Second random thought: Anyone want to buy a brand new Findal office chair from IKEA? $60 (originally $70), pre-assembled and you don't have to go to Centennial to get it!
Anyway...what I really wanted to talk about is - What Am I Going to Do About it?
After my last post about how fencers are assholes, the big question was:
"Well, now that you've had your rant, what are you going to do about it?"
I've been thinking a lot about this over the last few days and I think the first place I need to define is what exactly "it" means.
1- It = the assholery of the fencing community?
2- It = my annoyance at the community?
3- It = my feeling of not belonging?
4- It = my crappy fencing?
5- It = having fun?
Let's get the easy ones out of the way first:
1 - This blog. There's really not much else that I feel like I can do about the assholery except gently and semi-passively point it out hoping that I will reach at least a few others. Then in turn, I'm hoping that those others will spread the word in their own way. Will there always be those assholes out there who stubbornly hold on to their machismo and arrogance (read: insecurity)? Sure. Can I change them? Doubtful. The best thing I can do is just ignore them and hope they don't interfere too much with me. And, if they do interfere, I suppose I will just have to stomp on their toes and insult their mothers.
4 - Practice, obviously. Go to the gym, I suppose, instead of coming home to get my nails done and write this blog. XD Will I ever be good enough? Who knows. I guess it depends on what I want to be good enough for and how I'm measuring "enough". This is still a very much TBD and I don't think I'll actually know the answer until I reach "enough."
2 - This can't be helped. I will continue to be annoyed at various aspects at various times. It's human nature. I cannot Frozen-it-up and just "Let it go." I will have to just be annoyed and move on, not letting it control how I interact and how I treat others.
3 and 5 I believe go hand-in-hand and I have one definite answer for both of these at the same time:
I. Don't. Know.
There are several paths that I see taking, and honestly, I feel like I have tried them already.
There was one time where I left the SCA altogether for about 3 years, even going so far as to un-Facebook-friend a lot of SCAer just because I didn't want to see pictures of the SCA. There were also several other times where I drastically scaled back my play to only 1 or 2 events/year. This definitely had its pros:
- I was able to take part in other activities that I couldn't do while in the SCA due to time conflicts with practices and events, such as bellydance, cooking classes, Zumba, yoga, writers groups etc.
- In general, I had more time for obsessive activities: video games, reading, TV shows, travels, movies.
- I (sort of) had more money. I say (Sort of) because I didn't have the compulsion to buy expensive things like swords, fabric, chain shirts, leather etc. However, I did travel more and non-SCA travel is quite a bit more spendy than SCA camping events. And I still crafted but...
- I was able to focus some time on other types of crafts that were non-medieval such as steampunk, scrapbooking (yes, I like doing this! Don't judge), drawing and writing.
However, something was missing: The people. I had quite a few friends that I didn't really get to see unless I went to events and fighter practices. I understood this only on the periphery of my awareness. These people were always around, until they were not. Or rather, until I was not. I noticed that something was missing, but I couldn't quite figure out what. That is, until I went to an event and realized how many holes my life had in it. How many people who initially I thought couldn't care less that I was gone, that said, "It's good to see you!" and, "I'm glad you're here." And on a level, I really was glad too.
In my current stage, this path won't work. I just signed up for my first Kaos, I'm helping at Dance Collegium, I just spent a bunch of money on a sword and chain shirt for fencing, and whether I do or don't, Iago will still play. That means many weekends and evenings alone when he goes to SCA things. That would make me sad. Which leads me to #2:
#2: Do only things that are fun
This strategy has been proposed to me by a number of people and I have tried this as well. Admittedly, there are a certain type of activities in the SCA that many would agree are not always, mostly, or ever exactly "fun". This includes but is not limited to: craft project deadlines, standing guard, coordinating events, holding offices, schlepping/hauling/setting up/packing/unpacking/tearing down etc. (Now, before you get too up-in-arms and start arguing how these things are fun for you, please understand that I am making a conscious difference between "fun" and "necessity". I do recognize that a lot of these activities are needed for both ensuring that the game runs smoothly and that we preserve the feel of the world we've [re]created. And I am not opposed to being a part of these. Please reserve judgement until below).
So what is "fun" for me in the SCA? Well, fencing, shooting archery, power-lounging, drunkenly socializing over a campfire, making art for art's sake, learning new skills, developing camaraderie, making new friends. In regards to fencing particularly, I did this at one Battlemoor. I really don't like tournaments, so I fought in none of them. Instead I did pickups with ALL kinds of fencers: OOK ones, newbies, oldsters, people I haven't fought in forever, people I fight all the time but that I love to fight, etc. and melees. I had an awesome time at that Battlemoor. I felt...satisfied. At least, for the time being. More on that later.
What about the "not fun" stuff? Well, if you ask Iago, I volunteer for everything. Need to plan a party? Sure. Need emergency retinue? I've got it. Need someone to step up last minute and be Baronial land coordinator or run a meal plan? That's me. He always jokes that NAVY stands for "Never Again Volunteer Yourself." Apparently, I could never be in the navy...or maybe, I SHOULD be in the navy because I volunteer for everything? You know, I'm not exactly clear on who exactly that metaphor applies to..... This part is OK for me. I like helping people. Especially people I like, but also people I don't know. And even sometimes people that I'm not particularly fond of.
What's not fun is being expected to read minds of the people you're helping. Or getting in trouble when you can't do something good enough or fast enough (there's the "enough" word again. What does it mean anyway? Can there be a better qualifier?). As this is a game and totally voluntary, a person's well being should come first. So, being guilted because you didn't go to this or that event or do this or that thing because you'd had a really awful week at work and were simply facking exhausted...that's not cool. Especially if you endeavor to make up for it in some other way or time. (Now, obvs, if you back out ALL THE TIME then you will be seen as unreliable and you maybe should reassess your ability to volunteer in the first place). Anyway, I'm sort of going into #3....Let's just suffice it to say that I had some very poor experiences in the volunteer field that soured me. One to the extent that I am still terrified of being on retinue. More on that later.
