On Peer/Dependent Relationships

Originally published on May 5, 2019, but I decided to push it out today instead of backdating it so it would get some more views. Reading this now, over a year later and having been elevated, I’m not sure if I have changed my mind or not, honestly.

I’ve been thinking about peer-dependent relationships lately, and how they work and don’t work and the ways we regard them in the SCA. This has informed some conversations I’ve had and my view of some recent events that I’ve seen happen adjacent to me.

Firstly, I have come to the realization that I wish, fairly seriously, that we did not use a pseudo-official signifier to indicate that someone is a dependent. I understand why we do it, but in many ways, the position of dependent has come to almost indicate a status or rank that I think damages the SCA. I’m not entirely sure what to replace it with, but people could do household badges or livery on clothes or favors, and that would suffice nearly as well. It would be harder to say “I have a job for a protege/fight for a squire/project for an apprentice” and immediately pick one out of a crowd, but I’m not sure that would necessarily be a bad thing either; it would probably push people to communicate more than just look for a colored belt.

The other, larger issue is that it seems to me that a lot of peers and dependents have no idea how to resolve internal conflict. There’s no structure or process built in to their relationship to address what happens when there’s a serious disagreement, a crisis, a misunderstanding, whatever, and when it happens, all hell breaks loose.

A lot of people like to to do the “year-and-a-day” thing with new dependents, and I think that’s great, especially when the peer and dependent are initiating a new relationship. But I’m a project manager, and I believe in iterative processes. I think that peers and dependents should talk about their relationship early and often. There should a structured, yearly review, and that review should go in both directions.

I think that most people have been lucky enough to not have a peer-dependent relationship go sour on them; my experience of having that happen three times (twice with the same peer, no less) is pretty unique. I own my own mistakes and actions in those matters, and I’m not terribly interested in debating what happened; the insights I took away from those failures are that they, in many ways, stem from a lack of preparation. Add that to how we amplify these relationships as I talked about above, and you can often have a recipe for disaster.

I don’t go to a lot of vigils, but when I do, my advice to vigilants is always “have a plan for when a relationship with a dependent goes wrong”. Have someone you can turn to as a mediator. Understand your process for dissolving the relationship with as little pain as possible for all involved. Failed peer-dependent relationships don’t have to end friendships, they don’t have to destroy households, and they don’t have to end SCA careers.

As for Goodness

As for Goodness – you yourself desire rank and standing; then help others to get rank and standing. You want to turn your own merits to account; then help other to turn their to account – in fact, the ability to take one’s own feelings as a guide: that is the sort of thing that lies in the direction of Goodness.

Lúnyŭ (Analects)

Pelican Stuff

Originally published May 28, 2020.

I am gratified to announce that as of May 27th, Warder Rashid and I have been associated for a year and a day. He and I have officially agreed that he is my protégé. He will swear fealty and receive the symbols of our relationship from my hand when we are able to safely do so in public, for all to witness.

I am also pleased to announce that Lady Reishi and lady Gelis have agreed to enter into association with me as my students. They will be my students for a year and a day, at which point we will discuss how our relationships might change or evolve. They will also receive the symbols of our relationship from my hand when we are able to safely do so in public, for all to witness.

Until then, know that Rashid, Reishi, and Gelis enjoy whatever benefits my patronage carries. They are members of me and my wife Laura’s Family of Choice.

Also know that I believe that within each of these gentles is the potential to be worthy of peerage. I hope all of my friends and all of theirs look forward to seeing them achieve their goals as much as I do.

In strength, in service, and in song, is this done by my hand in the early hours of morning, May 28, AS LV.

Andreas, Magister of the Order of the Pelican, Baron of the Court of William and Isolde.

It’s Not Always Fun

Originally published May 24, 2020.

So I was talking to some folks today (more on that next week) and I articulated something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, so I wanted to talk about it to a wider audience.

A lot of people in the SCA say “do what you love, and peerage will come,” and while I don’t think that’s true, because the process is flawed and has far greater random elements than most people realize, there is a nugget of truth to the statement.

I might rephrase it as “do work you can tolerate doing most of the time, and it’s ok to not like every second of it,” because, well, some of the administrative work of the SCA just isn’t all that much fun, but it still has to get done, and no one loves doing their chosen activity all the time. As long as you fulfill your obligations, you’re generally gonna be good.

The point I’m working towards is that it is okay, upon occasion, when asked “are you having a good time” to say “no, but you are, and that is personally satisfying to me.”

