11 things debate camp taught me about life

1. Living without my parents degrades my living standards

You never know who you have until they’re gone. I look around my filthy living quarters and miss my parents nagging me about picking up my clothes and not bringing food on my bed. There are empty wrappers everywhere and piles and piles of flow paper. Is it bad that I feel as though a poke would tip me over, as a result of a lack of sleep, exercise, and nourishing food? I crave avocados and fresh produce, and my sleep schedule is massively skewed.

2. I have no self control

There’s such a contrast between how I felt at the beginning of camp (wads of cash and a loaded card) and now (empty wallet and dearth of credit on my card). There was a massive sale towards the middle of camp that totally left me winded; as a result, I have more clothes than is possible to transport back home and I’ve become exponentially stingy about money. My parents probably role their eyes everytime I call home and ask them to put more money on my card. It is tough to be on your own and remember that you have to ration out your resources and allocate them wisely.

3. I can reinvent myself

Although I have been immersed in this community for the entirety of my high school career, I feel that it is much more socially acceptable to “update” yourself every summer. This is because the debate community sees you sporadically throughout the year; a couple times each month or so, and normally everyone’s heads are buried in their computer screen doing research. Here, you present yourself to a group of kids for several weeks straight, and you can come with a freshened up ‘tude.

4. It is possible to get better at something in a very short amount of time
Given that you are also improving during the year, you are also destined to progress if you dedicate 7 weeks of your summer to one activity, and one activity alone. Here, it is hard to envision someone and their skills as being static. Sure, we all improve at different rates, but it is improvement all the same. 

5. It is impossible to tire of listening to music, if the music is good
I have spent hours and hours every single day for the past 6 weeks just sitting on my computer, reading files or articles, with really intense music playing in the background; I’m sure that I’ve played some song over 100 times, and yet I have not tired of any song. This is because it’s merely background music. There is certainly an argument to be made that this is not adequate music appreciation, but I honestly am someone who can focus on music and work AT THE SAME TIME. It passes the time and gives me a reason to bop my head and wiggle my legs.

6. Senior year is the peak

Compared to years past, I definitely exude the most confidence this year. It’s a bittersweet realization that this is my last year as a student. From now on, I can only be a counselor. No more rules, room check, or confines. But at the same time, no more guidance and no more intense drills or drive to debate. There’s something about being the kid that makes you feel instantly less worry free than ever before.

7. People really can look up to you
There are people here…that I don’t know but they somehow know me. It’s weird because I was the same way last year and the year before; I would know of people that probably didn’t know I existed. It’s a compelling concept to fathom, and it’s one of the perks of seniority. You are considered the top of camp; it’s intriguing to realize every year that not only are you better than you were the year before, but that a great majority of your most fierce competition has graduated.

8. Authority figures are not always rigid

I will no longer consider adults and teenagers complete opposites. I will no longer assign people to arbitrary sides of an Iron Curtain or cower in their presence or refuse to socialize with them because of their age. Here, there are no teachers, only guiders and leaders. Here, we don’t have homework and we don’t use grades as motivation to work. Here, we have naturally ambitious kids who want to have success during the year and use that as their only inspiration to work hard. Authority figures here are few and far between; once you let this rigid idea go, friendships are easy to construct.

9. If you find something you love, you can basically do it yer-round
Here’s my annual debate schedule, in a nutshell: school starts in August and prep starts. The first major tournaments take place at the beginning of September, and essentially do not stop until March or April. Of course, there’s a few weeks of break for the winter holidays, but we typically spend the break updating old files or brainstorming ideas, so there’s not really a “break.” Come May, it’s time for exams and debate sort of pauses until June, when summer camps begin for the next year’s topic. I so much prefer the rest of the year to the May season because a) exams are stressful b) I don’t debate. If you might imagine someone like me to tire of doing one activity so rigorously and so frequently, you imagined wrong.

10. Adjusting to college campuses is going to be tough
Hey, I’m Catherine. I’m geographically incompetent to the point that I don’t think I could drive from my house to my school, that I’ve been going to for 6 years now. It has taken me years and years of wandering this campus to find out where things are, and even now, I still get mixed up frequently. All college campuses are difficult to navigate and overwhelmingly confusing upon first glance, and now I know that I’ll be the one that suffers most. Don’t ever hand me a map; that just adds to the stress.

11. You can go back to a place and have it change everytime

Looking at pictures is completely different from actually being here on this campus. In 2011 (my first year at summer camp), this place was just a place. I was a stranger in a weird town, filled with mysterious restaurants and stores. I’d never heard of Potbelly’s or 7-Eleven prior to my first year here. I struggled to find my way around the campus. Come summer of 2012, I am starting to feel like I am in town visiting family; I’ve been here before and the building structures look familiar, but I’m still finding it hard to navigate the streets properly. By now, I’ve established hangout spots and coffee stores that have become all mine. Well…now we’re in the summer of 2013, and I feel like this place has actually become my home. I know every inch of the place, every brick and weathered stone, the closing time for every store, and all of the secret sales. I’m still wandering down streets and finding new ice cream shops and pizza stores, but I feel more welcome here than I ever have. I’ve settled into a comfortable groove, finally, after 18 total and 7 consecutive weeks.

ice cream

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Introducing my new series: “Sophomore Spotlight” | Catherine Zhang
  2. Pingback: 8 things I have to say about debate | Never Stationary

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