Let's go back to that Battlemoor where I did nothing but fight what I wanted to and do (or not do) what I wanted to when off the field (which consisted of napping, shopping, power-lounging, copious amounts of both drinking and smoking). It was good. I left that event feeling rejuvenated. Exhilarated. Ready to play again.
Then..the Facebook posts began again - awards people were getting, achievements unlocked, notoriety, inclusion, induction into the "cool kids" of X or Y order. One particular silver tine was given to one particular fencer who had been playing a short time, who didn't travel much, who didn't do anything but fight at events, and who didn't go to local events that didn't have fighting but who happened to be in all the most visible tourneys and didn't suck. This was not an isolated incident and was something I had observed for years (and every year that passed w/ me NOT getting my silver tine, it felt worse). It kind of set me over the edge...I realized that my "funtimes" did not correspond with stuff that got noticed. And I realized that not getting noticed kind of sucked. Which leads to path #3.
#3: Work Your Butt Off and Strategize*
* This section may piss people off, but before you freak, please keep in mind that this is my impression and it could be completely false. However, even if it is completely false, please at least ask yourself why a veteran SCA-dian (17 years, y'all!) would feel this way.
If you want to get recognized for something, what I've noticed is that there are certain events, certain positions that you need to participate in that will give you an advantage. These positions involve in some way getting closer to the king and queen (directly or indirectly). In all martial, service, and arts areas have I seen this happen.
- Arts: If you're a scroll-maker and your name is read out in court for every scroll you do, you're more likely to be recognized by someone than if you are part of the bookbinders guild and semi-anonymously mass-produce Nag-Hammadis for a largesse donation.
- Service: If you herald or hold an important officer position, you're more likely to get noticed than if you schlepped everyone on site's camping equipment.
- Martial: Holding guard positions, especially captain, champion, lieutenant, chivalry, general for a war, etc. or running or fighting in the more respected tourneys like the non-don/unbelted, Lady of the Rose etc. Will likely get you closer to an award than fighting melees or in lesser-respected tourneys (like the women's tourney. Sorry....).
Also, it seems that a lot has to do with if you student to a master and who your master (mistress/don/knight/MoD etc,) is. I could write an entire post on the cadet-don relationship, so I will be brief here. Let's just say if you pick a more formal and influential master, you're more likely to have the support of many other masters in the field and therefore be watched and noticed more. (Of course, you would have to conduct yourself with chivalry and decorum as well). If you choose a master that is either very informal or *gasp* unpopular, you will take on that same rep and it'll be more difficult to advance.
In short, you play the politics game using yourself and those around you as chess players, trying to achieve a checkmate to the king or queen. Where they literally can't fail to see what you've accomplished. This method, I must say, is very exhausting. Especially when you just have the luck to know the crowns before they become crowns. Serving retinue or guard for a crown you don't know with a company of people you don't know can be draining because it seems like everyone else is on the same page/looking out for each other, and you're flailing on your own. I know. Because this happened to me (I know it can also be a gateway to new friends, which I've also done, but sometimes it's hard to predict what will happen).
And yes, I have tried to play politics. Several times in fact. You can read one of my stories in this link about how I tried to position myself politically and what came out of it. If you don't have the time to read a second blog, here's the skinny:
On my first retinue for a queen, I got my Stag's Heart after being on retinue for 3 events where I couldn't even attend too much because I was volunteering at other parts of the event. I had met this queen and only spoken to her once - and not at length. She inspired loyalty so I busted my ass for her at Pennsic - to the point where I got dehydrated and heat exhaustion and spent a day and 1/2 of a 3 day stay sleeping.
She thanked me to my face, but then proceeded to bitch about me to my baroness which caused my baroness to chew me out at a fighter practice. This queen had literally walked into my house (or emailed into it) and pooped on my carpet. And instead of fessing up and saying she'd done it, she made it look like it was my fault. It made me feel horrible. All that I had worked for, in the end, had actually made my reputation worse! And that resulted in literally zero amounts of fun.
The exciting Pennsic opportunity that I had to reconnect with my old household, to party like an adult of (legal) drinking age, and to explore my newly found freedom and vivaciousness now mostly registered in my mind as "The time I got heat exhaustion and a queen ruined my baronial reputation". I don't know when I'll get the opportunity to go back to Pennsic, but if I do, unless I adore you, I will not volunteer to be on your retinue.
It took all the conviction I had to not rage quit the whole SCA right there. My household and other friends kept me there, as did the other responsibility that I'd committed to. I gritted my teeth and got through them, with barely a "Thank you" and made sure to get rid of all responsibilities i had left very quickly. I will let you in on a little secret, unless I'm intentionally trying to look service-y or official (autocratting an event for example) I will not wear my Stag's Heart.
I have many other thoughts on playing the politics game, but that's another post as well. For me, for this post, let's just say that recognition is something that I like. I am motivated by tangible rewards whether it's getting the chance to perform on stage for dance, getting awards or cool attaboys in the SCA, having a "kudos" at work, hearing "i love you", losing weight /increasing strength in working out, or knowing that people read my blog (please comment or message!). It even said this in the Thomas PPA personality test that I was forced to take at work. When my boss pointed out that rewards actually motivate me, something clicked in my brain. I can't do anything that I do in anonymity and be actually happy.
So, what am I going to do about "it"? The "it" of community, of recognition, of happiness, or belonging?
Well, it can't be wholly #1, #2, or #3. So..
I have no fucking clue.