There are aspects of heavy combat that I don’t like very much, but I still love fighting. Same for rapier and archery, and poetry, and the Storycast, and general Bardic. Woah is it big time applicable to Bardic. Maybe more than everything else put together.

This isn’t even about having bad days, although everyone, even peers, have bad days. Just that there’s a reason why it’s called “work,” right, and it’s incumbent in those of us who can to pay it forward / give back to this organization we love so much.

Even if sometimes we don’t like doing it.

Thoughts? Disagreement? Outrage? Don’t be shy. 

The Moment

Originally published May 2, 2020.

I am put on Vigil at the end of January 2020. Picture by Baroness Zahra

This picture.

This picture is the distillation of 30 years of striving and failing and striving again, of refusing to give up, and having others refuse to give up when I was ready to do so.

It’s also a distillation of a decades long friendship that started out with me cutting up waffles and other food into small enough bites, moved into watching Star Wars on my couch, and ended up with someone I’ve known since she was a baby putting me on vigil.

I love you Mika. I’m proud of you. You did good.

Elevation Thanks

originally published May 2, 2020.

I have many people to thank for everything over the past three months, as I have processed getting put on Vigil, set everything up, had the event cancelled, contemplated a virtual elevation, and finally been elevated.

Before all others, I have to thank Laura. Not only did she step way out of her comfort zone to take on the role of the Hands of Their Majesties in order to present, speak about, and then place the medallions I wear today, but she’s believed in me far longer than I’ve believed in myself. I’ve been moody, angry, euphoric, foolish, and just plain stupid plenty of times over the past 14 years, and she’s stood by me the entire time. I did a #wordfamewednesday post about her last week, but really, it only scratched the surface. I am who I am right now because of her.

the favor Laura gave me before elevation.

After Laura comes my boys, Charlie, Ben, and Max. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to balance the different parts of my life, and I know I haven’t been a perfect father, but I always went out and tried to be a better example to you each day than I was the day before.

My boys.

My peers: Duchess Arabella, Duke Ragnvaldr, Mistress Amelie, & Sir Thomas. Thank you for standing by me, and participating in this weird, confusing, distant elevation. I can never repay you for your support.

I want to thank Mistress Maggie & BARONESS Zahra for coordinating my virtual vigil last Wednesday. When I go the opportunity to run Baroness Allegra’s vigil Thursday night, I got a feel for how difficult that is! Thank you both very much!

I want to thank so many of you. William & Isolde, and the Hefflins for running the food and organization for my in-person vigil at Winged Hills Collegium so many weeks ago. Finn & Halla & Lewys and the Bardic Storm crew for always being ready to talk about music. Tha Krew for always having funny memes and comments. Signy & Lanea & Gideon & Monique & Ros & Andries & Sophie for helping me figure things out.

Mistress Maggie of Cnoc Cait & Mistress Marie la Fauconniere worked together to produce my vigil tunic, which I have pictures of below.

I want to thank Aveline & Mistress Sarafina for the Garb that Is Yet to Come, as well as Mistress Roana for the vigil book that is on the way. They will all get used when we are able to be together again, and have a MASSIVE party.

My co-vigilants Allegra & Fiadnata & Sigenandus & Katayoun & Saraswati & Hrefna & Corisande, all standing together in a group going “what are you gonna do? I dunno, what are you gonna do?” Well, we made it y’all! CONSTANT VIGILANTS!

Mistress Alzbeta has been a tireless workhorse for all of the virtual elevations, and she was no exception for mine.

And of course, the Shepherd of Fire, Ryo-ô Seto, and la Amada Regina, Ynes, my unending thanks for believing in me, and trusting me, not just at this moment, but for much of Your Reign, and how it was thematically shaped. These may be the duties of the Honest Minister, but they are also the joyful enterprises of the lucky ones.

Here’s the video:

Thank you, everyone, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten others as well, I always do. I appreciate all of you.

Ymir Review

Originally published March 1, 2020.

I’ve been trying to write a post about Ymir for a week and now it’s going to be a double post to include Winged Hills Collegium as well, so settle in my friends, this will be a long one.

I had actually been asked by Mistress Ros to go to my friend Gideon’s vigil and elevation to Laurel well before I was put on vigil at Maidens, and while I was excited to go and see some friends like Owen and Aibhilin, Aneleda, and Darhien, and meet new people, I was wholly unprepared for the welcome and Inclusion I received from these wonderful people. Lanea, Dunstan, Sinn, and Signy in particular offered astounding kindness and caring.

