Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peers and Associates - a response to Mistress Ilene

And now for something non art related ;)

Since I like a good thought question - and one of my favorite things in the SCA is the sheer number of peers that I get the privilege of hanging out with and listening to (they're cool people with neat outlooks!) - my Baroness and good friend - and a Pelican, asked today on her blog that people consider what they thought was a good peer and a good peer/associate relationship.

Like Christoff, I feel rather compelled to answer this as part of my apprenticeship to Mistress Gwen is considering those very concepts.

A peer/apprentice relationship needs to be tailored to the pair of individuals. What works for Gwen and I, for example, is a fairly hands off relationship where I approach when I have questions. This typically turns into me having more like five laurels due to the way Feilicean works, which is juuust fine by me.  My role with her is far more about discussion, partnership, and shared interest and less about her being a "teacher" and me a "student."  She absolutely *does* teach me - but she knows I'm motivated enough to Hermione-wave when I need help and when I want to talk.  For me, this is a perfect combination as I dislike people standing over my shoulder.  In contrast, my friend Mora has often said she'd like someone with a more hands on approach to nudge and guide more regularly and to be able to run questions by. For me, this means that a good peer/associate relationship has two things. 

The first is clear expectations.  Gwen and I clicked fairly quickly but we did have several conversations about her expectations and mine, my learning goals, etc.  We were very clear with one another, which was as important to us as friends and mentor/student as it is as artists.  Actually Feilicean's pretty good, as a whole, about being straight forward and it's a valued trait amidst butterflies. Who knew?

The second is respect and trust. That can come in many forms but it's important that both the peer respect the associate and the associate respect the peer. I don't mean in a kiss-up sort of way, but in the way that a person values a special friendship, relationship, or interaction.  I trust my peer's advice and I respect it, but in turn I am given respect and trust to pursue my interests, and to be my own person.  I realize there are a number of associates who have formal relationships with their peers and that works for them, so I point back to the need for trust and respect on both sides in whatever sort of relationship works for those folks.

As for what makes a good peer - I think I revise this concept about once a month. I had some very definite opinions when I first started my SCA journey and some of those remain intact while others have altered significantly as I've gotten older and more experienced.

They should be knowledgeable. Not just about their area of passion, but about the workings of the society and other aspects that may not be their specialty as well. You don't have to be a "master" at everything but I like a certain sense that a peer is well rounded enough to be able to point people in a direction if they themselves don't personally know how to do something.  I also like to think that Peer's aren't just "one trick" ponies - I may be a good illuminator (see Jake I admitted it!) but I feel like I should also at least be decent at some other stuff too. One of the reasons I try so many arts and try to push myself to excel at anything I try is this belief. I don't think I'm going to be amazing at everything. But I want to have a good breadth of knowledge in addition to the passion I feel for illumination, calligraphy, and service.

They should be a role model. This can either be direct mentoring or by example.  "You never know who's watching or how far the story goes," is one of my favorite lines from a Heather Dale song. I have been sometimes sorely disappointed to see how people forget to be chivalrous when they think no one is looking. Obviously, everyone is human and I really try to maintain that awareness so that our peers don't feel as if they need to be PERFECT all the time.  That said, a peer should remember that they are a role model and strive to BE what they want to encourage. Chivalrous, kind, honest, and thoughtful are my biggies.

A peer should serve. I never understood this when I was younger and then I played a queen in changeling for three years.  This may seem like an odd correlation - you played a role playing character and understood service and noblesse oblige?  Yup.  I got a really good grasp in those years of leadership position in-character (which was pretty much a volunteer job on its own) of the concept that the highest up are the ones that are often working the hardest and serving the most.  The job of a peer is, in part, to be certain that the Kingdom, the populace, the whomever, are served and happy and able to access and LIVE the Dream as much as possible.  That doesn't mean as a Peer that you are going to be toting the feast trays all the time - but maybe sometimes you tote a feast tray ;)  I feel like a peer's job is, in part, to be inspiring the ideals we strive for and that often means a sort of reverse philosophy of serving the kingdom and populace.

A peer IS human.  That and a buck fifty will get you a cup of coffee, as they say. A peer is human and I think its important to remember this. They go home. They have lives. Chaos happens and they don't get to their e-mail. They have a bad day and may get a little grouchy on occasion.  These are the things that all humans go through. I think what separates a peer, however, is how they ultimately deal with those moments.  Did they get a little snappy at feast after fourteen hours of cooking? Well sure - but did they also talk to people to encourage them and smooth away the snap?  Did they make a mistake and own up to it and work out the issue?  Those are qualities I look for in a peer. I don't EXPECT or WANT perfection, but I do expect that a Peer recognizes the power and force of their own presence and words in the *context* of the SCA.

That last one was my biggest revelation in the past year. I was suffering, at one point, from a major case of Peer Fear but I've largely had to get over that becoming Chart Signet. That said, I have tremendous respect for peers but still realize they are human.  The ones that also realize and accept that - and work to be the best they can WITH that knowledge - are the ones who have earned so much of my admiration.

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