I've been trying to finish this post for near a month now, having been derailed when I first wrote it. I have decided that tonight, September 30th, I am going to make my last edits and publish it. It may not be perfect, but this is something I have really wanted to talk about (to everyone) and it is making me sad to hold this post hostage.
During Battlemoor, I officially joined a new family...
(For those of you wondering, yes I still have my Vandale family. They are great, and I still love them all!)
This is a bit different, however. I joined this new family by becoming a cadet (for the 2nd time) to a Don Antoine de Vallier. This man is a don, the captain of the mercenary company Mourning Glory (who happens to own a ship) and a member of the Order of the True Sword.*
This is a lot of people. I mean it. In fact, at this point I am not even sure that I understand the extent of the family. Though I think it's larger even than my biological extended family (which is quite big).
However, before I elaborate on this large family part, I would like to go into a bit of my past as a cadet. Initially, I felt ashamed to share this, but let's be honest - This is always going to be a part of my SCA history and it played a huge role in helping me develop into who I am today.
I asked to be a cadet when I was 18. By that point, I had been learning from the don I chose for 3 years. He was the one who that welcomed me to my 1st fighter practice, and put the rapier (epee at the time) into my hand. He'd also been involved in some of my early garb and fencing jacket creations, had physically gotten me to practices and events, had fed me countless meals, had introduced me to the weirdest movies you can imagine, and had introduced me to scores of people. There was no question that he was the one I wanted to cadet to.
Note: I have seen this go both ways - some cadets know who they want to work with and ask that person, but conversely, dons can see a promising student and offer to cadet them.
When I cadetted, sure, I did want to be a doña, but that possibility seemed so far off in the way future that it wasn't actually my goal. I wanted to learn to fence, obviously, but I also wanted more. I wanted to learn "to SCA". And there was so much to learn.
My don seemed to know everyone and had held all manner of officer positions in the SCA. He had been responsible for some great developments for the betterment of the game. He had some freaking awesome stories of badassery and mischief. And I wanted to be a part of all of those things: garb-making, meeting people, fencing, games, service, arts stuff, impactful happenings, event-going, badass stories...everything!
In my mind, he was more than just a fencing teacher, he was a mentor and an influence for an impressionable teenager. (Notice that I didn't say "good influence" as he was quite fond of mischief, punk rock, and fire, but...ya know...). ;-)
For a bit over 10 years, I was his cadet - through college, grad school, marriage, and divorce. There were several breaks in there from 6 mos to 3 years but the intention was always to return. However, when I began playing after my longest break, at 27, just after getting engaged, I found the culture of the SCA changing. Evolving. Since the game has been around for ~50 years, I feel like every 10-ish years or so, it is likely to go through a shift in mindset, structure, and rules. As the game grew in popularity, different types of people started joining. Different ideas.
In my observation, this time of change was spurred by one very significant factor - population change. The median age was getting older, younger people were not sticking around and now, many of the long-timers stopped playing or moved away.
I was different as well when I came back in 2011. I was no longer a shy, naive teenager who has no idea what she's doing half the time. I was an adult, with a master's degree, who was married and then was going through a damaging divorce. (And still had no idea what I was doing half the time!) In essence though, I had leveled up. In addition, the fencing family I had been part of had also become different - lives changed, careers changed, priorities changed. After 10+ years, this is only natural.
My don and I decided, mutually, to end our don-cadet relationship officially in 2014. We were now set upon different paths. And because of all the changes in the society and the population, I was not actually sure which way I was going.
|Hammy the Squirrel is my spirit animal!|
I debated ever cadetting again, thinking that I had failed my don by not becoming a white scarf. By not doing more. Being better. Diving in with both feet even though I had no life vest or floaty ring. Was I even desirable anymore? What was I looking for?
For a while, I just thought I would muddle my way through without a don and just, kind of, become badass on my own. However, I began to learn that it was really hard to get noticed if you don't have that red (or white) piece of cloth on your arm. I was still able to get teaching from all the fabu teachers that I had surrounded myself with, but I didn't exactly have that one person in my corner who could give me unsolicited advice or that little edge of confidence needed when going into a tourney. I decided that having someone looking out for me in that way was a valuable part of the SCA.
So with Antoine, I was looking for someone who:
1. Attended many of the events that I attended but was also outside of my geographical circle (the Boulder/Denver area). I needed motivation, in a sense, to attend stuff but I also wanted distance to be able to do my own thing. I have worked super hard over the years to be me, so I want space to be able to continue that. With many things, I can (mostly) do just fine. ;-)
2. Was very knowledgeable in rapier combat and could give me unsolicitated advice and commentatry on my fencing. I also was interested in both old-school, new-old school, and new-school perspectives.
3. (and I hate to admit this one) Would help me navigate the turbulent and shark-infested political waters of the SCA - in general and in rapier-combat specifically. I have always thought that I would be happier in the long run if I stayed out of SCA politics. However, I've learned that it depends on what you want to do. If advancement is one of the things - then unfortunately, playing some politics is kind of unavoidable. Additionally, if you want to make a positive impact and changes on the community, having some political clout is incredibly helpful.**
4. Could help me really learn what it means to be a don/doña and help me work toward that goal. Because, let's be honest, very few people cadet without the hope of one day, putting that white scarf on their shoulder. ***
Ugh...I can feel a "part 3" coming on because I'm soooo sleepy. So, without further ado...
TO BE CONTINUED...
* For those of you that don't do SCA, let me explain. Essentially, this means that I have become "apprenticed" to a respected teacher in the SCA fencing community (a "don" or "doña") This type of bond is usually more than just a teacher-student relationship but a mentor-mentee relationship. In taking on this role, I have become a part his large SCA family. This includes his "real-life"family (his wife and 2 biological children), his lineage (his doña, her don), his legacy (his other cadets - a "brother" and 3 "sisters"). I have also become a part of Mourning Glory (which is like a household) - the members of his crew as well as all those with whom his crew has "allied".*
**For some people, playing the political game is easy. These people are charismatic as fuck, just the right combination of brazen and arrogant, probably a bit crazy, and maybe a little stupid. They can walk right into a room or party and just own it. Those people are not me. For all my sociability, I am internally shy and unsure (still working on this). Which is why, if I'm going to attempt to make an impact, I need it to be teamwork. Therefore, having a family, household, or allies that have your back is pretty crucial.
*** I know we now have the Order of Defense as well which is technically a step up from the Order of the White Scarf. However, that's a peer-level award and I understand it even less. So I will not talk about that one here.