that hard to tell them about the sex bots.