Hi everyone,

During the past week I've spent more time on the forums than I have for quite some time, and talked to more than a few people I had not spoken to in a great number of years. Even after eleven years, amazingly, this community is still here and its heart still beating. I'm realizing that despite this community being very small in size these days, there's still those of you who still frequent the forums, and there will also always be people who stop by just to reminiscence and remember a chapter of their lives.

As such, I wanted to make this thread to give everyone who stumbles upon it over the years an opportunity to catch up, share where their lives have gone, and reconnect with the community however brief it may be.

I'll be making a post of my own here but would also encourage anyone who wants to, to share a few words on where their lives ended up ten years later. :)


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I myself have mentioned bits and pieces of my experiences of the last decade, but I would like to take a moment to also share certain things that have gone unspoken until now.

Towards the end of my most active time on Tree of Souls, in late 2011, I was pouring most of my time and effort into the Blue Moon Tribe - a few of you may know of it, but for those who do not, it was a group of people with its roots in AF and ToS with the goal to find a feasible way to live off the land in a shared physical location as an independent community. A proper attempt at getting as close to a real-life Na'vi life as it gets, if you will.

Despite the obvious countless challenges to such an effort, such as finding a location where this could even be possible in the first place, it was a very real and focused effort and there was quite a bit of progress at making this a reality.

As anyone who reads this might imagine though, any such projects are far more likely to fail than not, and after some time it was winding down quite a bit with many active members moving on. At this point I might have poured even more resources into revitalizing the entire movement, if it wasn't for a specific event that caused me to completely reevaluate what I actually wanted out of my life.

That event was meeting Unknown through the Tree of Souls IRC channel. We started talking to each other in late October 2011 and I knew almost instantly that then and there I had found a soulmate. Mostly everything else felt unimportant, and so my journey turned from trying to change the world, to simply growing as a person and making the most out of life that I can.

As anyone who talked to me during ToS' most active days might remember, I was always quite fervent in my opinions and really did believe that I had all the answers - or at least felt that finding said answers was more important than anything else. At this point, I think partly because of simply getting older and partly because falling in love helped me grow as a person, those priorities faded.

Unknown and I finally met up in person during the 2012 AvatarMeet meetup in Seattle, which I think will always be the best week of my life. From there on, things turned into quite a blur! She moved to Sweden not too long afterwards where we lived for a while, we got married there in 2014, and a year later we moved to the US where we have been living ever since.

Throughout all this I have kept pursuing a career in game development, as was also the case in 2010-2011. It's gone fairly well and I currently have my own game in development along with other various projects.

From 2015 onwards, I have slowly been settling in and establishing a comfortable life in Eugene, Oregon. Unknown and I bought a house a couple years back, have been building a life together, and overall I'd say that I'm now very happy with where I am and how my life turned out.

Yet I have Avatar and ToS to thank for literally everything, and that is not something I will ever forget.

But -- that's more than enough about me! I would love to hear what everyone else has been up to, if anyone happens to come across this thread :)
Great post, glad to hear things have worked out well for you and Unknown. :gsmile:

I'm a bit private so I hope I can be forgiven for not sharing much. I will say a couple things though - Tree of Souls has given me one lifelong friend whom I've had the great fortune of knowing offline, and I'll always be grateful to this place for that.

I think that for a while I too thought that I had "all the answers" back in the earlier days of this forum. Or that's just impression of myself that I have now. In any case I now think that it's folly to ever think I could get close to being that way. I don't know s***, I'm going through life with only the best guesses I can make and sometimes I turn out wildly wrong. Some posts here were typed with my same fingers but they were connected to a different brain back then.

Maybe I'll add more later. I've always appreciated having this place as a spot to reflect.
One more thing, actually. I still make it a point to always log on to this site every single day. Maybe sometimes I skip a day if I'm especially busy or traveling, but I otherwise make Tree of Souls part of my daily routine. A decade ago there were still lots of people coming here who had just seen Avatar and were feeling all kinds of amazed, delighted, confused, sorrowful, and other strong emotions. I went through that too, and y'know what - to have a single movie have that kind of an effect on you is scary. It can be exhilarating and good things like friendships and marriages can come from it, but it can also make you question your sanity. So whenever I see anyone new here who seems like they're going through that stuff, I try to let them know that they're not alone and that we've spent many a thread trying to figure out why Avatar hit us as strongly as it did, so perhaps all our musings can help. I don't care if I barely see anyone like that coming here anymore, or if I go for an entire week without seeing new posts...I don't want to miss anyone and have them think they're alone. I've just admitted that I don't know s*** but I do know that I can at least show some respect for what they're going through. That's why I continue to stick with this site.


I'm really happy to hear that ToS continues to be a part of your life!

And absolutely, the whole journey has been such a huge range of emotions and experiences for so many people. It's easy to forget that many of these emotions, in particular early on, were not necessarily positive ones - after all we ended up coining the term post-avatar depression! 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.

