Greetings! This will be my last post as your Kingdom Seneschal.
Therefore, here are my last, yet very important, thank yous, and then some parting words.
I owe my Barony, Cynnabar, a huge debt for letting me disappear for three years while I served the Kingdom. They let me play and relax with them, giving me a desperately needed place where I could be off duty. I can’t thank you enough. A big thank you also to Roaring Wastes for letting me attend your fight practices as often as possible – it was another place where I could just be a fighter trying to improve his skill.
Huge thanks to my close friends, which includes my protégés and Griffone d’Oro, for being there when I just needed to unload, unwind, complain, or get help.
My wife, Alina of Foxwood (Elaine Cohen), is a saint.
Finally, thank you to Dame Caitriona MacDhonnachaidh (Kat Dyer) for agreeing to succeed me as Kingdom Seneschal. It is a relief knowing that the Kingdom will be in your capable hands.
I’d now like to share with you some wisdom I’ve learned over the years. I’ve served in a variety of offices, traveled throughout the Midrealm and to other Kingdoms, and have participated in many activities, both martial and peaceful. In light of this perspective, here are some observations and reminders for those of us who love the SCA. (Hat tip to an improvisation article that provided inspiration for some of the items on this list.)
* Make stuff
For years I went around saying that I’m not a crafty person. My art was performance, not making things. Yet now that I’ve tried, I’m filled with joy with creating something out of raw materials. It doesn’t have to be hard or complex. Making and wearing my own surcoat fills me with joy. Even better, find a craft you can do with or around others. I love bringing my knitting to SCA events. People come up to me to talk about it, I can ask strangers for help, and I have something wonderful to do that doesn’t involve looking at my phone.
* Make mistakes
We don’t start out perfect. Becoming an expert takes a lot of time and a lot of mistakes. But if I were afraid of mistakes I’d never try anything new or get anything done. I was terrible at every new thing I started: dancing, fighting, running events, walking, using the potty… Enjoy the process. Acknowledge when a mistake happens, learn from it, and try again.
* Let go of expectations
Or, put another way, no plan survives contact with the enemy. An event, feast, tournament, revel, whatever, will rarely be what you expect it be. So don’t prejudge your ability to enjoy something. Accept the activity for what it is. Try it out. Who knows, doing something different might lead to an interesting discovery. Not knowing how something will turn out might even be fun.
* Nobody is perfect
Everyone has bad days, and you don’t know what is going on in their life. Someone is rude to you when you arrive at an event. People aren’t helping you carry your stuff. A fighter is not taking your shots. You aren’t getting an award. Most of the time, these unfortunate happenings are because of things you know nothing about. Maybe someone just lost their job and they don’t know that their responses are coming out as rude. Perhaps the person who didn’t stop to help is on some other task that is critical to many people. The fighter may have new armor and it isn’t working properly. Maybe people really do admire your work but just don’t write award recommendations. You don’t know why people are behaving the way they do, so why not give them the benefit of the doubt? If you knew the reason behind the behavior, it might make perfect sense. So instead, try to think of a story behind their actions, step into their shoes, and see if you can think of a reason for their actions that isn’t directed against you personally. Or perhaps talk to them directly and politely ask them if you can help them instead.
* Go to the post revel
Events are fun. However, I really get to know people and have a ton of relaxing fun when I socialize after the event, either when we all go out to dinner or at the post revel. We mostly put aside the noble formality and just enjoy each other’s company. We play games, tell stories, share good food and drink, sing, and just have fun. Even if you can only show up for a bit, take the time to party.
Yes, it is fun to go to an event far away and meet new friends and experience the SCA from a different perspective. However, the journey itself is an incredible bonding experience. I look forward to the car ride with my fighter brother and sisters, or with my dancing friends going to a symposium, where we all just get to know each other better. The experienced SCA members have great stories for those new to our society. We talk about our dreams, things we want to accomplish, help we need, and get amazing advice. I also have a rule: what we talk about in the car stays in the car.
* Process over product
I have found that if I focus on what has to be completed, I get overwhelmed and have a hard time doing anything. I want to be a better fighter, and all the effort that entails is daunting. So instead I focus on the process. Yes, I’ll go to fighter practice this week. Yes, I’ll fix my armor tonight. That even goes for combat. If I walk onto the field with the goal of winning the fight, I’ll most likely be disappointed, because I don’t have complete control of that. However, I can walk onto the field with the goal of giving my best fight possible. That I can control. And my opponent will be happier too.
* It is okay to want to be a Peer
Seriously. Go for it. Make a goal and work towards it. However, like I just stated earlier, it is about the process, not the product. Having a goal of “I will become a Pelican” will most likely lead to despair. Why? Because you aren’t the one who decides if you will be elevated. However, you can control what you do, what effort you put into it, and how you respond. Act like the peer you want to be. Work on the prowess skills (combat, art, or service). Strive to be the person you want peers to be. And if you aren’t elevated? You are still better off than you were before the journey started.
* It is not about you
Everyone in the SCA is telling their own story, and you are a part of it. You could try to get them to play your game, if you want. Good luck with that. Instead, why not try to enhance their story? Find out how you can make their journey fun. Encourage. Build others up. Provide opportunities. Do this and you will never be bored at an event again.
* Have a life outside of the SCA
Perspective is a wonderful thing, and having a life outside of the SCA helps with that. Family, friends, job, hobbies, all of that makes you a stronger, well rounded person that can better handle the slings and arrows that the SCA may throw at you.
* Never stop learning
* Always ask
Want to learn something? Ask. Want help with something? Ask. Want to volunteer? Ask. You might be told that a position isn’t currently available, or the time isn’t good, but people will remember and turn to you more in the future. People want to help, especially in the SCA. You don’t need to go it alone. It is one of the best parts of our Society.
It has been a pleasure serving you for these past three years. Please look for me on the list field, dance floor, or relaxing off to the side knitting. I’d be thrilled to talk to you, and who knows, maybe we can think of some exciting things do!