July 10, 2018 by phicks2012
I do Medieval Reenactment in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) as a hobby, and both my SCA Shire and my SCA House0hold have, in recent years, suffered from attrition. This has happened based upon a number of factors.
People have moved away 1) to take new or better-paying mundane jobs, 2) to retire closer to their mundane families, 3) to live where they can actually get health insurance, or 4) simply to live somewhere else that they’ve always wanted to live.
People have become inactive 1) to placate their spouses or signaficant others, 2) due to burn-out, 3) due to frustration or disillusionment, 4) due to awful mundane work schedules, 5) due to financial difficulties, 6) due to transportation problems, 7) to raise small children, 8) to become caregivers for elderly or injured family members, or they simply 9) play only at Kingdom Level.
Many of these people are dearly missed, and for the past half-decade I’ve been beating my head against an assortment of brick walls trying to figure out how to persuade these people to come back. Nothing has worked. Many of them “say” that they would like to become active again, and I’ve known quite a few individuals who have gone away for years and then come back, but mostly they just don’t.
There are always excuses — some good and some not — for not attending Shire events or meetings, or for bailing repeatedly on Household functions, but the bottom line is that no matter what they “say”, too many just continue to blow such things off.
It’s hard not to wonder what you’ve personally done wrong, or what you’ve failed to do. It really is. However, the truth is that people are going to do what they really “want” to do, and if being involved in a hobby, or spending time with you and with other old friends, isn’t high on their priority list anymore then it just isn’t, and beating yourself up over it isn’t going to help. Neither is running yourself ragged trying to bring them back.
In my case, while I still see some of these people occasionally, and still care about them, I simply had to admit that I wasn’t doing myself, my Shire, or my Household any favors by living in the past, and that I needed to move on.
The Shire was attracting newcomers, but we needed to “retain” the good ones by keeping them involved and entertained. That was something I could not do alone, or expect myself to do alone — but I could definitely contribute! I could offer my house as a meeting place or a location for classes, or fighter practices, or socials. I could consult on heraldry, mentor newbies, help with projects, and offer lots of encouragement. No back-flips or pyramids involved (unless I was dealing with an Egyptian persona), but I could be a cheerleader!
My Household was easier. What I needed to do there was to ignore the old tradition that said I’d at least consult with the other existing Household members to get their feedback before taking a new protege. This was designed to help me get a more balanced view of a candidate, and to determine (for example) whether they behaved differently around me than they did around people they weren’t trying to impress, and whether there were serious negative issues I simply hadn’t heard about. In the past, the tradition had saved me several times from making fairly egregious errors in judgement, but recently it’s been pretty much pointless. After all, why consult with people who mostly are unlikely to “have” any feedback because they’re inactive and thus unlikely to know the candidate to begin with? I just had to look around and take some new, active, enthusiastic proteges to start getting the Household back on track.
I still love my old friends, mind you, but I’ve come to realize that they’ll come back when and if they decide to, and that nothing I do is going to change that. Hence, the poem below.
The friends of bygone days may linger on,
Enduring into age; remaining true,
And sharing sins unknown, and dreams long gone,
And laughter born of foolish quests with you.
They still may share your joys, or come at need
When fortune falters and your soul falls lame,
To heal your scars, and tend you when you bleed,
And when their hearts are torn may call your name.
But, aging, they may also drift away
In silence, leaving only crumbs to find,
And shadows lingering at close of day
As they depart and leave you far behind.
Then, sorrowing, forgotten and bereft,
You may reach out to seek them where they roam,
And gather up the crumbs that they have left,
And in your sorrow seek to bring them home.
But seasons long can gather as you quest,
And still your paths though tangled realms diverge,
And when you journey eastward they turn west,
On roads that wander, ne’er again to merge.
So cling not to the past with empty hands,
But seek out passes you can journey through,
With open heart exploring fresher lands
And taking new companions there with you.
[24 June, A.S. LIII, 2018]