Please note that this post is me mulling over concepts rather than stating "this is what it takes to be a peer" or even establishing that I have mastered any of this. I'm always hesitant to open this topic as it sometimes gets seen as pretension but it's not meant in that spirit in the least.
I have been quietly mulling this concept over for the better part of a year, ever since James and I first heard the "it just takes time," expression from several peers. It was not meant as a criticism of ourselves - which we realize - but was just part of the conversation surrounding this topic. We both have very open and healthy dialogue's with our own peers and are comfortable with our actions and the joyful path we are on.
We're both - myself more than him - A type personalities, however, so we do better with stated goals and concrete expectations than we do with nebulous statements. I am certainly not the only protege/apprentice in that wagon either. I don't need a checklist, but I do prefer to have concrete reasons rather than vague statements on what makes a peer. I don't even like calling them goals as I think that establishes a sense of "Do x, y, z and tada you're a peer" when I believe it's more accurate to say that these types of experiences are what allow you to develop into that mind set over time.
This is also with a heavy dose of acceptance that there is some je ne sais quoi involved just as there is when trying to figure out why anyone serves as an example or leader or is inspiring. James and I were never fully able to articulate that ourselves in our gaming days - sometimes people just eventually reach a point where we look to them and at least a small part of that is undefinable.
I've managed to, at least for me, boil down why "learning time" is important. It's actually similar to the same reasons I would give my students and because it comforts the organized part of my brain to have these concepts articulated:
1) Learning time is important to encountering new experiences in the Society and learning how to deal with them - this was my big "ah-ha" moment. I realized that I'd encountered several things I just didn't know how to approach in the Society. Peer interactions or "when do I tell this person" moments. These are things that, if I were at work or dealing with friends, would have been absolute no-brainers but because the various levels of people in the Society and the various jobs and tasks sometimes complicate or change dynamics it takes time to even just see those events and experiences in action and learn how best to approach them.
2) Learning time is important to meeting people. Part of being a peer is being well networked and knowing who to turn to when you yourself don't have answers. Even in a small kingdom like Trimaris, that takes time. It also means learning who is connected to who and who knows who and how person A may not be a good fit to teach person X but person B is a great choice.
3) Learning time is important to evaluating your own weaknesses and strengths. There are some things you are already faboo at. Maybe it's your art or maybe your interpersonal skills already kinda rock. That's good to know that you already bring a strength to the SCA table. You're also probably not very good at some aspects of things and it takes time to develop actual awareness of that so you can consciously improve as a human being. More on this shortly.
4) Learning time is important to learning your own pacing. I don't mean in becoming a comet and burning out, but in learning when you can reasonably be a leader and step forward, and understanding when you cannot. This is actually a completely separate curve from real life pacing as it involves layering your SCA obligations with your real world ones. It has taken me a few years to figure out that taking on additional "leader" style tasks during FCAT season is, for a teacher, utterly freaking stupid. If I want to enter art-sci, I also shouldn't take anything on in December. Conversely, the summer is a spiffy time for me to take the lead on improvement projects. The pacing of my year and such demands that certain times of it are much better for me to take on a project or task than others and figuring out how that dovetails with my "mundane" life was very important.
5) Learning time is important to understanding that you are always in learning time. To be fair, I am teacher so I get to claim an edge on this one. You are always learning. As many have said, learning time doesn't stop when you become a peer (or when you graduate or become an adult or are a teacher...) You keep learning, you keep growing. It's that job-description thing. Teacher's get a bonus because we know that learning and self-reflection and growth never *really* stop but for many people it can be a revelation to figure out that reaching a peerage doesn't mean you suddenly have reached the top of a mountain. Self reflection continues. Learning continues. There are probably significantly more people watching you do that in this case, but it's all still there.
I'm sure there's more to this but...there ya go. Five concrete reasons that learning time is important.