There are some days where I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be — doing positive work, building my career and my skills, connecting with family and friends, spending time outside.
Then there are days when I wonder what the hell I’m doing.
As it turns out, my costume booth is in possibly the worst location in the entire faire. It’s tucked away in the corner of the tilt yard, and no one walks past it. You can’t see it at all from the main path, and you can barely see it from the joust audience seats. It’s next to the petting zoo, so the bleating and braying of farm animals drown out all of the other sounds of the faire. It’s also next to a bush that spews pollen into your face every time the wind picks up.
We have had some pretty foul weather (including a tornado!), which means no one comes to the faire and I end up with mud all over my dress. On Saturday, fewer than two dozen people showed up to the first joust, the sheep got vociferously irritated at being wet, and I had to figure out how to use the port-a-potty without trailing my gown through any unsavory substances. At that point, I had a very strong desire to go home and rethink my life. I don’t know if I’m the type of person who can handle not knowing if the weather is going to completely sabotage my entire week’s income. Or, for that matter, if I can even handle being hot/cold/wet/windblown/dirty/stinky all the time. Why didn’t I choose a nice, clean, safe field like accounting or mail sorting? Why do I keep thinking this gypsy life is so rewarding and romantic anyway? I know I’m trying to use my passion and my skills to make the world a more magical place, but I have to wonder if sitting around in the rain with the sheep and the hippies is really the best way to accomplish that goal.
Selling my wares has been alternately rewarding and frustrating. Kids seem to really love the knight costumes. It’s great fun to watch them try on costumes and talk to them about the joust, the horses, the faire, Zombie Dice, dinosaurs, and whatever else their brains associate with polite conversation. I get really discouraged, though, when the sunburned, cigarette-smoking, bleach-blonde or buzz-cut parents snap, “You don’t need that!” (insert stereotypical NASCAR-crowd Texas accent* here) and drag the kid away by the wrist. I wonder why parents even take their kids to the Ren faire if they won’t let them get a souvenir. Isn’t that just a day-long cruel tease? But then there are the parents who walk into the booth saying, “My son loves the black knight. I want to buy EVERYTHING.” (Actual quote.) So I’m trying to focus on the customer interactions that end like this:
Another discouraging thing that I forgot about over the winter was the very odd, contentious communication style among the faire folk. A lot of people out here (not everyone, mind you) can’t have a conversation without trying to one-up you or belittle you. I walked in the first weekend carrying a big Rubbermaid tub of knight costumes, and one person asked me what was in the bin. When I told her it was full of costumes, she replied, “OH. I have THREE bins of costuming.” WTF? Lady, I’m not impressed. I’m not even the slightest bit interested in having a geek contest with you. I’m trying to sell these things because it’s my job. Yes, I’m proud of my work. Yes, I think what I do is pretty cool. But it’s just work — not my identity, not my insecurity-pacifier, and not something I’m trying to use to outdo anyone. And no matter what you do or how good you are at it — costuming, fencing, horseback riding, anything — somebody at the faire is going to try to prove that they’ve been doing it since before it was cool, and they’re much better than you’ll ever be. I’m just not interested in having that conversation. All I want is to make costumes and try to get along with everybody.
Last Sunday was more encouraging than the rest of the faire has been so far. The sun came out (symbolically!) and business picked up a bit. I finished the weekend by sending an awesome kid home dressed as his favorite knight, which, simple as it may be, reaffirmed my faith in my work and boosted my mood exponentially.
I think the two-week hump at the beginning of the faire is over, and I’m ready to see what the rest of the season will bring. It’s going to get better. I just have to keep going. Because:
*Texans, don’t get mad. I’m from Texas, and I illustrate this stereotype with all the bluebonnet, sweet tea, stars-at-night pride in my heart while acknowledging that most of us aren’t that way.