Nakatsukasa-shu (Collected Works of Poet Sadayori) (Detail) Attributed to Saigyo. Japan. 12th Century. Important Cultural Property. 13.1 × 15.2cm. Idemitsu Museum of Arts.
Something that I’ve seen a number of my friends post about recently is being overwhelmed by their activities in the SCA, trying to fit that in with what is happening in their mundane lives, and the frustration of not being able to do so.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart, because I have been there, more than once. SCA (and the sub-hobbies that come with it, whether that being martial arts, physical arts, or both) tends to be an encompassing activity, or as one person succinctly put it, “all-in”. As I have dealt with this before (and am currently having to deal with it now), I thought I might offer some advice.
First, if you want to avoid frustration, remember that the SCA is a hobby, not a career. I’ve heard many people complain about peers who tell them not to be ambitious, but the fact is, the peer is trying to save the person some pain. For good or for ill, the SCA Award structure is imperfect. Even if you do everything “right” (whatever that means), the fact of the matter is awards are given by the whim of the Crown, and with peerages, they are aided by the advice of the respective Orders (Chivalry, Laurel, Pelican, Defense). So a lot of the decision is out of a person’s control. So I would advise not to be so attached to the outcome of your labors. Instead, focus on the Doing of things, and find happiness in that.
The SCA is a social hobby (it does, after all, start with “Society”), and so getting out and going to events or even local meetings is an important part of it. And sometimes that can be very hard, especially when you are trying to balance work and family life with it. When I started in the SCA, I was in my mid-20’s, single, living in an apartment, and doing temp work that allowed me the flexibility to be very active. Now I’m in my mid-50’s, dealing with a chronic illness, a husband who prefers other hobbies, a house to take care of, and elderly parents who need more of my time and attention (my husband and I skipped the kids part, but several people have to work that responsibility in as well). And that makes a huge difference on how I am able to play SCA.
I often marvel at what I was able to accomplish back in my younger days, on a pitiful income. But I was young, had a lot of energy, and not much in the way of responsibilities. Nowadays, I do have to take better care with my health, as well as managing our money so that we can pay our mundane bills plus save up for retirement, which isn’t so far away anymore. So I’ve had to change how I play my SCA game, and frankly, ratchet back my ambitions somewhat.
And that’s hard, because there are so many interesting things out there I still want to do! I truly love this hobby that allows me to mingle with so many other history enthusiasts, even if we don’t all focus on the same time or place. There is that tangible enthusiasm for learning, not just from reading books (although yeah, I love that too), but by physically attempting to either recreate or adapt the material culture of the Medieval world, and by doing so, create a tie to those who lived in those times.
So what do you do, when faced with these circumstances? First, I would say, don’t quit. Even if you have to back-burner a lot of your SCA activity, try to get out to an event or local meeting once or twice a year. There are many robust online communities, which can be very helpful in many ways, but there’s nothing that replaces face-to-face interaction. Second, try not to focus so much on what you are missing out on than what you can do. Keep up with at least one of your interests. Remember that circumstances do change, and while you may not have the time or money to participate as fully as you would like right now, that doesn’t mean that will always be the case.
Encourage others on their journey. I’ve found I enjoy seeing the progress made by many of my fellow Shire members, even as they surpass me. I won’t lie, I do get a little jealous, but I see them putting in the work and they’ve earned their recognition.
Look forward to the time when you can participate again more fully. In the meantime, take joy in smaller things, and keep learning and exploring at a level you can manage. Don’t let the imagined glory of some nebulous tomorrow steal the enjoyment of your hobby today! In this way, you can still enjoy the SCA, and the Society in turn will not lose the gifts that you have to offer.