Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For the Clean Placers: Three Years

Community. It's a word I've thought about a lot these past few months, for a variety of reasons. Essentially, what it embodies is the concept of not walking alone – of walking in honesty, and in love. It's something my involvement with To Write Love On Her Arms has solidified in my head. Today especially the idea of community is heavy on my heart.

Three years ago today, at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, I knelt beside my younger sister, who was sitting at our parents' computer. I explained to her how to spell “Telpënen,” and she had to copy and paste it into the forum registration form because of the special “ë.” She finished, and I sat down and registered. There it was. I was a member of a forum, for the first time.

Something I've only recently really started to admit to is that I did not want to join Clean Place. My mother made me. I had been writing for as long as I could remember – as I like to say, I write for the same reason I breathe: it keeps me alive. But for me the benefits of getting regular feedback on my writing would be outweighed by having to be on the same forum with my younger sister (believe it or not, we were not on speaking terms half the time before we joined Clean Place, which changed everything).

It was Telpe who had suggested we join. Linte had gone on a mission trip over Spring Break, where she ate breakfast with Kalmiel (a childhood friend). Linte came home and ended up on Clean Place. Telpe talked about it a lot, and suggested we both join. I remember reading over threads before joining (back then, you could see almost everything without registering). My primary memory is thinking that Punkin had an adorable baby in her avatar, and whoever that ChildoftheKing person was, I probably wasn't going to talk to her because she had a Narnia avatar.

When I joined Clean Place, I was 14 years old – it was 3 weeks to the day before my 15th birthday. For the past year, I had had no close friends, no one I even knew well enough to enjoy spending time with. I was very bitter, and very angry. I had no interest in getting close to anyone.

But within my first few days on Clean Place, something quickly became apparent: the angsty 14-year-old was absolutely desperate to be loved. I was far too nervous to message with anyone, but a few people messaged me. The first person I ever messaged with was a girl named Bethel. The second was a member named Fidelity, better known as Faith.

Through the forum I was reunited with childhood friends Kalmiel and EveningStar, who I had not seen in 7 years. That led to a meeting to perform a Live Action Role Play for their younger sister. That was May 19th. I got to meet another Clean Placer who lived in our town. Emerwen scared me half to death the first time I met her – she became loud to account for being afraid, and I became very, very quiet.  In time that changed, of course.

That first summer was interesting. Because of Clean Place, I now had a small group of friends – we called ourselves the Fellowship. I struggled with interacting with them constantly, which mostly showed on the outside in the form of either anger or silence. I honestly had no idea how to be a friend, but I was trying to learn, and it was a difficult process.

Months and years slid by. I met an out of state Clean Placer, my adopted brother, in February of 2007 (as written about on my blog earlier). Over time I watched the face of the forum change. Members came and left. That first year we went through some devastating losses. We were younger in the beginning, and looking back, that definitely made interactions different – I'll never forget the time I blew up at Midget over the Relient K vs. TobyMac controversy, or all the arguments that occurred due to that first RPG I was part of (and the last RPG I will ever do, as I was so traumatized by that one). Then there were fights that broke out in the Win Game, or the time one member started posting hate mail around the forum about another and I was running around in the areas I moderate trying to delete it... not times I miss, though I can laugh about them now.

I thought it might be fun to just share a few of my memories of the past three years... things that a few people reading this may remember.

...whole afternoons spent in the games section (which was much smaller but more active back then)

...the day Rivus and I posted on every single thread on the last two pages of Next to the Sink

...June of 2006, when I promised myself I'd work as hard as necessary to win the squabbles that month, and I actually managed it

...writing out a sort of “alternate ending” of Lord of the Rings with Sarrasi through PM

...that first SuNoWriMo, and the satisfaction of finishing a novella for the first time

...the feeling of awe when I got into the IS and found out what everyone looked like

...taking Child's music recommendations and subsequently becoming obsessed with Relient K

...filming my movie, posting updates on Clean Place every few days

...long walks in cloaks

...starting a thread on “Trust,” which quickly became a very in depth discussion that I wasn't ready to have

...the day Mattropolis nicknamed me “The Country Elf”

...the day Mar got Soni to add the above nickname to the list of official nicknames

...when a lot of Cpers started listening to Pieces by Red at about the same time in Spring of 2007

...talking to Lissi on the phone for one of the first time and having no idea what to say

...talking to Lissi again a few weeks later and being asked if I was talking to my boyfriend (!?!)

