On Being a Tricenarian and a SCAdian

tri-cen-ar-ian, n. (pl. tricenarians).
1. The highest rank and pay grade for prefectures in Ancient Rome.
2. A person in their thirties, a person aged between 30 and 39 years (inclusive). 

Wiktionary entry for “tricenarian.”

I’m 34. Being 34 is pretty great, considering. I have a good job in my field of study, solid social groups orbiting my place of worship, hobbies, and workplace, a fantastic spouse, and two beautiful and intelligent children.

From an SCA perspective, I feel like I’m on track with the rest of my age group. I’ve served as a Greater Kingdom Officer (Parchment), helped foster community growth in both of my areas of interest (Sinology and scribal arts), teach every chance I get both at events and online via posts and PMs, been inducted into the GOA Order/Order of High Merit for Arts and Sciences (Bridgit’s Flame and Velvet Owl, respectively), etc. I’m not burning the candle at both ends in the “rising star” or “mover and shaker” style per se, but I think I’m carrying my weight in terms of the care and feeding of SCAdians.

Known World Cooks and Bards, 2014 (Northshield) – Me, at the back of court, with my 4 month-old son and my veil askew because that happens when you are at an event with a small child. Also this dress doesn’t fit me anymore, because babies make your arms buff. Also eesh, I’m so glad I have rimless wireframes for events now. Photo by Deonysia of Rye.

The thing is? It’s hard.

It’s not hard in the sense that I have to exert a great amount of effort. It’s mostly little things here and there, or relatively short, frantic pushes toward a deadline. I don’t feel overburdened by the effort.

It’s not hard because people are hard to deal with. I am incredibly thankful to have an amazing support system, so that in the rare case where I come up against someone who breaks Wheaton’s Law, I have people I can turn to for help, even if it is just a hug.

It’s hard because I have to balance SCAdian-hood with Life. We always say “real life comes first.” Because it does. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t this overwhelming pressure to be involved and help direct the course of our community. Pressure to be active and present and available to new people. Pressure to volunteer to judge or teach, or to enter something in a faire, or to make progress on your project, or to donate something. Most of this pressure, at least for me, is an internal response to external stimuli. My apprentice contract stipulates that I need to teach, enter a faire, or “share my skills” with both my kingdom and the Known World at least four times a year. It also states:

Ouyang is required to find balance between studies and family life so that the former does not overtake the latter, as is virtuous.

It’s that balance that’s hard. It’s knowing that I need to have garb sewn for my daughter before the event that’s a week away, but that my son really wants me to play dinosaurs or legos with him.

It’s that balance of only going to one event a month, and then only if that event isn’t farther than 2 hours away so that I can easily day-trip – and if it is longer, making sure that my (incredibly capable and amazing partner and co-parent) husband doesn’t have something else on the schedule and is okay with me not taking the smallest child with me on an overnight.

It’s the balance between feeling like I am being generous or selfish with my time, depending on how I spend it.

It’s the balance of managing my finances so that I have enough to spend on the hobbies, projects, and interests that bring me joy (including event travel/costs) without shirking my financial responsibilities to my modern household.

It’s the balance of not letting myself get so mired in a research question, Thread of Drama, or other online interaction that I keep my nose buried in my phone while grocery shopping with the family.

It’s a balance of spending time at an event with my children who just want to run and play versus doing what I want to do – teach, attend a class, volunteer, etc.

Are these things that people younger and older than me deal with? Things that non-SCAdians deal with? Things that SCAdians who play as a family deal with? Probably. But I can’t speak to those experiences. All I know is that my age, the perceived expectations associated with my 8-year tenure in the SCA and my chosen journey, and the fact that my husband does not share this hobby makes this feel like a heavy weight.

And I wanted to say to others who also feel this weight – I see you. I don’t know what the answer or the fix is, but I see you.

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