I still remember how excited I was when I bought my first piece of SCA armor. A helmet which, though it now has a different bar grill than it sported 17 or so years ago, I still wear today. I remember how terrible my first armor was; how I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders in it and I remember my very first fighting goal. That goal was to earn the distinction of “she doesn’t completely suck” on the field. A simple goal. A decent goal, if not very concrete. I knew that it was attainable and I knew that I could count on the guys that I fought with to tell me when I had achieved it.
As the years went by and I got heavily into the SCA, I found myself squired to a wonderful Knight and graciously tutored by several other peers. I saw something that I wanted. I’m not sure that I ever used the words “goal” and “Knighthood” out loud in the same sentence, but it was certainly implied. And here I am, many years later, having finally found the right words to describe what I wish I had been able to articulate a decade and a half ago.
Being a peer in the SCA, whether a Knight, Laurel, Pelican, or Master of Defense is a fine and lofty aspiration. It is a right and proper thing to hope for and to work toward. It is, however, a lousy goal.
When we decide to make something a goal, we should have measurable steps to attain that goal. We should be able to readily identify when we have reached that goal. Above all, a goal should be attainable through our actions. Now, here’s the thing. You and I have the power to do many great and wonderful things in the SCA. We have the power and ability to increase our skills and our wordfame. We have the ability to make ourselves into a paragon of chivalry. We do not, however, have the ability to bestow upon ourselves a peerage. We simply cannot control that piece of it. There are many factors that go into the decision to make someone a peer or not and many are completely out of our own hands.
If we fall into the trap of considering a peerage our goal within the SCA, then we have opened ourselves up for disappointment and have almost certainly robbed ourselves of part of the joy of the game that we play. I have seen many wonderful associates become incredibly frustrated with the seemingly moving target of peerage. How many times have we heard the words “keep doing what you are doing”? Which isn’t really even advice, even though it is often meant well. I’ve seen the disappointment when someone knows that they are being mentioned among the pertinent peerage, and the expectant hope…dashed by a few courts without hearing their name called. And then there is the bitterness. We all know those folks who have become bitter because they simply don’t know what else to do to achieve this goal that they have set for themselves. Perhaps the problem is, in fact, the goal.
That being said, we can and often should have goals for ourselves. We should strive for excellence in our chosen path(s). We should carefully consider what that means to us that is totally within our power and make those things our goals. Peer like qualities are a wonderful example of this and apply to all disciplines. This is something very dear to my heart and is, quite honestly, the first thing that I think of when I consider what it means to be a Knight. What does being a Knight or one of the other peerages mean to you? Now, make THOSE things your goals and your focus. Make that what you work toward achieving.
When I consider what was in my heart all those years ago, I know that the goals that I should have spoken for myself were as follows:
1. I will be a person who comports themselves with honor and grace at all times.
2. My motives will be above reproach.
3. I will improve my skills in armor such that I am a killing force to be dealt with on both the tourney and melee field.
4. I will learn the ways of melee combat, battlefield awareness and leadership and will support my brothers and sisters to the best of my ability at all times.
5. I will learn to pass along the knowledge that I gain to others.
6. I will own my mistakes and learn from them.
7. I will do all of the above to a standard such that I earn the respect of others.
8. I will do nothing to bring shame or harm to my Knight, his family, my household or my Kingdom.
9. I will look damn good while I do these things.
10. I will have fun and I will try to help others also have fun.
Maybe your list is completely different and that is perfectly ok. I notice that winning tournaments isn’t actually on my list. And I’m ok with that. I always have been. Because that isn’t what is most important to me. For me, it’s about having a good time and acting with honor and grace. Perhaps winning tournaments or A&S competitions is on your list. That’s great! Though, I will say that if winning is a goal, take care that you do not allow that goal more importance than your honor. We can each have our own goals and aspirations. Just make sure your focus and what you are trying to accomplish is within your own power…lest you be disappointed and lose out on the joy that is this wonderful hobby we share.
Don’t forget to have fun!
Photo by Brenden Crane