Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Facing the mirror

St. Val's feast had me facing something terrifying. I was uncomfortable the whole time, anxious and nervous. I think this feast was the hardest thing I've done so far, because I had to face my greatest challenges in it. I had to face myself during this, I had to face my own failings and mistakes. I had to realize my own limitations, further more I had to realize when I was sabotaging myself. This feast helped me realize all that.

Long time ago, I was that gifted kid in class. I was the one who was ahead of every lesson, I could pick up and sight read music for nearly any instrument, I was reading at a college level by 5th grade and I was always on top. I didn't have to try, I didn't have to really work to be successful. Not until 7th grade, I ran into my first challenge then when I was put into the 8th grade advanced math course. Suddenly I had to try, I was just...average. I failed.

I couldn't handle it, the failing. I began to think that maybe I wasn't smart, that I couldn't do all these things. That I was just this fraud...that my life to that point was wrong and a lie. So I stopped trying. I started holding back, I chose to take no action and let things just happen. I began to rationalize that if I didn't actually try then I would never really know how well I could actually do or know how badly I could fail. I took the easiest route, I avoided challenges and just let myself fail through inaction rather than make an effort.

I did this for so long, that it just became my MO. I took the easy roads, I let the chips fall where they may instead of trying and I just let life rule me. I made so many poor choices through inaction, that I began to believe my own bullshit. Even when I joined up with the SCA the second time, what I did while fun was no real challenge to me. I could just...do it without trying. So I did things for fun, and nothing was amiss. Then I hit Fall Coronation 2015.

I devoted a year of my life to that feast. I studied Japanese culture, I read their mythology and history from pre-history to Edo. I learned about their poems and their songs, their wars and heroes. All of this so I could understand a new cooking style, to understand a culture that was incredibly foreign to everything I've known. I got to the feast after a year of work...and I did a good job. I made plenty of mistakes, the list if I were to get into it would be huge if I were to be frank, but it was still a damned good feast. It wasn't my best, but for the first time in a long time I really tried and while I didn't quite reach that top gold rung I got a good silver pedestal. But everyone else...I couldn't escape the praise. I couldn't escape the constant well wishes and the regular compliments, and the more praise was heaped at me the more I began to resent the feast. I hadn't been the best, I had just passed, why was everyone making a huge deal about my failures?

I started another downward spiral. I started to rethink every success I had over the last five years and began to tell myself that even my easy successes had just been failures that people didn't realize. As I began to work on my next feast for St. Val's, I couldn't focus. Even working with a fantastic partner, I did not put anywhere near the effort I normally did into it. I expected to fail, I expected that it would be ruined and thus I put almost zero effort or work towards it. I just couldn't muster the energy to care.

Then I was suddenly forced to care. St. Val's was to host Art/Sci, and I had to look at the 3/4 completed project I had left in rambles and face the fact that it was me who ensured it couldn't be entered. I had to fave the fact that the feast was going to be hurt because I didn't support my comrade, and my friends were gonna have a bad night because I was selfish and didn't want to admit that I lacked such confidence in myself. My friends know I have such little ego, so when I looked into the mirror that day the next thought that came was akin to a slap in the face.

I looked into the mirror, and realized I had been holding back for years because I was too afraid to really try. I had never really tried at anything for years until fall coronation, and I was willing to throw that all away. 

I was a flurry of work from that point on. I pushed myself to recover for lost time, I improvised recipes on instinct and potions/flavor profiles on just a fundamental understanding. Hell, I recreated a recipe I had eaten 2 years ago based on memory of taste/texture and a few tips on assorted chickpea recipes I found online. I gave it a real effort that last little bit of time, to just be good again. I made a huge number of mistakes, but I had a great team member supporting me and a great crew to work with all day. I faced my fear of failure instead of hiding, I gave it a real try for my friends sake. 

We did a real good feast, hot food was hot and cold food was cold. Everyone liked the taste, and everyone had plenty to eat. I had a great co-Feastcrat who worked with me to make a great experience. I had a great hall steward who did a fantastic job of organizing the hall and servers. I had great friends who supported me and helped me get through it. I got a chance to look in the mirror and realize that if I actually tried...if I put real effort into my passion without fear of failure...that maybe I could have my best feast yet.

I feel good. I got hurt, I got knocked down. But for the first time I realize that it's my fault for the pain, and now I can stand back up and keep moving forward.

An Crosaire has always been a place of beginnings, of renewals for me. Seems like it did it again.