Avoiding Impression Burnout
It can sometimes be hard to resist the pull of a new and different impression. Starting a new impression means making more friends, the fun of researching a new area of interest, and the material satisfaction of slowly (or quickly) acquiring new toys. At the beginning, it’s fun, it’s exciting, addictive. However, this new impression comes with more obligations, more demands on your time and money, more space taken up in storage, and more potential for conflicts and politics within your participation in the hobby as a whole. Last year, Marc and I discovered that due to our large number of impressions, we were scheduled for events nearly every weekend from February to November. At first we tried to keep up, but we both found ourselves exhausted, frustrated, and even resentful of the responsibilities we had taken on. We ended up scaling back and changing our participation in the hobby, and we learned a few lessons in the process. I know that many other reenactors go through this same thing, so I figured it might be worthwhile to mention some of the things I’ve learned that can help prevent this kind of burnout in the future.
1. When joining a new unit, think long and hard about how active they are. Some units only do two or three events a year (or even less!) while others attend closer to a dozen. If your plate it already full, think twice about joining up with a really active unit, or at the very least make it clear to them from the beginning that you will not be able to participate fully. Likewise, be careful about joining too many different units, as you can run into conflicts at events where more than one of the units you belong to is in attendance, which can create drama.
2. For the sake of your wallet, try to find impressions that can utilize clothing and equipment you already have. Much of the gear and some of the clothing from my various Dark Ages impressions (Rus, Viking, Frankish) is fairly interchangeable, so when I develop an interest in a new impression within that period, I only have to make one or two new things. Likewise, Marc has stuck to militia and civilian-based impressions for his participation in 18th century events, that way he can mix and match from his collection to make an appropriate outfit without having to worry about the specificity of a uniform (which would have to be sold or cast aside if the unit falls apart or if he decided to drop that impression) or about buying new items.
3. If you’re not feeling it, don’t go. We’ve all been there. There comes a point in the reenacting season where you stop being excited about the event next weekend and start dreading it. Last minute sewing, gathering up all your gear, making food, packing the car, endless hours of driving…not to mention the reenactment itself! Reenacting is a demanding hobby, and if you’re not careful, it will eat away at the rest of your life. Take a break every once in awhile, and if you don’t feel particularly moved by the idea of an event, don’t go.
4. Consider scaling back your participation, whatever that means to you. If your garage is overflowing with boxes of clothing and equipment, your car hasn’t been cleaned in weeks and smells like mud and woodsmoke, and your kids can’t remember when they last had a weekend with their friends, it might be time to reevaluate the way you participate in the hobby. This has as many answers as there are people who ask it. For some, the answer might mean focusing on a smaller number of events, for others it might mean choosing short, one day events instead of ones that run for the entire weekend. It might mean putting away impressions that you’re no longer interested in, or it might mean merely trying to focus mainly on a few that you’re really passionate about. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down and put some concerted thought into what you want to get out of the hobby and how to attain that. Make it a family session if necessary.
These are just a few tips based on my own experiences, but I would love hear about other reenactors’ experiences with burnout and what you all did to help stop it. Tell your own story in the comments and you might just help someone else who is struggling!