...watching Legossi climb down into Twilight Vale alone, at her insistence, even though she'd broken her leg two weeks earlier

...trying to convince Legossi to slow down (she got ridiculously fast on those crutches...)

...the night Rivus wanted me to start using g-mail, and he tried to e-mail me there but I had forgotten my address and just made a guess so he ended up e-mailing a complete stranger

...seeing the “Whispers in the Dark” lyrics in Emerwen's g-chat status in April of 2007 and asking what song it was, because the lyrics were so beautiful

...Midget's shock when she messaged me Red songs and I actually liked them

...having a really incredibly terrible 16th birthday, which was only kept bearable by all the incredibly sweet birthday notes and graphics from Clean Placers

...winning the poetry poll twice (because Wolfsong wasn't entered either time)

...SuNoWriMo 2007, writing 101,000 words in one month, and watching Rivus post all over the forum about it after I told him my word count

...getting Nia and Twinkie as new mentors and thinking I would never listen to them because they weren't Mangy

...being proved wrong about Nia and Twinkie

...listening to Maranar and Rivus singing “The Hairbrush Song” together and wondering whether to laugh or choke

...copying hundreds of pictures to my computer and making slideshows

...sitting at my computer crying, looking at the moot 2007 pictures

...sitting at my computer crying again, looking at the moot 2008 pictures, but for totally different reasons

...sleepovers with the Texan Clean Placers, listening to music and taking ridiculous pictures until way too late into the night

...word wars, and remaining undefeated on my word count

...countless hours of poetry feedback

...writing a paper on Mangy for my first college class, and having my teacher announce that she sounded like an incredible person

...walking up to Mangy's back door and hearing screaming from inside the moment my cloak was spotted (and wondering if now would be a good time to turn and run in the opposite direction)

...sitting on the road side waiting for the police, listening to Caspian and Nia tell stories about car wrecks

...way too many laptops in Panera

...IMing with Legossi every morning because we were typically the only mooters up and online before 8:30

...finally singing Relient K with Child

...staying up late at Mangy's, talking with Mangy and Silver as we got food ready for the next day

...driving up Pike's Peak with a leaking transmission, listening to Epicon over... and over... and over again

...Caspian combing his hair with a fork

...Wolfsong stealing the marshmallows (which resulted in a chase over the mountain side)

...driving home from Colorado, thinking for hours at a time, and realizing that I wasn't the same person anymore

...finally being persuaded (due to Nia, Twinkie, and Wolfsong) to try freeverse poetry

...the insanity that was Snapshots

...walking home from a tutorial session one night and being glomped by Lissi, who was randomly standing in my front yard

...playing Skillet on the jukebox in the student center, rocking out with Lissi and Telpe

...flying for the first time in 14 years to see the Ferns

...riding in the car with Rivus and runningtiger, laughing too hard to keep an eye on the Ferns' car up ahead

...laughing more in four hours than I had in four months

...playing piano and violin duets with Younger Fern for hours on end

...watching Elder Fern spin and dye (every single time I smell anything even vaguely resembling the smell of yarn dye, I get flashbacks)

...being rescued by the Ferns after one of the most stressful events of my life

...receiving an incredible collection of talent and memories in the form of a moot scrap book

...walking out of class to see Anywhere walking towards me

...playing forks with Legossi, on the floor in cloaks

I could keep going, but that's more than enough.

Essentially, when I think about Clean Place, I think about community. A group of people who are living together – not in the sense that we're in the same physical location, because we rarely are. But because we live together. Late nights talking about life, death, hope, God, love, and pain. Prayer requests, PMs with the simple message hold on, ridiculous and random conversations, conversations that changed my life. That first year in particular, I spent a lot of time messaging with people and crying just because I couldn't believe people were actually willing to talk to me. That feeling has never fully gone away.

Clean Place has, in a sense, been the church body I never had. It's my family, it's my sanctuary, a safe place I go to over and over again. It's where I learn, it's where I play. I have grown so much as a writer, as a Christian, and as a friend through the years I've spent there. The people there are so beautiful, so gifted, so alive, and so very brave. I've walked with some of them through very dark hours. Some of them have carried me through my own dark hours.

When you're a teenager, a lot can happen in three years. God has changed everything I am in that time. I feel so fortunate that He's been able to use Clean Place to accomplish a lot of that.

God bless,

- Elraen, the Wandering Star

1 comment:

Anne said...

Oh, the good old times.... Some of the things you said in this post nearly brought tears to my eyes. I wish the old times could have gone on forever....