One of the memories that stands out the most to me personally, was the very first day after I had seen Avatar for the first time and gradually being filled with a sense of emptiness without really understanding why. My mind kept moving back to the movie and unable to get it out of my mind, I found Avatar-Forums that same day. That evening I read through that one thread - I even recall its name, "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible" - and amazingly, I was filled with this sense of warmth and belonging like I'd never really felt before. Sure, over the next year I'd feel moments of longing or sadness, but that one moment still triumphed it all.

And that moment and that feeling is why I even today often think of ToS and this community, and want to make sure it can always be around. It's rare in a persons life to feel such a powerful sense of belonging and compassion - in fact I've only really felt it in that way twice. Once on that evening I found what would become this community, and once when Unknown came into my life. In both cases it's marked a meaningful and amazing milestone of my life and as others experience the same thing for all sorts of reasons, I can only be grateful that this is how I did.

After all these years I've came to realize that it was never truly about Avatar, but rather where we all were in our lives, what we wanted but did not realize, all the questions in our lives we were coming to terms with. In our case, the one thing that became the catalyst for all these feelings was Avatar, but I've since talked to other people who have had extremely similar experiences after say, seeing Lord Of The Rings for the first time. The same sense of escapism, of wishing to be a part of a different world or looking for meaning in life. The entire experience around Avatar and this communities says a lot more about the community than it does about the movie, but it's a beautiful thing that despite our lives all being different, we all saw hope and guidance through this one experience.

And that's of course not meant to devalue the beauty of the film, it's wonderful and amazing in more ways than I can put words to. But even more beautiful is how it has held up a mirror to all of us and become even more meaningful through our own life situations and the ways we have all grown and changed.

And as you say, if even a single more person finds ToS and goes through the same journey, that makes it worth ensuring it's here and offering a family. :)
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Ha, I forget that not everyone here was necessarily around and active during the earliest Avatar-Forums days... :D

Indeed, in early January 2010 the "post-Avatar depression" phenomena had become a bit more widespread, and CNN had taken note of the Avatar-Forums thread I mentioned in my earlier post. I had at this time posted in it quite a bit, and I was reached out to by Jo Piazza, a reporter for CNN at the time. Over email she asked me a bit about my experiences, and ultimately I was quoted in the article I linked above, as well as on live news.

After this had aired I was also contacted by a few others, such as the Dr. Phil show, who wanted me to go on air and talk more about my experiences - but for obvious reasons I declined these offers!

At the time, there was a lot of animosity at AF directed towards CNN for the way they portrayed things, but as the years have passed I've come to not really feel all that strongly about it. After all, at the end of the day these were still my direct quotes, and while it felt a bit sensationalist they did take the effort to point out towards the bottom of the article that these experiences are turning towards something positive.

There were a few other news outlets that quoted CNN's article and did take things too far - for instance, there was a Croatian newspaper that mentioned me by name and reported that I had committed suicide, which... obviously was not exactly factually correct!

Over the years I've seen some other things come out of this, I've for instance been emailed by a handful of academics who have been writing theses about the whole thing and wanted my perspective - but for the most part it was a brief moment of craziness that then (thankfully) got pretty much forgotten about :)

Looking back, there is one more element to this whole thing - I think that being featured in the CNN article actually contributed a bit to my involvement in the formation of ToS. Obviously we were a handful of people (six, to be precise) and everything that happened during those months was the product of far more than just me. Nonetheless, the CNN article was the largest factor in making me a bit more well-known around the community at the time and was probably what also gave me the confidence to get behind ToS and really push it as an independent forum. In retrospect I think it also led me to start becoming a bit more narrow-minded since suddenly I had a bit more saying power without anything really behind it, but at least I can look back to that today and see it as a lesson!

It was a weird and crazy month as I was thrown into my 15 minutes... but it was quickly forgotten in the light of the emerging community that would become my home for the next several years :)


One of the First
Oh don't get me wrong, I was around AF since its inception and am well aware of the PAD thing. I just didn't know you were featured.


That's what I recalled as well! But yeah, it was somewhat brief since once it came out and was talked about for some week there wasn't really a reason to bring it up all that much later on :D
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.
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Wow, thanks for sharing your story. It was touching and insightful to read :)

It does make me wonder how many people out there wanted to, but did not, approach Avatar communities because of the way that the Avatar depression phenomena was portrayed by the media and greater public. I'll admit it's not an angle I have considered before but it makes a lot of sense!

As someone who was pretty much dead center in that portrayal to begin with, I do wish that the media had talked about the entire thing more holistically and not just focused on the depression bit. As I mentioned above, even with the years of longing for Pandora, nothing ever did come close to that one moment of belonging I felt as I first found the Avatar community. Maybe that would have been a worthier subject to focus on :)

Still, the depression, and various degrees of it, shouldn't be glossed over since that too was a very real thing for a great many people - myself included. But just as you said - in the end, the trick is not ignoring the longing for such a life and world, but simply not minding it. Allowing it to become a source of purpose and determination, rather than nihilism and emptiness. A long road for many to be sure, but in the end I think most people grew as individuals as a result. :)
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Very well said, Eltu.

For all the negative things that have been, are, and will be said about humans and human society in general, it is not surprising that some feel nihilism and emptiness due to this. But we must not forget that it was also humans that brought us Avatar :)