For days, weeks, months I stared at my screen. Knowing that I should continue writing. People liked my blog and I still had a lot to say… but something happened. Something broke inside me. Every blog I forced myself to write seemed off; I didn’t feel the excitement that I normally did from knowing that my heart was on the paper and someone out there was going to be able to relate and learn from my experience. It felt fake and disconnected, like some random author was paid to write during a boring cloudy Monday with crappy coffee and ugly fluorescent lighting.
Each time I saved the blog and buried it away to never be read again. Maybe if I just kept writing, forcing myself to go through the motions my muse will return.
For days, weeks, months I sat in my car driving to a practice or event. Knowing that I should continue fighting. People liked my enthusiasm and I still had a lot to accomplish… but something happened. Something broke inside me. Every fight I forced myself to enter just seemed off; I didn’t feel the excitement that I normally did knowing I was going to learn something and come out feeling proud of myself. It felt fake and disconnected, like some random fighter who was doing it all for the wrong reasons and didn’t want to have fun.
Each time I muddled through the fight and walked away from it, never to think about my performance again. Maybe if I just keep fighting, forcing myself through the motions, my muse will return.
That’s the thing… it never did.
Burnout is a term that was thrown around me very early on in my SCA career. The man who I had asked to be my knight was stepping up as Prince at the time and I vowed to attend every event and give it my all. One of the main reasons I asked him to become my knight was because of how active he was in the SCA. I admired that.
How Did My SCA Burnout Happen?
I knew from day one I wanted to become involved and it made me happy to meet people and have other people come up to me. I loved learning and was completely focused on my fitness so I was eagerly attending two or three practices a week and an event every weekend. Everyone, my knight included, warned me to pace myself. They told me to take it slow and enjoy the magic around me.
But I didn’t. There was no one to blame but me. And I don’t regret a single moment of it. I got to meet and learn from some of the best fighters that the SCA has to offer. I was able to learn about the SCA from different perspectives, new member all the way up to King.
I fought in multiple kingdoms and even out of the country. I went on road trips and visited landmarks that I never in a million years would have even considered and I loved every second of it. Not only did I learn about my country… but I learned about myself. I humbled my mind and just enjoyed the moment, fully letting myself experience the adventure without any thought to anyone else.
Laying under the stars and staring deep into fires while trying all sorts of homemade drinks and dishes while still being satisfied with bread and honey butter. The wonderment of trying on different garb and becoming someone else for the day to the focus of picking up a sword and getting strength from it. Bowing in front of some of the most influential people and completely stumbling over introductions as I didn’t know the difference between my lady and Her Majesty. Those moments were the most freeing moments I’ve ever experienced.
Yet, only two years in and I’m burned out. I’m bitter. I’m jaded and impatient. I’ve lost sight of that magic and no one mourns that as much as me.
What Caused My Burnout?
I’m really into self-development these days, ever since I lost all the weight, and instead of walking away and just taking my burnout for what is was, I wanted to dig a little deeper. What REALLY caused me to hate something I once loved so much? And why am I having such a difficult time returning to that place of enjoyment? I wanted to pull apart the problem not only for myself but for others that have experienced the same feeling of disconnect.
I was at the height of my fighting, I just had a huge improvement in my skill and I was feeling as confident as ever. My blog was doing really well and I had just started a really exciting relationship. I was planning on moving closer to practices and had the perfect job. I was on top of the world and feeling untouchable! I was truly and completely proud of myself. Then I traveled to Estrella War in Arizona and had my shoulder dislocated and separated on the field in battle.
I came home and everything just kind of fell apart… I couldn’t fight for months and felt like a letdown. I kept building up these goals and expectations in my mind the longer I didn’t fight which made my come back all the more difficult. When I did come back I was back at square one with fighting but also weak, in pain and scared to hurt my shoulder again. I became insecure. My relationship fell apart. I never moved and the job fell through. I didn’t want to face anyone because my own issues were screaming louder than their reassurances.
I continued to attend events and practices but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and people knew something was wrong, I knew something was wrong… but I couldn’t exactly figure it out. Until someone I highly respect in the community was struggling to find her love for the SCA again. She’s done it all and never would I expect someone in that situation not only to experience burnout but to struggle in finding the motivation again. She came out about it publicly and it was right after my decline. I realized I was experiencing my own version of burnout.
Not long after, I attended Pennsic and had numerous people come up to me and thank me. Thank me for writing and reigniting their passion in the SCA. I couldn’t help but laugh because here standing in front of them was someone who was desperately trying to find her own passion again. I asked each and every one of them what did they love about the SCA in the beginning, what burned them out and what really made them find love again for this hobby? I asked them like a dehydrated woman begging for a drop of water. And you know what? Each and every one of them had completely different answers. It made me happy to have helped them but also deeply sad that there wasn’t an easy fix.
Months went by. I wasn’t fair to the people around me. My knight who I used to see multiple times a week, keep in touch with and push myself to make him proud… I completely pulled away from. My new SCA friends who I considered family, I couldn’t talk to because I felt like I had let them down. I was miserable and I couldn’t hide it anymore. I didn’t want them to be unhappy because I was unhappy and I was selfish in the fact that I felt like an embarrassment so I walked away.
I stepped back. Not like I did before, hiding in my bedroom skipping practices or ignoring calls from my knight or faking a smile and going through the motions. I broke myself down and stepped away from the world. I literally walked into the middle of the woods and meditated. What was the REASON? What was the ROOT of this problem?
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. It was me, completely and blatantly me. I kept waiting on something that had never changed to make me happy when I had been the one that changed all along!
Those fellow burnt out scadians at Pennsic didn’t have different answers. It didn’t matter if someone was two years into the SCA or twenty years into the SCA. And it’s not the SCA, heck the SCA hasn’t changed in 50 years much to many of our frustrations.
The magic never left, it was always there. I just stopped seeing it.
I had inspired others because they were seeing the SCA through my eyes. Seeing things and appreciating things that they once saw and appreciated on their own. The simple things. Wearing a fur on a beautiful fall day. Seeing a smiling face that you only get to see every few months. Pushing yourself to overcome a problem that you once saw as an adventure but now is an annoyance to complain about and get caught up on.
Burnout Recovery: My Action Plan
I just have to slow myself down and see the magic again. Realize that the pressures and unattainable goals I got caught up in were my own undoing and not the SCA’s. That the SCA world will continue on with or without me and I can either add or take away from each experience. In the end I’m only hurting myself. Or I can take control and find that simple joy that I felt my first year in.
I was a mess and I still am. I hit rock bottom but I’ve decided: no more. That being miserable and on the bottom making up excuses and hiding in a dark bedroom because I’m embarrassed is not going to get any better. How many times in my life did I give up on something and wish that I could do it all over again? Well, this is my chance. So here’s to all of you that approached me at Pennsic, my knight, my squire sister and my SCA family that never gave up on me. Thank you. I’m going to build myself mentally and physically up again and come out even stronger.
Next event or practice you go to… ask yourself, not what can the SCA do for you, but what can you do for the SCA? Especially if it’s as small as looking around with fresh new eyes and finding something to smile about because that is the magic we can’t lose sight of.
Featured Image Photo Credit: James Pallack