Welcome! I'm Ilene Johnnestoune, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Come join me on my wanderings, as I share my interests both within and sometimes slightly outside the SCA.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why It’s Okay To Want

Over the 10 years I have been part of our Society, I have frequently heard people comment that it’s not okay to “want” a particular award.  Since becoming a Pelican and joining some of the inter-kingdom discussion groups, I’m finding that this concept exists everywhere, and in some places is especially applied to the peerages.  It makes no sense to me that people get so hung up on this concept, so I’m going to do my part to get rid of it. 

People in general tend to be goal oriented.  The goal can be as simple as being as helpful as possible, or the goal can be to become the best at a specific skill.  Regardless of what the goal is, it’s something that you are actively working towards.  In my opinion, this is a good thing.  It gives you focus, direction, and a sense of purpose.  All good things, right?  So why on earth have we determined that it’s a bad thing to have a goal of earning a specific recognition for your work?

From what I can tell, it all comes down to that word “earn”.  We have lots of stories and sayings about what happens to somebody who wants something but isn't willing to work for it.  The fable about the squirrel putting away nuts for the winter comes to mind.  There is a common perception that you should not expect something for free, or to just be handed to you.  If you want something good, you need to put in the time and effort to earn it.

This applies to the SCA as well.  If what you’re saying is “I want to become skillful/knowledgeable/experienced enough to become a Laurel/Pelican/Knight”, then that’s okay.  You’re expressing your desire to do everything it takes to earn that recognition.  If what you’re saying is “I’m awesome, and they should recognize that and make me a Laurel/Pelican/Knight”, then that is where you hit troubled waters.  This doesn't just apply to the peerages, though.  I've heard people state how they want to earn their AOA, and everybody around nods their head and is okay with it.  I've also heard people state that they should already have an AOA, since they've been playing for so long and what’s wrong with these people for not recognizing them.  There’s usually an awkward silence in these situations, since it is not an accepted attitude.

That all makes sense, right?  It’s pretty clear the difference between the good way to want something and the bad way to want something.  What’s been bothering me about the whole thing is that the perception has become such that you shouldn't ever say you want something, regardless of your motivation.  That it’s bad form to do so, and if you do it’s a guarantee that you’ll never receive that award, or be elevated in the case of a peerage.  In my opinion that’s a big steaming pile of something stinky.  People should absolutely be allowed to say what they want, what they are working towards.  There’s nothing wrong with having goals, and it’s driving me crazy that there’s people who think otherwise!  Just as an example of the silliness, let’s take associates.  If you have taken a belt from a peer, isn't that an outward symbol of wanting to earn that recognition?  Aren't you explicitly stating that you are working towards becoming a member of that particular peerage?  That seems to be okay with everyone, so why is stating it out loud bad?    

This leads me to another aspect of this discussion that I hear all the time, especially from folks who are newer.  “You should only do a task/project because of your love for the Dream, not out of desire for an award.”  When I first started in the Society, and still had all the shininess of being new, I believed this with all my heart.  I shouldn't want awards, and when I volunteered to do something it should be because I wanted to be of service not for any other reason.  Then one of my Pelicans posed a question to me that completely changed my way of thinking.  If the work gets done, does the motivation for doing it matter?  This stopped me dead in my tracks.  If I sweep the floor because I love my Barony and want to help, and Jane sweeps the floor because she wants to work towards a service award, what’s the difference?  In both circumstances the floor gets swept, right?  If Jane and I do all the same tasks, at the same level of quality, what is the difference between our work?  Is what I did somehow better just because I might love the Dream a little more than she does?  Or more importantly, because she is working towards a specific goal and I’m not, does that cheapen the work that she does?

This thought process was a complete eye-opener to me.  It made me realize that it’s okay to be working towards a goal of receiving a particular award.  For me, my approach was always that I wanted to earn admittance into the Order of the Pelican.  I wanted to do everything necessary to get there.  All the offices, all the jobs, all the projects, everything.  Reaching that goal would mean that I had gained experience, knowledge, and the ability to lead others.  It would mean that I was deemed worthy to join the ranks of the people who inspired me, and that I admired.  So, because all of the work I've done was with that goal in mind, does that make my work unacceptable?  Is the knowledge and experience I gained along the way less?  Or did it simply make me more focused in what I was doing?

Now, there is a flip-side to the coin of being goal focused.  In order to reach your goals and be fulfilled by them, there needs to be love and enjoyment of what you’re doing.  If you don’t enjoy what you do, then when you reach your goal you’re going to find it empty.  The bit of shiny is going to seem tarnished, and you’re going to wonder what all the effort was for.  In some respects that initial concept of doing things for the love of it does hold true.  In working towards your goals, chose tasks that you will enjoy doing.  Find things you love, and then figure out how they can move you closer to your goals.  This way you are enriching yourself as well as the Society.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding awards, I think it rather misses the point of them if there isn't some desire for one. They are meant as a reward for being awesome. Unlike pay, which is consistent and given on a predictable ratio of work to reward, they are more sporadic, less predictable, but they are designed to encourage work by exchanging it for recognition. I don't work for awards, but I appreciate them when they come, and having a physical expression of how much it means to people makes me work harder and enjoy it more.