As of yesterday, I am no longer Efenwealt’s apprentice.
He has resigned from the Order of the Laurel and withdrawn from all polling orders as a form of retirement. He has his reasons for having done so, and while I may not agree with all of them, I respect his decision to do so and I believe he has not done this in haste or without an appropriate amount of consideration. I also believe it to be the right course of action for his personal growth.
This, however, leaves me in a position I did not anticipate. I am no longer Efenwealt’s apprentice, and it did not come about from my own elevation. I know that I’m a somewhat casual player within the SCA. Grad school and children have kept me from the level of activity I enjoyed when I was in my early 20′s, and I’ve had other priorities through the years. But through it all, I have been Efenwealt’s apprentice. I asked to become his student within my first year or so of playing, and he accepted me as one immediately, to my delight. I apprenticed to him when I was 19, at the first event we both attended after his elevation. I’ve been apprenticed to him longer than I’ve known my husband. I’ve had his green belt as a treasured part of my wardrobe since before I graduated out of glorified T-tunics. My apprenticeship to and association with Efenwealt has been a core part of my SCA identity for my entire adult life.
And now, I am no longer Efenwealt’s apprentice.
I’ve had some time to think on this and to figure out how I’m going to identify going forward. Practically speaking, very little will change. I’ll need a new belt. Emotionally, I have a visceral reaction to having to return my green belt. But it’s just a strip of leather. And I’m not losing my connection with my now-former Peer. Efenwealt does not need to be a Laurel to cheer me on, celebrate my successes, and help me analyze my failures. He will continue to do that. We live in different kingdoms so we’ve never had much in the way of in-person instructional time anyway outside of seeing each other at Pennsic and the rare occasions we’re at other events together. He was fond of asking those who came to him asking to be his apprentice, “What would I do as your Laurel that I wouldn’t do as your friend?” I snuck in before he started asking that, but my answer would’ve been that being able to name-drop that I was his apprentice would open some doors for me (and admittedly, close a few). So now I have to stand on my own, which isn’t so bad as through the years, I’ve developed my own reputation independent of him. I can and will continue to claim him as dear friend and household. Another common responsibility of a Peer to their dependent is to serve as a voice and advocate on the respective council and to provide feedback from said council in an appropriate fashion to the dependent. It’s more difficult to do that cross-kingdom, and I know in-kingdom Laurels who I trust to advocate for me if it becomes appropriate. Being a dependent is not a requirement to elevation; after all, our first Bardic Laurel in AEthelmearc was not an apprentice.
Mistress Zsof posted a query on Facebook some time ago, asking associates to share why they chose to be a squire/apprentice/protege/scholar. I replied that I was an apprentice because I wanted to be associated with and learn from Efenwealt, not because I specifically wanted to be “an apprentice”. I even noted at the time that, were Efenwealt never made a peer, I would likely not have become apprenticed to someone else and chosen instead to remain his student as I valued the mentoring from the person, not the Peerage. I still value greatly my association with Efenwealt, but we are transitioning into one of equals.
And so, I am no longer Efenwealt’s apprentice.
I am his friend and his house-sister, but not his student. His breadth of experience in performing and research still far outshine my own, and yet I’m now to think of him as my equal. After two decades of striving (albeit very slowly) to reach him, that goalpost is gone.
So, now what?
Now, I continue my journey. Life as Efenwealt’s apprentice was never one of structured guidance. I will continue to make my way through the Bardic community, learning at my own pace. I’ve been my own captain in practice for quite some time, and now that self-guidance is formalized. It also means I now have full responsibility: my actions, good and bad, no longer reflect upon my Laurel. I am no longer his representative. My actions are fully my own. That left me feeling rather lost when I was first told of Efenwealt’s intentions, but over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve become accustomed to the idea and believe it’s not so bad to shake things up a bit, to no longer think of my apprenticeship as a crutch. Granted, the vast majority of this is going on in my own head since practically speaking, I’ve basically been doing whatever I like anyway. But in the back, there was always that thought of being Efenwealt’s dependent. Now there’s a hole that I’m filling with my own agency, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I am no longer Efenwealt’s apprentice. And I’m going to be okay.