Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chapter One: In Which Edyth Faces Her Fears

Over the next three days, I'm going to share a story with you. And it starts like this:

In October of 2014, I did something pretty scary. I approached a Laurel about becoming an apprentice.

For months prior to that, I'd started to think differently about the SCA and my role within it. For years, I relied on the belief that if I asked someone further down the road for help, it meant that I was giving up. I would be giving up my independence, and completely throwing out the window my ability to reach my goals on my own- to earn them under my own merit. This line of thinking, which was really just my ego taking the lead, had left me feeling alone, ostracized and even afraid. I was gripped by "Peer fear", to an awful degree. By buying into the mistaken belief that accepting friendship and association with anybody with the slightest hint of influence would damage my "self-reliance", I was only making things worse for myself. I was living under a rock, and it was cold and lonely, and the farthest place from The Dream I could get. I was ready to get out from under the rock. I was ready to find out what I was missing.

Eventually, I realized that finding a Laurel and seeing where an apprenticeship took me wasn't sacrificing anything. If the Laurel was right for me, and if I was clear about my goals, then my independence wouldn't be stomped out, and instead of simply earning my goals by myself, I would have a coach to help me reach them, and a cheerleader to keep me going. I would have an advocate, and a sounding board, and in at least some small way, a friend.

So right away, I knew what I wasn't looking for. I wasn't interested in being swallowed up in somebody else's household or overshadowed by their personality (or even the story of their own SCA journey). I didn't want someone that would dictate or direct me toward their own goals instead of mine. Or for what they thought were my goals but really weren't. I didn't want someone I would always feel inferior to, or someone I was never perfectly comfortable around.

And right now, you're reading these things and going "Who would want any of that?!" And you're right, but part of the journey out from under the rock was to recognize these things as fears. By listing them out for myself, I could see how ridiculous they were, and at the same time arm myself against settling for any of them.

Part of the process for me, you see, was getting over a fear I didn't want to admit- the fear that I was worthless, and that I would be forced to settle because none of my top picks would want me as their apprentice. I had been in or around the SCA for 18 years by that point, an active in my local region and kingdom for 12 of them, and no Laurel had ever approached me in all that time. No one came to me and said "Hey, I think you've got a lot of potential, and I'd like to help you reach your goals." Or even anything remotely like that. There's an interesting dichotomy that happens when ego and low-self-esteem collide. I don't recommend it. It's ugly and jealous and sensitive to even the most innocent slight. And it's absolutely no way to play in the SCA.

There is no single journey. No "one true path" to attaining your goals. At some point, I had to look in the mirror and remind myself of this. So what if I'd never been asked by a Laurel to be their apprentice? There were thousands of reasons that would happen, and not all of them were bad. Could it have been because I was already on the right track, and doing quite well on my own as it was? Or that people assumed I was already a dependent? That sort of stuff happens all the time, so why shouldn't it have possibly been the case for me too?

So for months, I'd allowed myself to think through all of this. I day-dreamed with myself about what being out from under the rock might look like. I ran myself through what-ifs and how-comes and why-nots. I had a list of 5 potential Laurels I could ask, ranked in an order, and I vetted the crap out of it. I've never done so much due diligence in my life. That sounds ridiculous to me now, but all that "process" was part of what we can call my rehabilitation- my progress from being scared and alone to being ready to ask for a partner.

I use the word "partner" deliberately, because though all this vetting, I realized that I wasn't just looking for a mentor or teacher. I was looking for somebody who would treat me like an adult, take my perspective seriously, and respect that, with 18 years under my belt, I had already accomplished a great deal. Someone who would celebrate the ways in which we can learn from each other. A partner is a person that recognizes that we're in this together, and rank is really the only thing that separates us. A good partner wants you to be their equal and for the rank barrier to go away.

By April, I'd worked it all out. I had one name on my list that survived the vetting, and I was incredibly confident that it was the right choice for countless reasons I'll keep to myself. But there was still one thing to overcome. Peer fear.

I remember dozens of times between May and October in which I pulled up the chat window on Facebook, and hovered over that one name for minutes at a time. On a few occasions, I actually wrote something, like "Will you be going to Such-n-such Event this weekend? I'd like to have a chance to speak with you if you have time." Then I would stare at it. My hands would shake and my heart would pound in my chest. Warm all over; butterflies. If I've ever come close to an anxiety attack, those moments would be it. It sounds so ludicrous. I wasn't doing anything incorrect. It was good business, and a perfectly acceptable way to go about it. If you've never understood Peer fear, I don't expect this to make sense. For those of you that do, however, I'm sure this is all too familiar.

During this time, I felt the ticking of the clock. Every moment that I wasted by not reaching out was taking me one step closer to going back under that rock. I put pressure on myself to continually answer the question, "What are you so afraid of?" The answer was always the same. I wasn't afraid of changing my course and going in a new direction, nor was I afraid of what being someone's dependent would mean for me. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of "no". I was afraid of making a fool of myself. And there really isn't anything to do with that answer but to get comfortable with it. To be alright with the "no" or with saying something stupid. Qué será, será.

That day in October was a pretty weird day, with bitterly cold weather, and a laid-back schedule that reminded me so much of my earliest events- when people gathered in garb to experience something magical together without worrying about how well they fought, or how good they looked. I had just finished my double "midwife" apron, and man was I glad for the extra layer. I was also glad my mom and I had gone by ourselves without any of the kids, especially when it began to snow briefly in the middle of the day. We spent a lot of the day huddled together on the ground by the list field, or tucked inside the lodge near the fireplace.

You know, day dreams and what-ifs only get you so far. They can help you get past fear and pride and all the things holding you back. They can help you recognize what you want and how you want it to happen. But reality is better. Hands down. Reality is not perfect (at least not always). It can be cold, and awkward, and inconveniently timed. But that moment when you take the step off the ledge can only be experienced one way.

I took that step. "I would like to be your apprentice, if you would consider it." No forewarning. No preamble or prologue. A big spoonful of hot soup in his mouth right when I asked it. And I didn't fall into the abyss of rejection. Instead, I heard four words that immediately felt like a hand reaching out and a hug around my soul.

"I would consider it."

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: In Which Edyth Obliterates Her Comfort Zone.

[Disclaimer: This is my story and my perspective. I'm sharing it because you, dear reader, are my friend. It's not meant to be taken as advice. It's simply my testimonial.]

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