It is never easy to give up something that you feel is such an ingrained part of yourself, even if that thing is hurting you. It like that in abusive relationships. It’s like that when a romance goes cold. How do you let go, when the thing you have invested so much in, isn’t good for you anymore, but you don’t know what to do if you aren’t going to be a part of that anymore. When ripping such a large part of your life out, will leave a hole that you can’t imagine anything else filling it.
Just a little over 24 years ago I first joined this organization, the SCA, and it was the most incredible thing. The magic was real, it was palpable. I had never experienced anything like it before in my life. And with that magic, came a group of people who quickly became my largest, and best, friend group; people who eagerly welcomed me and encouraged me, and who believed in me more than any group had before. It was such a foreign feeling, but a good one, that I just found myself getting lost in that warmth and welcome.
Since then, I have often spoken about how my service to the SCA is to repay something I could never repay. And maybe that was the problem, I could never repay it, no matter how hard I tried; no matter how much I cared, the gift the SCA gave me was more than I could ever return. So I spent the last 24 years, nearly a quarter century, devoting much of my free time to this organization. I have held many offices, at many levels. I have worked to make myself a better person in these years; someone who knows the ropes, and can help others find their way. I have developed my skills as a tailor, and artist, to improve my garb, my camp, etc. And I have, for all of this, been recognized at different points, and in different ways.
But through it all, I ignored a constant problem, the SCA, for all it gave me up front, was a thirsty creature. It drained me as I gave, it took and took. And as it’s agents, in the forms of the Crown and Territorial Baronages, have been kind enough to recognize me, it doesn’t give that appreciation to me often, not in meaningful ways. I find myself serving an entity that doesn’t see me most of the time. Like it or not, that is how I feel.
24 Years; that is how long it took before anyone took note of my artistic skills and efforts, before anyone thought to recognize the elevation of my skills over those years. I don’t mean to complain, I appreciate it, I am grateful that the Queen and King, at that time, saw fit to recognize me, but the fact remains, that SCA Awards, at the levels I have been recognized, are given because people put you in for those awards. And it took 24 Years before people took note and thought that maybe I should be recognized in that capacity. How much of my life have I given to a group that repeatedly doesn’t see me, as I work into the night, burning the midnight oil, to get things done. How many people just go about their lives and fail to see me crying in the corner because I feel forgotten and ignored.
They say you should do what you love in the SCA, that you should do it because you enjoy it, not because of any reward you may receive. I tend to agree, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t enjoy when it comes to your hobby, your “free” time. But, when you see people around you, people who are recognized for the same things you are doing, but you aren’t being counted among them; you have to ask yourself, ‘am I invisible’? I love doing this, but the group I am doing it in, the reason I have for doing it at all, doesn’t seem to see me, it doesn’t seem to think I am worthy; that hurts.
In the SCA, I have achieved a small measure of renown. I have been recognized with the highest Non-Peerage recognition for my Service in the Kingdom where I reside. It is no small honor. And yet, the very thing I received, the scroll I was given, was incomplete and poorly done. For many, that honor will be the highest they ever reach in the SCA. I know that, I have known that; but the thing I am supposed to be able to keep and frame and put up on my wall, it didn’t even get completed. It wasn’t the Crowns fault, but it added to that sense of, am I only… half worthy? Am I not deserving of even a finished scroll? I know that is petty, I know it is something that can be fixed, or redone, but it still leaves me feeling a sense of emptiness; when the most lasting token of those awards is that scroll, and it is not even complete.
Recently the SCA had proven to be less of a place of joy and hope, and more a place of heartache and pain. The Magic that came with discovering this group of people has faded, and the golden shine of it all, it has tarnished and shown itself to be thin and weak in my case. The people who make up the SCA are largely good people, but the people who rise to the top, they are too often a mixed bag of “meh”, “WTF”, and a handful of “Awesome” thrown in for good measure. I watch as people who have “power and influence”, do anything to hold on to that. Even refuse to follow the rules of the game to further their agendas. Sure, mistakes are made, people who have no ill intent or greedy motivations will step in some shit once in a while, but there are just so many people who gain “authority” in the groups, and then refuse to play in a fair or honorable fashion.
I have tried not to let this sour me over the years, I have had mixed results in that; but, I am a person who feels that the rules exist for a reason, and when you game the rules to benefit yourself, or your clique, you will ultimately end up doing harm to others in the process. I have been one of those people who has been harmed now, too many times. I wish I could let go of it, I wish I could just keep my chin up and hang in there for a brighter day around the corner, but I can’t do that when the onslaught is intensifying, and I find myself standing on the field alone, with people who have called themselves friends, standing down to remain “neutral” and not “take sides”. When the people who are supposed to have your back turn around and gas-light you about the hardships you are facing, that cuts to the core. It takes away the only other part of the SCA that I had left, the people who I had come to love and trust; because, I couldn’t trust them anymore. I couldn’t count on them to stand with me against people who would throw me under the wheels of their “power”. It leave me feeling unsafe and exposed, mentally, and emotionally.
When this happens, it’s a type of abuse, and it leave you feeling empty, hollow. and in pain. People want you to let go of your pain, but don’t do anything to really help you move on, other than add to the gas-lighting, “Your taking this too personally”, “You need to be patient” for 5 years! And even if they don’t realize it, or they can’t understand what they are doing, it doesn’t negate the harm that is added to an already bad situation.
I don’t hate the SCA. I do still think it is a group that has a lot of potential for good in peoples lives; but I feel that to really be good in peoples lives, there are a lot of toxic behaviors that are perpetuated that need to stop. Telling people that a persons SCA life is independent of their non-SCA life, needs to stop. When a racist, homophobe, misogynist, white supremacist, etc, comes into the SCA, they don’t suddenly stop being that thing, they bring their prejudices and hatred with them and it stains the integrity of the group, and people get hurt. The desire to always forgive, and give people a 99th chance, needs to give way to the desire to protect the people who are being harmed by those repeat offenders. The desire to maintain a status quo, to keep things that are “Tradition” alive, when those things are causing people pain, or alienating them, needs to go. The people who are serving as officers, need to be held to better account. Yes, the SCA is a volunteer organization; but even volunteers need to understand that their service is critical to keeping the group going, and doing the minimum, well that isn’t not enough to keep the machine moving, from just being stagnant, and ultimately dying. And most of all, respect cannot be demanded, even for officers, when those officers show so little, or even zero, respect for the people they are charged with serving, the people of the SCA and their specific group.
It’s been an interesting 24 Years. I don’t know what I will do now, but I know that I need to stop staying in this Stockholm Syndrome relationship with the SCA. Because for me, it is not healthy; and if I don’t put some distance between me and the Society, I am going to get more hurt, and I can’t take that anymore. I need to feel safe where I go to play, I need to feel that I can express my feelings, my opinions, and my values without fear of reprisal, and right now, the SCA can’t do that for me.
My last event will be Baroness Wars VII. I will be there for the weekend and I will be having fun. I will not be “Working”. I will not Serve. I will not do anything I don’t want to do, because this will be my going away party. Maybe it wont be forever, but for now, it needs to be a clean break. Only then can I hope to heal, and stop being so angry about the abusiveness I have put myself through for the sake of a game.
With a heavy heart,
Herr Alexander Adelbrecht von Markelingen