September 8th, 2013


30 years

It just occurred to me that, in the pre-wedding rush, I entirely missed a big anniversary. I don't know the exact date, but sometime in the past two weeks marked 30 years since I joined the SCA. Time for a reminiscence.

It was freshman year of college, and I was, to put it bluntly, miserable but excited. High school had been pretty bad, although not mainly for the usual reasons of bullying and such; rather, my problem had been that I had drifted through those years in a way that was, in retrospect, very Buddhist but without any of the requisite self-awareness -- I had simply made no impact. I had no really close friends, wasn't involved in the social scene, hadn't had a real date in my life, and had spent a couple of years in a bit of a funk. Finally, at the tail end of senior year of high school, I had finally had the epiphany that all of this was, by and large, my own damned fault. That didn't precisely make me happy, but at least gave me hope that fixing it was within my power.

So I went into college with a specific plan to be more social -- to find the right crowd for me, and to actually cultivate my friendships properly this time, instead of being passive about them. I had no clue how to *do* that, of course, and the idea was a bit scary, but it was clearly necessary for my sanity.

I found myself in the campus Activity Fair, therefore, like most freshmen -- mostly on my own, looking for something fun, interesting and probably weird to do. I honestly don't remember much about most of it, save that it was in Levin Ballroom, and was *full* of tables and noise. And in amongst that noise, there was a steady "whack" that seemed kind of incongruous.

I made my way to the corner of the room, and "incongruous" scarcely began to describe it. There was a guy in funny clothes, holding a stick, using it to whack a helmet on the girl who was with him. WTF?

I started asking questions; the answers were confusing but intriguing. The guy was Nicolai, the girl Arianwen. Their club involved history and dressing-up, neither of which was my thing, but it certainly seemed to qualify as "fun, interesting and probably weird", so I signed up to show up at the first meeting in a couple of days.

The meeting itself was a fine lesson in how to get a bunch of college students started. Nicolai showed up with signup lists for fighting practice and dance practice. From his worldly-wise perspective as a sophomore who had been in the SCA for something like Three Whole Years (he had started out in the West), he told us about all the stuff that was going on. Then he asked for a volunteer to be something called "Deputy Provost" -- I volunteered, and found myself shanghai'ed back to his place (an apartment called Crystal Winds on Winter Hill in Somerville, not far from where I now live).

There were a lot of people at that first meeting, but five of us gelled very quickly: me, Don (who would be my roommate the next year), and what would become the Were-Kittens: Judy, Janis and Sue. When Nicolai left the school just a few months later, the lot of us wound up running the place, with me as Provost. (Alongside cvirtue as Provost of Felding, sitting in the peanut gallery of Great Council and gently heckling -- at one moment of mild exasperation, gyzki, then Seneschal, addressed us as The F'ing Boroughs, which I proceeded to keep using for years thereafter.)

It was good times: young, innocent, exciting and educational in all sorts of ways that had nothing to do with academics. It set my views of what the SCA is like at its best: full of experimentation, proud of its own weirdness, a fun and social structure for friendships.

I'm currently working my way through probably the worst burnout of my life, driven by a mix of the traumas of a few years ago and simply being too damned close to too much politics. But I do hope I can get back to some of that simplicity, down the road...