With the digital world expanding, lessons in friendship and love are found in all places... I just didn’t think the Ski Village would be one of them.
For the record, I was like ten.
There I was, chilling in the ski village — minding my own damn business — when I saw him. The penguin who’s heart I’d eventually break. Now before I go further, let me clarify one thing. I never intended to break his heart. I didn’t take him to the Pizza Parlor with the intention of throwing his feelings in a blender, it just...sorta...happened.
For the five hours I was online, I was convinced I’d found my one true love. I took him to get his first puffle from the Pet Shop, he took me to the Lighthouse (where he asked me out), and later I invited him over to my igloo (ten-year-old me had some fricken balls).
He was the first boy I ever loved… at least until my mom called me down for lunch.
By the time I came back, I couldn’t find him. I’m pretty sure we scheduled to meet up again but I had already forgotten when and where (chicken nuggets can be pretty distracting). I didn’t sulk in my igloo or wait longingly at our previous hang outs. Instead, I carried on with my day like the independent ass penguin I was.
Somewhere, somehow, I ended up in the igloo of another.
He too was interested in my penguin-like charm, and his igloo? That shit was fricken awesome! He must’ve had a membership or something because he had it all. A hot tub, a fountain—basically you name it and he probably had it. My former love had become a thing of the past and I was ready to eject him from my life forever — or so I thought.
An hour and some dinosaur chicken nuggets later, my new boo and I were chilling at the Pizza Parlor. Keep in mind, I was ten. TEN. I had the attention span of a baked potato, so you can imagine my f*ckin surprise when my former love WADDLED UP BEHIND ME!
When I tell you shook doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I was quaking—no, QUACKING in my boots.
What the hell was I supposed to do? I betrayed our love and for what? Some random penguin with a membership? Did I really wanna be that penguin? My vocabulary was rather limited, and as a child, I never really had practice vocalizing my emotions — however, I will admit, I probably should’ve done more than type “Oops!” and repeatedly hit the dance button.
I didn’t see either of them again after that. I was so ashamed of what I’d done, I refused to go online (this lasted for like a day before I got over it and caved). I can’t change the past, but cheating on my first boyfriend at the age of ten taught me some pretty valuable lessons about companionship in the digital world. Surprisingly — a whole decade later — they’re still pretty damn relevant.
Here's what I learned:
Communication will make or break your online relationship/friendship.
I felt awful for what I did, but hey, shit happens. I didn’t know him in real life and there was no way to contact him outside the game. So much of online relationships revolve around good communication; it was actually kind of shocking we even hung out for as long as we did. I have a few online/long-distance friends now and we’ve needed to master the art of communication, even if it’s just through stupid pics on snapchat. It’s not like having in-person friends whom I can go out with whenever I please. Online companionship requires more effort if it’s gonna work, and I’ll be damned if I lose someone I care about because of something as stupid as distance.
I was bolder and freer online than I was in person.
I was a really shy kid growing up. There were so many things I wanted to do or say, but I always found myself staying quiet. The other kids were intimidating and that hasn’t really changed today either. I’m way more vocal than I was back then, and I’m a lot bolder than I used to be, but sometimes it’s still scary to feel 100% like myself. Everyone has a comment or a post that feels louder than I am, practically screaming who they expect me to be. I don’t always have the guts to assert my presence in person, but with things like instagram (or in my ten-year-old case, club penguin) it becomes a lot easier to do so. Anonymity made me forget why I felt like I couldn’t speak up. I could force the world to see me the way I wanted to be seen, and over time, that mentality bled into the real world too!
If it’s said/done online, take that shit with a grain of salt.
I would never in my life do something as immature as cheating. I’m the kind of person who’d rather tell you, “I’m bored let’s break up,” or, “Hey, I just don’t want to be your friend anymore,” to your face, than go behind your back (I wouldn’t phrase it like that though, I’m not heartless, but you get the idea). I learned too many things get lost in translation. There are just too many factors you don’t have like: intention, emotion, facial expressions, etc. I’ve lost many friends over misunderstandings via text. They can’t hear the emotion behind what I’m saying, and instead read things defensively (and vice versa). I can’t talk about why someone triggered me via text or why something hurt my feelings without overanalyzing it and being anxious the entire day. The issue? Not many people are ready to have face-to-face discussions about what they did wrong (or telling me what I did wrong). It’s easier to just ghost people or say, “Oops!” and dance your way out of it — but that shit is cowardly and outdated. If I can’t talk to you face-to-face, you’re not worth my time.
In the end I was just looking for a friend.
I was too young to know the difference between love and infatuation, but oddly enough, I don’t think it mattered. Much like today, when we go on dates or seek out new friends, we’re doing so for companionship. I was cool with having a boyfriend but I hadn’t really grasped the concept of what that would entail. To me, a boyfriend was just a special best friend who I’d get to share my dino nuggets with, and that’s still kinda true. A significant other would be great to have, but the older I get, the more I find myself not caring about whether that has to mean more than friendship or not. Love isn’t always romantic or sexual, so why pressure myself into thinking it is?
Marriage or not, my ultimate goal is to find a friend that will last a lifetime.