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Radio Gaga

Here I was, without ideas...

(I also seem to have started a minor meme.  Go me!)

Today, we answer apprentice-related questions.  cathgrace, isenglass, and not_justagirl's questions work well together for a single post on the subject.  I think one of the things we peers hesitate to do (especially Laurels) is lay out what the process is for becoming a peer - we all know about the "doing it because you love it", but there are other things to deal with that might be easier to handle if people knew that most candidates experience them, and they're not alone.

But first -  isenglassasked:  Do you choose the apprentice, or do they choose you?

Some peers will happily dive on whomever they think they like and ask them to become apprenticed, and some peers wait to be asked.  I'm shy, and never certain whether someone really wants to be an apprentice or not, so I spend several months feeling out the person, getting to know what they're keen on, and where they want to go, and generally dropping hints.  I hate putting people on the spot, so it takes a while for me to actually ask (and I've lost out on getting some apprentices that way).  I can't answer for other people, but I really like to be asked - and even if I can't fit that person in, or I think we'd work better in a more casual relationship, I am always available for questions.  My apprentices get to glom onto me and can rely on me for more support (they also have to work harder), but anyone can ask me stuff, and I'll try and make time for them.

I've always been of the opinion that there's no bad question - I really will answer, honestly, questions about the peerage process, and won't fob someone off with flowery words when they want a cold hard breakdown of what's needed to get where they want to go.  I think people work better when they know what they have ahead of them, so think of me as the Official Gamer's Guide to Laurel:  The Reckoning (now with cheat codes!).

But, I prefer someone who wants to apprentice to come and find me - I feel awfully presumptious walking up to someone and saying "You!  You should be with me!  I will teach you stuff!", because it feels like I'm assuming they'd be grateful for my help.  I know it's not easy to ask (no-one likes to hear "no", no matter how nicely put), but I can't read minds, so I don't know who wants what until they tell me.

not_justagirl asked:  If you could ask anyone thinking about becoming an apprentice some questions, what would they be, and what would you hope to learn from those questions?

There's only one question for me, once I'm sure that I like the person enough to have them in my life regularly, and that's "What do you want from this relationship?".  All other questions stem from that first, all-important, one.  And I can tell if people are telling me what they think I want to hear, as opposed to being honest.  Really, "I want to be a Laurel" is not automatically a bad answer, but we will then need to explore what you mean by that, and whether your expectations are realistic.  Being an apprentice is not an automatic ticket to peerage, and it can be quite hard work.  I would suggest that anyone who wants to be an apprentice get to know the person they are asking to be their peer for a while before asking, because you could be with that person for a few years.

And finally, we get to the things that happen when you are an up-and-comer, but have no peer to turn to to answer those burning questions that come right when you're convinced that Laurel will never come.    cathgraceasks:  What positive/negative attributes do you see up and coming non-peers dealing with?

Funnily enough,  isenglassand I talked about this when I visited her Laurel vigil.  People who are close to, but not quite at, peerage recognition occasionally seem to implode right at the last minute, and I think this is a result of the phenomenon  isenglassdubbed "radio silence" (a very good description).  Peers, unwilling to tip their hand, will often stop talking to a candidate who is almost ready, except to say somewhat unhelpful things like "keep up the good work!" and "nice job!".  There are multiple reasons for this.  Maybe  they don't want the candidate to get the idea that they're getting an award, especially if there's been no sign that the Crowns are ready, because that's a horribly painful experience (I know this first-hand).  The candidate may be so good at what they do that the peer doesn't really have any criticisms (or may not know enough to make any judgements on the work).  Or it could just be that the candidate is doing so well that the peers assume they're fine, and don't need any help.

This is an awfully weird position to be in, and some people crack under the pressure.  Thing is, most people go through this stage, and it is during this time that the love of what they do has to sustain them.  To everyone else, it honestly doesn't seem like such a long time (hence the surprise people feel when they witness an implosion), but when you're ready (so ready!), it feels like foreverThis is a natural part of the peerage journey.   

