At least for me that portion of my life, desperately wishing I could escape to Pandora, the feeling of missing something important (even the whole CNN debacle
- how crazy that seemed at the time, when it was such a trivial thing!), it was all so overwhelming.
I actually remember reading that article, probably in 2010 somewhere. It definitely got me thinking.
I wasn't part of this community back then, perhaps this is a good place to explain why.
Years before Avatar came out, I was a fan of Terminator as well as Aliens. More generally you could say I was a fan of James Cameron's sci-fi works. I think I first read about Avatar in a newspaper. I was travelling by bus and/or train a lot in 2009, and those newspapers were one of the few means of entertainment available when travelling. Now, at first I didn't really think anything of it, as I imagined a kind of Aliens-derived movie (there were no pictures in the article and only vague descriptions of it supposedly being revolutionary).
In 2009, I was just a year into my Bachelor's study of electronics. Almost every weekday for most part of the day I was sitting in our lab/workshop on the school campus. It was a kind of basement with no windows to the outside. Especially in late 2009, nearing winter, I arrived when it was still dark outside and left to go to home when it was already dark again. Often when traveling I would listen to synthesizer music, such as the soundtrack of Blade Runner (RIP Vangelis). My life really looked like some film noir or cyberpunk movie, looking back at it now.
At the end of the year, on December 21st, I was going to see this movie called 2012 in the cinema with family. Now I don't really remember that movie. What I do remember was the ludicrous waiting lines of people to go and see Avatar in the cinema hall next to ours. I didn't really know what to think about it, but I guessed that maybe we had picked the wrong movie. I saw some of Avatar's advertising boards, but those didn't really catch my attention. Now at this time, I figured it was no great loss, as I had already planned to go with friends to see Avatar in a larger IMAX 3D cinema 3 days later.
My whole view of Avatar changed when I first saw the trailer attached in front of 2012. I didn't really know what I saw in those moments flashing by, but I saw beautiful and extraordinary things and characters. Now, I did stay and watch 2012 in its entirety, but when walking out, all I could think about was Avatar's trailer. This kind of remained the same for the next 3 days. I think I even had a dream one night involving Neytiri.
On December 24th, I traveled together with friends by train to Amsterdam (I have always lived in the Netherlands) where this IMAX 3D cinema was located. A friend had our tickets printed and we waited with hundreds of other people until we could take our 3D glasses and go into the hall.
Once the movie started playing I knew straight away that it was one of the most extraordinary things I had ever seen. And it's duration seemed to last forever (for which I was thankful, every minute). And the plot and visuals went further then I had ever imagined them to go.
When it ended I didn't really know what I felt, but I knew I had to go back to my film noir / cyberpunk-looking life. I was so dazed that I threw away the 3D glasses (that were supposed to be reused) into the trash bin. Later, while waiting at the train station, I already started imagining what a sequel was going to look like. I actually told my friends that I didn't like the movie, as I couldn't even properly express myself in this confounded state. I failed to express that I didn't like that the movie had to end.
Because I had a 2 week holiday afterwards, I had ample time to think about the experience. In the next days, I went and gathered as much Avatar related materials as I could find that could be immersed in, such as the official soundtrack and the PC game.
The end of the holiday was the worst because I had to de-Avatarise myself and it was painful. But I knew that real life was still out there and could not be ignored. I didn't go see Avatar a second time in the cinema for fear of being swallowed up in it again.
In the first months afterwards, I was reasonably alright, but there was a certain hole that needed to be filled. Since I was already trying to write fan-fiction stories for Terminator (I wasn't very skilled), I decided to try writing an Avatar fan-fiction story instead. Eventually this became my story The Invasion, that deals with a humble lone human attempting to leave his old life behind and become part of the Na'vi, while the RDA sends a Terminator-inspired antagonistic AI and its robots to Pandora.
Now to come to the reason I never joined any online Avatar community before recently: I had read and heard a lot about these Avatar depressions and in some cases even suicides. I was already dealing with my personal situation in my own way (and was succeeding in pulling myself out), so I didn't want to be pulled out of balance by reading other people's experiences. Nobody really knew of my Avatar obsession, but a lot of people were aware that such a thing existed. I was even once jokingly or satirically asked by an uncle if I was also depressed and was thinking about suicide after seeing Avatar. I said that of course I wasn't and laughed together with him at the very prospect that such things were actually occurring. But deep down I knew it wasn't true.
I would say I was never really seriously depressed or considering suicide after having seen Avatar. But I understood back then why these things were happening to other people. When I was feeling down, to pull myself out, I rationalized that life wasn't that bad and that a lot of people in the world were far worse off than I was and that I should be thankful and should try my best to contribute to humanity. Another thought that kept me from descending, is perhaps best expressed as that quote from Lawrence of Arabia: "The trick [insert name here], is not *minding* that it hurts."
So I never really shared the above story with anyone until now. Now this might seem counter-intuitive, but we all have different personalities and different ways to deal with things. It has made me resilient, patient, and disciplined; things that I am using now to help people grow in their professional lives.
I still have my original Avatar cinema ticket and I plan to take it with me when I will visit the same IMAX 3D cinema in Amsterdam on December the 24th this year for Avatar 2. The circle will then be complete, but as is the nature of a circle, it will go on beyond that day for sure.