What the hell is a “Lonely Frontier” anyway?

I’m feeling weirdly self-indulgent today, so I’m going to write something of an “origin” story of why I do the things that I do.

It was 2007. I was some weird, awkward guy whose concept of rebellion and non-conformity was blasting Rise Against in my car on the way to my shift at Target. I was angry, as most people in their early twenties are, and still trying to process and deal with significant childhood traumas. All the while, having to handle a never-ending season of Office Politics Deluxe, and the slow, dawning realization that my social life was over (at least until 2010), and all the friends that I had grown so attached to were drifting away into Adult Life.

I was alone. My position in the store kept me away from the public most of the time, my only real contact was with other co-workers: my boss, other managers who had an agenda and regularly tried to interfere and fuck with our work, and my inventory partner, a nice young lady who thrived on pushing my buttons. In retrospect, she was really cool, and she’s one of the only people from that shithole that I miss. Aside from that? Nobody. I’d go to work at six AM, go home, and then go to bed early so I could do it all again the next day, six days a week. Didn’t have time to do anything else. I worked a shit job, had shit hair, listened to shit music, watched shit TV, played shit video games. Basically, I was mired in shit.

My nights were dedicated to trying to chill out from a hard day. I spent a lot of time online, much as I did as a teen trying to escape abuse. This was during that awkward half-step from the Web 1.0 days of Geocities and Angelfire, before social media became so ubiquitous. That time when everyone had a blog or a message board. I had a blog. A different blog, I mean. I would post short, meaningless things about my job or video games or music. Kind of like now, but with less big words involved.

I would just go online and look for things. Dedicating a whole night to try and find something new. There was something missing from my life; a sense of meaning and belonging. I was a sad, lonely, boring individual. Exploring the internet was the best I could do when I couldn’t go out and experience the real world.

I can’t remember how exactly I found this, but one day, I discovered a kind-of secret message board. It was mostly a hub for sharing music. Stuff that I had never heard of in my bubble of ear-bleeding heavy metal and corporate-friendly protest music that I consumed because I thought that was what made me a man (gender socialization is a bitch). I was hearing new (to me) music like My Bloody Valentine, The Delgados, STAR, Cornelius, Motoro Faam, Yasume, Park Avenue Music. Just great, very ethereal sounds.

At the same time, I had been getting back into following astronomy, like shuttle launches and stuff. Things I had been into when I was younger, but was forced to stop because it was “gay” and my alcohol-fueled father wasn’t going to be the parent of a queer; stargazing doesn’t put hair on your chest. I had been shown the game Noctis, and I was hooked. Floating through space on a solo mission of discovery spoke to me in a way video games really hadn’t. A lot of time was spent floating through virtual space, a comforting, droning tone in my ears, while I downloaded more of these tones from a “secret” channel.

I came up with the name “Lonely Frontier” while playing this. It was a term to describe to describe the infinite darkness of space and the endless solitude of being that lone astronaut that has to explore it. Just you, the hum of your ship’s machinery, and the cold bleakness of the empty planets that you explore. These digital landscapes, the fake planets and little-known online spaces that kept me sane in an insane time are the Lonely Frontier. A solo exploration that gives me time with my thoughts. A self-made safe space for when a normal safe space is not available. Especially now, in this era of Social Media McCarthyism, where an ever-changing concept of being “problematic” can make any marginalized individual into a pariah. Sitting in a metaphorical “pod”, away from all the bullshit that drags you down. A contradictory mix of sensory deprivation and sensory overload inside that pod.

I deal with mental illness. Depression. All of this is a coping mechanism; a way to try handling things when you’re tired of crying yourself to sleep. I have my friends, and I have my connections online. Now so, more than ever. In my last post, I posted the Overwatch streams I had been a part of. And while I certainly do have a strong emotional bond with Gabi, the two of us are still drifting in separate pods. All of us are. We can keep in touch, talk every day, share secrets and all of that, but there will come a time when I’ll need to take an adventure on the lonely frontier. My shitty brain sometimes won’t let me communicate now that I have that ability, and I need something to do to prevent completely losing it. When something is missing, I need to go out and find it, even though it’s not real.

That’s my story. Hope you can all find your frontiers, as well.

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