No, really.  It takes a while for enough people to get to know and acknowledge your level of work across the order, and it then takes more time for pollings, and arranging stuff, and all the other bits and pieces - in the meantime, you've been ready for a year or more.  What you do during this time is critical; whine to friends by all means (my friends were seriously patient with me, for which I thank them profusely), but maintain.  

I have watched more than one person's true character come out during this period in limbo; they can keep the facade up while they're getting praised and admired, but when they enter the cone of silence, the pleasure of what they do cannot sustain them (not surprisingly, if all they wanted was an award), and they snap.  Unfortunately, as Bob says, "one awshit! cancels out a hundred attaboys", and while the candidate may feel like they should be able to reset to the moment before they snapped, everyone else has moved them back anywhere from six months to a couple of years from their previous level, depending on the size of the meltdown (keep this in mind if you're ever tempted).

Use this limbo time to keep improving your skills - channel your frustration into your work (or, in my case, "dammit, I will become good enough that they have to acknowledge me!"), and if you're burning for feedback, seek out people directly who can give you something to help you improve, even if it's just in how you write up your documentation.

Or come and find me, and pour out your frustration.  I won't hold it against you - I went through the same thing before my Laurel, and I probably had no right to - I was impatient.  It really helped having someone (in my case, Bob) who could commiserate, but at the same time, honestly point out things I was doing (or not doing) that might be delaying my progress.  But I'm the Laurel who thinks it's okay to want a Laurel. 

(Mind you, if you're not doing the work, I'll tell you.  Be warned.)    :)

To be a good peer means being an adult all of the time.  It doesn't mean that we have to be perfect (I'd be out on my ear if that were the case), but it means that you don't get to stamp your feet and explode all over everyone and then expect everyone to forget you lost it (or forgive you easily if you burned all your bridges in the process).  There's a lot of debate about what "Peer-Like Qualities" are, but what it usually boils down to is "can they act like an adult even under extreme pressure?".  That scrutiny starts long before the candidate is elevated, and becomes most intense during the time when they're almost ready for peerage.

Conspiracy theorists can now start claiming that we peers add on the "radio silence" phase deliberately to put the candidates under pressure, but we're just not that organized.  It's an organic outgrowth of a process that has delays unavoidably built in.  It is useful, however, to see what people do when there's a lack of constant praise or feedback, because after they become a peer, the constant attaboys stop, and they now have to start giving constant attaboys to others.  Instead of entering and winning competitions, the peer is now expected to judge and encourage the work of others, while still maintaining a constant level of excellence.  Worse, you're now supposed to share all your secrets with other people so they can become better at what they do.  A good peer is a teacher, a cheerleader, and an inspiration.    

...All of which make sit sound intimidating, but the ideal peerage candidate is all those things before they're elevated.  If a candidate can't sustain themselves without constant outside feedback, then they're not going to be a good peer.  "Radio Silence" isn't fun, but if you use it as an exercise in self-sustainability, it can teach you a lot about your strengths.

In my opinion, of course.  But it's my diary, and you asked.

Comments

( 127 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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maricelt
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
man, I so wish that we were closer. I could have used your advice and someone who understood what was going on. I didn't implode, but I have heard that I did shoot myself in the foot. So, here I am back at square one?? I don't even know. *sigh.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
Depending on how badly you screwed up, it's probably not close to square one - say, square seven out of ten, most likely. But now you need to be super on top of things for a bit. :) A repeated pattern of messing up is worse than one big thing you clearly learn from.

