Changing the Way I Reenact
When I started getting into reenacting nearly 18 years ago, this hobby was my escape. It was my chance to be someone else for a weekend, someone I preferred being. It was fun, it was relaxing, and it was one of the best parts of my life. However, as I got close to going off to college, there were some changes in my unit that made events no longer fun for me. Large parts of them felt like a chore, rather than a joy. It caused me to drop the hobby almost entirely for four years, from 2002-2006.
When I rejoined the hobby in 2007, it made me feel alive again. I had gotten into 20th century events because they allowed me to have a much more active (and frankly, masculine) role, which was a large part of why I had started this hobby in the first place. I started off with a Soviet impression, but quickly moved into other periods such as Vietnam, Spanish Civil War, Algeria, etc. Last year, I got back to my 18th century roots that I had been missing for so long by joining a Loyalist unit, and I later explored new territory by joining a Dark Ages group as well.
However, over this past year, something hasn’t felt quite right. Events didn’t prompt the same enthusiasm that I had a few years ago, and I found myself attending a lot of events as only a photographer, not as a reenactor. In the last few months, I’ve been exploring what seems to be causing this change of heart, and thinking about what I can do to fix it. I think I recently found some answers.
In short, I have made a lot of compromises in the last few years about who I am, in an effort to fit in better within the hobby and to be able to participate in the groups I like. I’m now realizing that it was a big mistake, and that no amount of enthusiasm for a group will make me feel better about an impression I hate, and no amount of interest in an impression will make me comfortable in a group I don’t fit into.
So, I’m going to be making some changes to the way I reenact, what I reenact, and how I participate in the hobby in general.
Here are a few of the changes:
No more impressions I don’t care about or don’t feel comfortable in. This includes impressions that I do purely to be able to hang out with a particular group of people. It includes overtly female impressions such as my campfollower impression. It includes impressions that I got into because I liked the clothing but not much else. I’m going to be sticking to impressions that I have a genuine interest in.
No more events I don’t care about. If I’m not excited about it and raring to go, I’m not going, at least not as a reenactor.
With rare exceptions, no more photography at tactical events. When I’m in photographer mode, I’m not in reenactor mode. I attend tacticals to live in a historical moment, and it defeats the purpose if I’m running around with a big, modern camera that takes me out of it. If I’m being paid for event coverage, or am reenacting in one of my correspondent impressions, or am attending an event specifically to shoot it, that’s one thing, but for tacticals that I’m attending to have fun…there will be no more lugging around 25lbs of camera gear.
I’m going to be re-joining either the SCA or Markland, as an outlet for combat. I’m not a huge fan of either organization from a reenacting standpoint, but they both serve an important purpose for me – a legal opportunity for me to beat the crap out of people. From middle school up through the end of college, I was always involved in various forms of combative sports, and I have noticed that without that outlet, I have a lot more difficulty controlling my temper.
I’m going to look for units that I think I will enjoy, regardless of what their authenticity level may be. I don’t care how authentic you are – if you’re a douchebag, I don’t want to reenact with you anymore. Likewise, if you’re super authentic but such authenticity prohibits me from doing the impression I enjoy, there’s no real point in me joining that unit. I don’t expect them to change their standards for me, but I also will no longer suppress who I am for the sake of joining an otherwise cool unit.
I’m going to start trying to find (or create!) events that I can attend as an independent reenactor. There are some really cool non-military events out there, and I really would like to be able to participate in more of them.
And here’s why I’m making these changes:
What purpose does a hobby serve if you don’t enjoy it and it occasionally makes you actively unhappy? Reenacting has been getting to that point with me, and I want to reverse that process.
This will make me a better reenactor. My most half-assed impressions are the ones I really don’t care about. By focusing only on impressions I’m passionate about, the quality of those impressions will likely improve dramatically.
I will no longer have to deal with the psychological stress of being somebody I’m not in order to attend an event. Chances are, I will likely be a much friendlier reenactor because of it.
There are going to be some big changes and some small changes. I’m going to be more focused on some impressions, and less focused on others. My role in certain units will likely change, as will the nature of my participation in events. I’m going to be changing the way I reenact, but I think that in the end, it will result in me being both a better reenactor and a happier one.