Honestly, I was overwhelmed. There were so many wonderful moments, I can’t even really list them all, but the ones that stand out for me are the intimate and homey court, Gideon’s handwashing ceremony, and the amazing Bardic circles. So much quality and worth is held in that place, and I wish there had been more time.

I sang more bardic in two days than I’ve done in three years in the MidRealm, and that’s going to change. I don’t know if the kingdom is going to like it, but it’s time to start using my voice again.

Even though I was only just beginning to get to know my new friends, I received much advice and many words from them regarding my own elevation(although Gideon and I, both on vigil, talked about podcast mics when I visited him). I’m overjoyed that Mistress Lanea will be coming to my vigil and elevation at Better War, and bringing some Atlantian tradiions with her.

It may have escaped your notice, my friends, but I tend to be a bit of an overthinker. Some of the moments I had at Ymir (and at Winged Hills, which I’ll speak of in a moment) were so… poweful… I had a hard time believing that I deserve them. It’s not imposter syndrome, not exactly. I have accepted that I’m going to be a Peer of the Realm, and I’m actually starting to enjoy the prospect of it. But the way people were treating me felt non-commensurate to my perceptions and ideas about how I feel I should be regarded.

For fifteen years, I have been holding myself in a cage. I have been, as one of my favorite Queens has said, grinding myself down and hollowing myself out in my efforts to be my best self and meet the standards of some others, and it’s the second part that’s really the problem because some standards are impossible to meet.

But when I went to Atlantia, I had an opportunity to do something none of us often get: the me that they met is the me that I want to be, the me that I am NOW. Not the me of 2014 or the me of 2005 or the me of 1990, my first year in the SCA.

And that’s the guy they embraced. And it is a gift beyond measure. And there is a piece of me I did not know existed, and its name is Atlantia.

Even though I left Ymir in the highest of spirits, I arrived at Winged Hills Collegium in tears (overthinker, remember?). This isn’t the only reason, and the week was difficult on multiple fronts, and I’m having to learn a whole new way of processing some things, because when you remove walls that have been built for a decade and more, they can’t be rebuilt overnight. And neither do I want to.

It’s possible two months to vigil is too long, but it’s the vigil I’ve got, and I’m determined to not waste any of it. I spent the entire trip down, 3:45 am to 10am as almost a solitary vigil itself, considering what has brought me to this place and this time and who I am.

I got to Winged Hills and Ynes, Fiadnata, Maggie, and Fergus could all tell something was wrong, and Maggie whisked me away so I could compose myself. I got dressed, set up my stuff, took a deep breath, and went to my vigil space.

So when I was originally scheduled to come to Winged Hills it was to run Dame Eleanor’s (Erin) elevation. When she found out I was on vigil, and and I thought it would be fun to sit vigil in the same space. I’m glad we did it, even if I’m not sure I can forgive her for the weight of the gift she gave me.

My friends of House Fairhaven gave me an amazing vigil. Since William and Isolde were busy, the vigil itself was staffed by Gareth and Sabine and folks, it was absolutely amazing. There were cookies with my device on it! There was brisket! There was fancy cheese! It was beyond what I thought I wanted, much less needed, and I cannot thank them enough.

Did you have vigil cookies with your arms and two kinds of Pelicans on them? #noyoudidnot

Halle and Maggie helped with the lines, and I am very thankful to all those who came and spoke with me and signed my book. Again, the caring and kindness and regard I received were remarkable, and I was overcome more than once.

I got to attend my first order meeting as a Vigilant (no speaking which wasn’t difficult at all, thanks, I hate it) and what struck me the most was the wisdom and love of Queen Ynes. I have known Her for a – very – long time indeed, friends, and sometimes it’s easy to forget and regard Her as the little girl who watched Star Wars on my couch, but Her poise and confidence and care and and the sheer STEEL She carries makes Her a blessing to this kingdom and Her people. I am so proud of who She has become.

I had many wonderful talks with many of my friends, including AElfred , Flan , and Keaton, Sorcha, Phillip, and Fergus. Halla sang to me and so did Lorelei.

And then, of course, the surprises in court! Fiadnata is on vigil! Allegra is on vigil! Eleanor made everyone cry with her ceremony!

And then we went back to William & Isolde’s for pizza and fellowship. Breakfast in the morning at Youngs, of course, and then William helped me really figure out the chinstrap on my helmet, which has been a problem. I’ll be back on the heavy field after Better War.

And so now where does this leave me?

Nothing is changed and yet everything is changed. The river flows and it’s different and unchanged. I don’t know anything.

There are moments where it feels like I am drowning in joy. I am happy beyond measure, even with the difficulties.