It's how we pick ourselves up and go on after the fact that defines our character, I think. :)
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peteyfrogboy
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
I haven't had any implosions, but I keep having babies, which makes it hard to maintain a consistent high level of activity. I'm trying to settle gracefully into "eternal apprentice" mode.
spikywheel
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
likewise. Damn babies for sucking away your funtime...
but they are so cute.....
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bdeb
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
Wow. I am going to link to this. Very well written and spot on.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Feel free. :)
eeyore_sings
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the explanation of "radio silence." I don't think I am anywhere near "Laurel level" yet, but I did experience this with our Kingdom A&S award (also a polling order). I got to experience both ends of spectrum - those that gave no feedback and those that tried to "help" and were insulting instead. It did give me a chance to re-evaluate what I was doing and why, which in the long run is more important than the award.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
I think it happens to some extent before every polling award - because of the aformentioned dealy, it's impossible to give out an award the instant someone seems ready.

And most people are (or, unfortunately think they are) ready before other people have decided - after all, the person knows what they can do. Remembering that other people have to know too can help one be patient.
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alina_s
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
That is really interesting and insightful, and maybe explains some things I've seen with some of my friends. I'll add it to my file of personal SCA pearls: "Just because they aren't talking to you doesn't mean they aren't paying attention."

(Maybe I should cut the evil plotting laugh off the end of that sentence, though. :)
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
It's more fun if you keep it, but wait until they're almost out of earshot. :)

But thank you - it was insightful for me to learn that other people go through the same thing, but it also cements my feeling that if you have questions, find someone and ask. If they can't answer you, find someone else, and keep trying. You may get as many asnwers as people you ask, but in the middle of all the information should be some truths you can use.

But it really does explain why some people seem to pop from the pressure right before they were going to get what they wanted so badly, and awareness of that can help their friends and peers forestall that phenomenon.

I've seen some good people lose it, too - but they usually manage to pull themselves back on track and keep going.
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amykb
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I had a meltdown on a friend who was in the order about a month before I was elevated. We were at a camping event, and she dried my tears, plied me with alcohol and told me don't worry about it, nobody is saying anything about your work because there is really nothing to say right now--haven't you noticed that we have been sending people to *you* for info on Italian Illumination--you are going to have to teach the rest of us what you are doing before we can comment and critique again. That statement probably helped me more than anything anyone said to me. It wasn't that I was being ignored, or that I had screwed up somehow that no one liked me anymore, it was just I had gone off in my own direction and they weren't familiar with the territory.

I tell my apprentices "Find your passion. Follow it." I don't care if they do C&I, as much as I love to teach it, I care that they love what they are doing...everything follows from that. Philip loves woodworking and plays with Illumination. Brighid loves to cook. Solveig sews. I point them at information, help them with learning to do research, and serve as a sounding board for their ideas and passions.
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elizabethnmafia
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I ever told you or not but I always appreciated your advice and willingness to talk about this subject. It has ment alot to me over the years.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :) I have a lot of respect for people who will actually seek out feedback, rather than sit and wait and whine if it doesn't come to them.
cathgrace
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I feel like I have finally gotten to a place where I can be Zen about the idea of a peerage, I can’t say that I don’t want to be a peer, because I would like to be one. Not for the “accolades” or the idea of being more special, but because of the idea of what one has become, a peer like person is what I want to be, far more then being a peer. We have a little over 1 year left here, then we will move again for another 4 years and then we will move again……. Every time we move with the military we are hitting the reset button on our SCA relationships, every time we move we will spend a couple of years getting to know people and then a couple of years having people weigh us up, and then we will move. For a little while I have to admit that I felt a sense of urgency, like I needed to get something soon, but you have really helped me in so many ways with who I want to be. I watch you and how you do what you do for the love of it, I watch you be an inspiration to so many people, and I know that is what I want to be. I have decided that my journey needs to be about being a quality person, doing quality work because it will make me a better member of the human race, and member of the SCA, and if one day, in a kingdom somewhere someone decides that I am ready, then I will feel so lucky and privileged, but the greatest reward will be who I became along the way, not the medallion to prove it. Thank you so much for your example and thoughts on this subject, we are all lucky to know you.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
Awww, thanks. That really means a lot to me.

