Lowering the Drawbridge: On the Transition between the Mundane and the SCA

50 weeks.

In that time, newly conceived babies will be born, loved ones will pass, weddings will happen, engagements will be celebrated, jobs will be lost and employment regained. Halloween will happen (the countdown has begun!) and the Seasons Greetings holiday season will overtake us for a month or so. A new year will even begin.

Obviously, 50 weeks is a long, life-changing amount of time. But 50 weeks is entirely too long to wait until the bliss of Pennsic to desirably overwhelm us again.

The most detestable, gut-wrenching aspect of Pennsic is the inevitable transferral back to reality that we all must face at its end. Kicking and screaming, we are once again returned to our computers, cubicles and places of work. Our inevitable relationship problems (friendship or otherwise), our lapses in self esteem, the discomfort and failings of our bodies and a frantic scramble to feel whole and more confident again.\

When we first return to the Mundane, we find decent and immediate comfort in amenities such as air conditioning, easy availability to showers and the internet and catching up on our favorite shows. Eventually though, the dread does set in. And sometimes, the dread manifests as a rampant, indignant demon in the front of our consciousness or even just a small but ever-present source of discontent in the back of our mind. Either way, it’s usually a few weeks before we finally give in and accept our role as servant to the Mundane.

And no no no, don’t abandon me because you’re depressed now! You’re depressed because I’m right. In theory, that means you should probably keep reading. Let’s get back to Pennsic this year before I explain my theory and what I think we may be doing wrong.

My Pennsic life this year consisted of much more than previous years. I started writing for The Pennsic Independent as a reporter and thus spent more time at various activities that I definitely enjoyed but likely would not have attended otherwise: I proofread other articles for the paper, I went to classes and events, I met many more Scadians that I wouldn’t have met and listened to their varied opinions on just about everything. Truth be told, I desperately needed that push towards discomfort and new experiences to find the understanding I’ve gained.

It was first during a town/laundry run with my husband (Lord Ivan of House Hedgehog) and one of our besties, Captain Draven, that mundanity uncomfortably smacked me in the face.

I felt awkward, unable to adjust with what felt like a foot in both worlds. Afterall, I am a whole person, not two divided halves. I’m sure both my husband and Draven felt the shift as well, but they are both perhaps better adjusted to such things. They both have at least 10 Pennsics beneath their well-worn, period leather belts. This doesn’t mean that their transition is easier, but they’ve encountered it at least twice as much (this was my fourth Pennsic) as I have.

We ordered lunch and they would occasionally pop across the street to switch laundry. Based on medical issues and heat, they wouldn’t allow me to help, so I would pull out my laptop to work on a Pennsic Independent story that was due soon.

I tried to type, but the mundanity in the restaurant kept seeping into my consciousness. It was like a crescendoing alarm clock burning through my thoughts. “This will all be over soon. Back to normal for you!”

Ivan and Draven came back, we ate, finished laundry, I finished the article and we went back to site. As soon as we had returned, I easily shook off the mundane and resumed Pennsic life. Occasionally, I could still hear the alarm clock of the Mundane, though.

Oddly, I managed to silence the bell one day. Completely by accident, though.

During this alarm, I was hearing thoughts such as “Think about the issues with so-and-so you’ll have to deal with when you return home!” and the other part of my brain said “So what, I have those problems with so-and-so here, too?”

Wait. What?

It was if I threw an alarm clock against a wall and shattered it.

My problems don’t actually change based on my locale or whether I’m on vacation, it’s that I’m allowed to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock while on vacation.

That was the turning point for me and I think it’s the point we all overlook that makes our life and transition back so difficult: we romanticize Pennsic. And don’t get me wrong: WE ABSOLUTELY SHOULD. It is an all-encompassing, life-changing, indescribable event. The majority of SCA events are. For Pennsic, we put aside politics, salaries and all other disagreeable things to find the best in each other and enjoy 10,000 other people’s company. That is description of phenomenal and we are a phenomenon.

But.

(And yes, you knew there would be a “but”…)

We can not only silence that jackass alarm clock but shatter it to smitherines by actively realizing that there many, many parallels between Pennsic and the Mundane that we can use to enhance BOTH experiences: we can’t let ourselves be the two previously mentioned two divided halves. Yes, we’re still technically a whole, but a painful, disjointed whole. Pennsic and the Mundane do not have to be mutually exclusive.

I am literally writing this because I recognized this exact factor at Pennsic and am now exploiting it.

Writing at Pennsic made me feel tremendously better about who I am and what I can contribute to the world, despite my physical disabilities that hold me back from more physical contributions. So whether at Pennsic or at home, I should write. I didn’t have to only write for The Pennsic Independent, I could start writing freelance for the Mundane world and still feel proudly more confident than when I don’t write.

Think about what you loved most at Pennsic. Be annoyingly, obnoxiously analytical.

Example 1: Let’s say you loved Fizzball. Why?

You enjoyed having an audience? Awesome! Perform in your spare time! Sing, dance, write poetry, do improv, do karaoke! Just get out there and be dynamic in front of others!

You rocked a challenge? Terrific! Find more things to challenge you. Learn chess, learn a language! Keep your brain engaged!

You loved being carefree with friends? Amen! Start booking time to do indoor climbing with friends, start a reading group with a few of your besties, have a game night with people you love. Make time to do things you love with people you love so you stop stressing.

Maybe you literally just loved Fizzball. Start a local league!

Example 2: Let’s say you really liked helping support your camp or barony. Why?

You benefited from the company? Sure! Find a local D&D group to play with, invite newer SCA people to outings, schedule a get together with the group you so enjoyed! Keep in touch with those from your group and frequently – they’re worth it!

You enjoyed being able to support a bigger cause? Definitely. Talk to not only the leader of your group, but group members and see how you can help them even in their mundane life, think of ideas and projects to start on to improve next year’s Pennsic or event, or even volunteer around your town!

Seriously, go crazy with this. If it’s something you genuinely loved the whole event of and can’t really disassemble, find a way to create a local, occasional gathering that mirrored what you did.

OR, if you feel like you’re not doing enough in the SCA, what are you best at in the Mundane? Are you awesome at accounting? Are you obsessively organized? Maybe you’re best at scouring Tumblr? Are you a top-notch leader? There are tons of things you can do in the SCA with any of these skills (if you’re wondering about Tumblr: attention to detail and research!).

As Scadians, we can’t help but feel the divide in our world, but maybe best use of Pennsic is to consider it not only a vacation, but the catalyst to keep improving ourselves and enjoying life. Pennsic is proof that we know how to do both of those things, so the trick is to find walk the bridge between the Mundane and the SCA.

Trust me, I’m not saying this is the end-all fix for the Happiness Hangover we get between SCA events. I know it’s not. I’m also not even saying this hasn’t been thought of before, but perhaps the emphasis should be on the idea. Finding common links has the potential to change both our SCA lives and our Mundane lives in a manner in which we can all suffer less and be happy more often, regardless of where we are in life.

So as tempting as it is to separate life, maybe we should keep the drawbridge down. You know, the one we usually draw back up when we leave an event. Keeping the drawbridge down and having a way to ride between the happiness of the SCA and the functionality of the Mundane is what could help ease the otherwise malicious, brutal beating of the 50 week Town Run.

(Originally released 9/14/2016 on EmphasisMine.org.)

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