But there’s one very important part of my formative years that I haven’t been able to close until now. Back in my high school days, I belonged to a very active, growing forum. It covered the whole spectrum of geekery: games, sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, and anime and manga were the main draws. Some even had sub-forums for specific titles.
It was the first time my little world expanded beyond the tight little circle of family and school friends. I discovered a range of personalities: those who were snarky yet hilarious, or always fun and bubbly, or just plain random. We swept the forums, competed on post counts, and talked about everything and anything no matter how nonsensical. I made some good friends, some of whom I eventually met in real life—though it was strange to be using real names, and finding different ways to interact beyond the computer screen. I learned that friendships can easily transcend countries and cultures, and even had my first one-sided crush. It was painful at the time, but it taught me how to deal with matters of the heart, and I’m still friends with that person to this day.
I also saw good leadership in action—how a good leader can take charge and keep order while still being friends with, and be respected by, everyone. I was introduced to the art of critical analysis through the discussions I followed and took part in over the merits of various shows, books and games. I had my first taste of politics when my real-life friend joined the forum and promptly got on the bad side of the forum admin—also a good friend—with her egregious lack of grammar and punctuation.
The other big impact it had on my life was the discovery of the wonderful world of online role playing. It’s where you take on a character and collaborate with the other participants to develop a plot for the overarching storyline. It’s certainly influenced how I write today—I start with the character arcs and build a plot around that. I learned about taking disparate characters and ideas, and bringing them together in a glorious whole.
But as the years went by and we all got older, real life started to take precedence over our online world. It was a slow decline, and the forums were still open for posting. I’d go back, reminisce a bit, possibly put up a post or two, and then go back to my life for the next few weeks or months. At long last, however, the forums are being closed down. There’s a few weeks left, so there’s time for a final hurrah, but after that, they’ll be gone.
It’s painful to accept that soon, the last remnant of my teenage years will be closed for good. There’s a sadness in knowing that I’m not likely to find another community that’s so close-knit. It feels like I’m nearing the end of an absolutely incredible book that I can only read once. I want to finish it so I can find out what happens and get some closure. But I know that as soon as I turn that last page and close the book, it will be taken away from me forever.
Now it’s time to finish the book and move on. Like any good story, I know that it has given me a new way (ways, even) of looking at the world. It has changed me for what I believe is the better, and even if it’s gone, I will still have all those memories, and the lessons I’ve learnt.
So I will look to the future, although I don’t know what’s to come. I will stand on the foundation created by this part of my life and reach even higher and even further. I will say my goodbyes and then I won’t look back lest nostalgia mires me in the past. For there is a whole world out there that is so much larger than that online community. And I want to step forward, step out, and explore it all. My friends, you will all be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.