I still have a month to go. I must still gather earth from Midlands, Pentamere, and Constellation. Eventually my friends and I will gather at the lake our lodgings are nestled on, and I will sit a late night outdoor vigil, followed, finally, and yet not finally, because there’s never an end to the time of accepting and processing advice, I will sit on the stage at Better War and talk to people. Laura and Charlie and Ben will be, thankfully, with me, and Lanea and Gideon and Aneleda and Dahrien will be there, and all my other friends, and we will sing and laugh and talk and cry, and one of my lifelong dreams of having everyone I love in one place will be as fulfilled as I could ever hope.

Then at court, the boon will be begged of Seto & Ynes, I will be released of my obligations,, my closest friends will humble me with their words, and the people of the dragon will witness my oath which is not just an oath of fealty to the Crown, but of service to and for the people.

The time we have in this world is short, and often difficult, but it is a gift. What we do with our time is ours to decide, but I will do my best to fill what I have left with the kindness, love, compassion, drive, and regard that has been shown me, that even now, I do not believe that I deserve, but I will accept them with love nonetheless. Because they are all gifts.

And these are the duties of the honest minister.

First of March, As 54, on the King’s Road from Flaming Gryphon to Ayreton, in Constellation Region.

Only Human

Originally published February 21, 2020.

There’s an episode of the Netflix show The Crown, where Prince Phillip becomes obsessed with the moon landing. He watches all of the coverage, he reads all the articles, he pushes his jet plane to the limits so he can see the curvature of the earth, and when Queen Elizabeth tells him that the astronauts can come to the palace for a meeting he jumps at it, writes a list of questions, and insists on a private discussion with them.

He turns Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins into more than heroes in his head.

And then they show up, and they’re short, process-obsessed, boring men, and he’s gravely disappointed. Meeting your heroes is almost ALWAYS disappointing.

Even Princes dream of bigger things.

It is the same with Peerage.

No, no, hold on. I’m not dissing anyone, merely suggesting that people remember peers are human, and that makes peers even more heroic, really.

One of the benefits I have as I transition through my elevation is that I have filled a role very similar to peerage in the past. As a Warder of the Bronze Ring, I was part of the Order when it was the terminal position for rapier in the Middle Kingdom – before the Order of Defense existed. We weren’t peers, we didn’t enjoy the privilege of peerage, but we held many of the responsibilities of peerage. MidRealm royals often consulted with us. We built a list and conducted polls – only providing the results when requested, of course. We took students and provided them with a signifier that they were associated with us.

The thing is, that put us in a position, socially, that not all of us were prepared for. Those of you who knew me from late 1997 through early 2005 know that my life was pretty chaotic. Plenty of it was my own fault, but that’s not the point.

The point is, there were times when fencers would talk to me, and I could tell that they were disappointed, not because of what I’d done, but simply because of who I was – an immature, struggling man, unsure of his footing in almost everything, and completely desperate for a level of acceptance that didn’t feel present.

Even as a Warder.

I lost friends over it – people who held me, for whatever reason, to a higher standard, and had a harder time accepting me when I fucked up, failed, or fell down. Was that fair or right? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter now, even as much as it hurt at the time.

But folks, our heroes are still, and only, human. They can’t be anything else. Yes, peers are held to a higher standard, and yes, they should be, but when you judge, try to hold kindness in your heart, and as my best friend often says, assume no malicious intent. Everyone has bad days, everyone misspeaks, and everyone holds aspirations and has goals. Be kind.

My heroes are heroic, not in spite of their flawed human selves, but because of them.

So be kind.

Because I’ve had these experiences, I am, perhaps, better prepared for the work ahead. I hope I am. I know that peerage won’t make me popular, or powerful, nor will it bring me respect. Those things are earned, every day, by keeping that bucket of renown full, by showcasing the talent of the people around me, by lifting other people up. And I’ll work every day to live up to my oath of fealty, by my honor, my hand, and my heart.

For these are the duties of the honest minister.

The Bucket of Renown 2

Originally published April 14, 2019.

The theory of the Bucket of Renown posits that everyone has a bucket that holds your reputation. But there’s also a hole in the bucket, and if you don’t perform ongoing acts, the bucket empties, and all you’re left with is your titles.

As you gain recognition, the bucket gets bigger. But so does the hole. The corollary of “those who do more are more worthy” is “those who are more worthy must do more.”

Peers are human, and we all know that people have bad days. But peers are called to a higher standard of behavior. That’s why it’s called peer-like.