I'm known now for my costuming, but that's not what I got my Laurel for - all the really good costume work came after. I couldn't do it for the awards, so I had to find value in doing it for its own sake - and in doing so, I really learned a lot about what other people go through. Having your friends tell you you're good is nice, but validation from people who are not close friends will always be important to everyone, and I can't hold it against people that they want that validation - we all do.

Just keep in mind that the medallion doesn't make the person; if the person is already there, making a difference, then people will know that with or without the final award.

Easy for me to say, I know; but it's true.
(no subject) - cathgrace - Feb. 6th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - malvoisine - Feb. 6th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
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ladypyrate
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Official Gamer's Guide to Laurel: The Reckoning (now with cheat codes!).
ROFLMAO!!! That needs to be an icon!!!

I agree with Alina, thanks for the words of wisdom.

May I post a link to this in the SCA Apprentice list?? I know you have open posts, but I still like to be courteous and ask. :)
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Sure, and thanks for asking - I like to know where I'm travelling to, so I appreciate it. :)
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attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Not everyone who apprentices will become a peer - the work required is too much for some people.

It's frustrating sometimes that people are elevated who may seem less talented than the apprentice, but we are people driven - the flip side of that, of course, is that some Laurels are more respected than others.

(and I ain't sayin' who.) 8)
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compass_rose
Feb. 6th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
after they become a peer, the constant attaboys stop, and they now have to start giving constant attaboys to others. Instead of entering and winning competitions, the peer is now expected to judge and encourage the work of others, while still maintaining a constant level of excellence... A good peer is a teacher, a cheerleader, and an inspiration.

Amen sister. This is a fairly sizable chunk of the advice I give to peerage candidates during their vigils.

And I must agree on the conspiracy theory rebuttal of the Peers not being organized enough to en-masse pull off that kind of deliberate Order-wide behavior. As an Order secretary... trust me, that level of organization would require cattle prods and we don't have any of those.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, heck - you should see how disorganized we are as a group. as Bob puts it - the Laurels all got awards for going off and doing their own thing. Asking them to do something as an order is like herding puppies - they all mean well, but they get distracted easily.
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chargirlgenius
Feb. 6th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Somebody I respect once said “Peers don’t spoil.” I tend to agree with her, though man, that has to be a tough time.

I probably didn’t *notice* the cone of silence, since I was busy having babies. Hence when I was called into court I said “but I didn’t DO anything.” I forgot about that year or so for getting things organized.
heatermcca
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
"Peers don't spoil."

I like that statement a lot, actually. Viewing from the "outside in," if you will, this seems to be the case.
luciab
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
That "radio silence" thing? Horrible. I wanted someone to talk to me SO much. I felt like I was in a vacuum. I asked one or two people I trusted enough to ask, and they cautiously said "They're talking about you," and I guess they thought that was reassuring. I felt like I was in a glass box with a spotlight on me, and people were whispering behind their hands but no one would talk TO me. God, it was awful. What you said about it helps make a little more sense of it. Thanks.
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
I think it is really hard for people to articulate things well - no-one wants to say "they're saying good things about you! You're nearly there!", because something might happen, and you're left with an ulcer because every court is torture.

I want people to know they're not alone, and that saying "I am having a hard time with this" is okay.
(no subject) - luciab - Feb. 6th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Feb. 6th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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ornerie
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
I love reading your perspectives on stuff. may I please share this with my apprenti? you and I arent exactly philosophical clones, but much of it resonates. and I think its good for them to see that not all peers think exactly alike :)
attack_laurel
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Sure. I throw all sorts of thoughts out there, but I never require that people think like me - just that they don't yell at me in my journal. :)
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corbaegirl
Feb. 6th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
"I think one of the things we peers hesitate to do (especially Laurels) is lay out what the process is for becoming a peer - we all know about the "doing it because you love it", but there are other things to deal with that might be easier to handle if people knew that most candidates experience them, and they're not alone."

The problem with this is that there are too many people who will use it as a checklist, as in, 'I've done everything on the list, you have to give me my goodie'. So, I do lay out the process, but I choose my audience carefully.
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