This will be a bit of a rant. And posting it here is much like shouting into the void, so that should be fine. I don’t know if it’s my mental state, a side effect of the virtual weirdness we’re all living in or what, but I find myself fairly disillusioned with how I’m interacting with the SCA, to the point where I’m thinking about stepping back from a lot of it. I’m not sure what I’m looking for in my experience right now, but I know I’m not finding it.
Over the past year all my SCAing has been virtual, mostly A&S with my local group and frequent bardic events online. As much as I’ve had time for it, A&S has been good. I feel really well supported in my spinning and weaving learning, though it’s linen and wool rather than silk and banana fiber because, well, yeah. I feel like we’re each person at the center of a circle in a Venn diagram, and we’re all looking for overlaps. Luckily, lots of overlap here. I’m fortunate that my people are eager to teach– and also to learn, because I want to share too.
However, I’m having a serious bardic hangover, to the point where attending a virtual event will destroy my evening or even my weekend. Despite showing up fairly regularly for a while, it was hard to feel included. Somehow, online it’s much more clubby. Many of the regular bards are talented and accomplished, and here I am showing up with my newbie sanshin playing and singing in a language that no one knows, or telling a story from a place that no one has heard of. If I hear “wow Kame, that was so … different” one more time, I might yeet my laptop. The online bardic space lacks any kind of feedback or followup, too, and it’s been really unsatisfying. Maybe it’s more fun if you’re there hanging out with friends and sharing everyone’s favorites.
And for some stupid reason, I got it into my head that the path to bardic legitimacy was entering the kingdom bard competition. Now, I had no desire to actually be royal bard! I prepared for a few weeks and gave a half-assed effort for a couple songs and a story. I sent them in, mentally begging forgiveness for wasting the judges’ time.
Sidebar: I spent my early life performing music and competing at a fairly high level. Perfection was required, and that was achieved by practicing hours a day leading up to a recital or competition. That doesn’t fit into my life anymore, but the compulsion to perfection is still very strong. The half-assed effort I sent to the competition gnaws at my soul whenever I think about it.
The judges are friends, and their assessment was kind and brutal and it made me die inside but I welcome it. However, there were a few elements that were judged as defects that were actually just different. I know it sounds weird because I’ve been battling through it with my Western-trained ears too. How many times did I listen to a recording trying to understand how the vocal line and sanshin diverged, or try and fail to mimic the wonderfully flexible singing style of Okinawan performers? Not to say that my work is up to anyone’s standards anywhere, but is it worth the stress for me to try to force an alien musical style on casual listeners, when it might always sound “wrong” to them? (FWIW, the judges were cognizant of this potentially being an issue, and asked questions about how the style differed from Western styles. I’d like to chat with them about it, maybe in person and once I stop dying inside every time I think about the competition.)
So yeah, I’m feeling very little overlap of my bardic Venn diagram and I’m kind of getting tired of being that weirdo who’s kind of crap. I also wish there was a community of practice away from weekly Zoom bardic nights where everyone is performing. I wish I had a good way to workshop new stuff, or work on different challenges that aren’t related to a competition. My husband is well tired of me asking him to stand in for an audience, and sometimes giving feedback is detrimental to marital harmony…
I think a lot of us with unusual personas are doing a ton of research and teaching that is welcomed (thinking about the amazing stuff the New World folks are doing!) but until I can find communities of overlapping interests, it’s a lonely life being a permanent novelty. It feels less exposed to just do my own thing and not try to force people into caring about it.