The misunderstandings, the bullying, the taunting. It felt like reliving my middle school career all over again. People I once called friends were now distant, some openly mocking of our differences. I'd been called "a petty little bitch" and "pussy" to my face more times by members of the fighting community in a single season than I think I had been called in two years of middle school. What "friends" I could recall that morning were few, far between, and none of them really inspired confidence. I was once again a confirmed member of the looser's club. mocked or ignored for things that I never actually said, but oh "it's something Ivo would say, so it must be true." For some reason that seemed to carry with it more weight and credibility than any flavor of denial I could ever give, and that was assuming I was ever asked my side of things. All too often I was not.
I probably washed my hair twice that morning. It's something I do when I'm distracted, usually not noticing until I went to rinse my hair and notice the shampoo suds already on the walls. I would just roll my eyes and hope that the extra scrubbing helped with my dry skin.
I think I've been called every name in the book at least once. But that wasn't what killed me most of the times. What used to just hack me off was when I would work my ass off at an event. I'd help stack chairs, or do dishes, or load trailers on Sundays, good, honest, hard word, the type that leaves salt stains on your shirt from all the perspiration. Did I ever get thanked? Sometimes, but honestly, I wasn't in it for recognition. So, that wasn't what made me mad. No, what made me had was that a week later, I would arrive late at some project, or just as they were wrapping up something, and help with the last tent pole or something really insignificant. You know, one last drop in the bucket, the type of penny-any bullshit that anyone can do. Then, someone would turn around and say "Good to see you finally helping out." Yeah, those words, one flavor or another, at least a half dozen times in two years. I remember when our resident centurion said it to me while I was hefting a ridge pole over my shoulder. I more than seriously contemplated taking his head off with it when his back was turned. Well, I'm not in jail, or on death row so you can guess what impulse win that little skirmish.
When I was drying myself off, the whole thing just played over and over and over again in my mind, like the credits on some 60s epic movie. It was a never ending list of every screw up I had ever legitimately done, or been wrongfully accused of. they just hung there over me, like lead bricks pulling down on my shoulders. Somewhere in there, I decided that there were a hundred reasons to just quit. I don't completely know why, but a round number like a hundred just sounded good. I went back to my room to get dressed, more than seriously wondering what I would do with my newfound free time when I quit the SCA and suddenly had even less than no life.
I don't remember when it crossed my mind, if it was before or after I got my blue jeans on, but some odd piece of logic came to me just then. if there were 100 reasons to quit, to walk away, to break off all ties, were there as many reasons to stay? It was an academic question, but still, the type of thing I liked to chew on.
Were there 100 reasons to stay?
I remember honestly counting just then. one, then two, then three...
Five, nine, seventeen...
Thirty-five. I remember that I got stuck on that for a while. Maybe, I reasoned, this was my logical side telling me that there really weren't enough good reasons to stay.
Then a name came to me. A man who at one time compared me to "a diamond in the rough".
HL Alarich Von Thorn, my first liege lord.
Then another name.
Lord Facon Du Prey, rapier fighter, friend, and fun spirit I knew from my times heralding the rapier fighters.
And then another, and another.
Then two more, and then twenty. Faces without names, voices without faces. People only known to me by a thank-you, or a smile.
I remember counting that day. I remember counting from one to one hundred.
The sales were even, and I felt the moment of uncertainty as the decision was no longer out of my hands, but felt like a ton of weight on my shoulders. Did I stay, and face the same bullshit? Or did I walk away and find some other pursuit?
Then one more name came to me. Honestly, it could have been anyone. It could have been any person from any time in the society. I assure you that the name was random, but not insignificant.
The name belonged to a man who welcomed me into a conversation, offered me a chair, and asked me how I was doing. He shared a laugh with me, and spoke with me, rather than to me. A man who's great status and stature were as distinct as they were visually powerful. But, the same could be said for his friendly demeanour and encouraging attitude.
Perhaps it could have been anyone who just happened to be that hundred and first person. But in my case, it was (then) count Mahdi.
So, feeling the scales of the decision shift with the silent weight of an iceberg, I walked out of the house that day not contemplating an exit from the society but wondering what I was going to bring to the next project's night.
Now, as easy as it is to sit back an enjoy this narrative for what it is on the surface, I ask you not to leave it at that. For if you carry this thought, this tidbit of philosophy forward to its logical conclusion, it doesn't head on a high note or a low note. Rather, it ends with a question.
"Are you someone's hundredth reason to quit, or are you reason one hundred and one to stay?"
His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"