|Draft of still unrealized Second Life art exhibition. Theme park charting birth-life-death cycle.|
Top 5 Regrets of the Dying is a book about the lessons a palliative care nurse learned while helping people in their last 3-12 weeks of life. The most common regret her patients expressed was, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
Of course my cynical self had to first ask whether people who buck convention and follow their dreams down the road less traveled are more likely to die any happier. If you think that's true, try watching a few audition episodes of American Idol or X Factor. The parade of tone-deaf people who believe they "were born to sing" is an excruciating reminder that even our most heartfelt dreams can be truly illusory.
That said, the dreams most of us give up along the course of our lives are less grandiose and more achievable than being Pop Stars. Nevertheless, we often choose careers based on our socio-economic status rather than the urging of our passionate interests. We hurry into marriage and parenthood due to social pressure and our perception of cultural norms. We bite our tongues, hide our freaky sides and generally conform to the acceptable standards of our social circles and professions. And we die with regrets.
One of the benefits of pseudonymous virtual identity is the safe space it offers to pursue our dreams, not to pretend to be something we're not, but to express aspects of ourselves that have not been fully manifested. For instance, Second Life has been a place where many of us have developed or reclaimed our identities as artists. People who left pencils and paint brushes behind in grade school now routinely create work that's shared with an international audience. Best of all, we don't have to leave our families behind and run off to Paris. We can have our cake and eat it to.