Tagged: independence

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

On Independence

When I hear the word independence, I think first of a song by The Band Perry that I’ve always liked; one of the few country songs that I’ve ever enjoyed. The lyrics that I can recall by heart go something like:

Most of my friends will live and die in this zip code…

To me, it just sounds very honest, blatant, and depressing. Travel is one of the best ways to ways to expand your perspective, to overcome the limits of physical confines.

To never venture out of your zip code? *shudders*

The lyrics of the song bring to my attention the concept of college, more importantly, WHERE you decide to go to college. In some cases (but certainly not all cases), staying in-state for college represents a last-resort. It means that the state college is the most you think you can amount to, that you don’t have very big dreams for your future. Of course, if you were to live in a state with a wonderful college within its barriers, then obviously what I said before doesn’t really apply.

But in talking to lots of people, I found that this…belief is widespread. Friends have told me that they don’t want to go to the state college because they don’t want to be like the majority of people at their school, settling for the bare minimum.

Independence relies heavily on the degree of education a person receives. Regardless of whether you go to Princeton or Podunk U, as long as you go to a school that you BELIEVE to be selective and/or competitive, you are going in the right direction.

The way that the world operates today, the likelihood of someone amounting to great success without a sturdy education is quite low. Of course, we blow up and emphasize the cases that have made it big, but it’s important to keep a level head.

The key to approaching independence and education is balance. Education is very crucial to your development in the social, political, and economic world, but ultimately NOT the only important factor. If you somehow lose yourself or sell your soul to the devil in the process of amassing a strong educational foundation, you won’t be able to effectively utilize or appreciate the fruits of your strenuous labor.

So when it comes to independence, the lyrics of the country song are just one approach to the issue. Staying within your zipcode doesn’t necessarily say anything detrimental about the sort of education you are getting/going to get, but if you were never to travel outside the border in your lifetime, you’d be missing out on many life-changing experiences.

Freed from the Birdcage (A Creative Revision)

The following is a creative revision/short story based on the popular novel by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre. 


A field is only a field until I realize that I shall never see it again. Upon this thought, an unnamed sadness strikes me as I look out the window, which overlooks the fields of the Rochester mansion. They far surpass any of the natural scenery at Gateshead, as well as all of the rivers and brooks at the Lowood Institute. I do believe these fields will be the ache in my heart, what wracks me at night when I’m out of this place.

Dawn peeks through the curtains of my room as I quickly gather what I need to survive in this world. A purse for practicality, twenty shillings to get me by, simple clothing for warmth and coverage, and what’s this?

My hand brushes by spheres of cool unfamiliarity, the beads of a pearl necklace that Mr. Rochester had bestowed upon me just a few days ago. I let the necklace fall back into the drawer in disgust, something that I now know I did not need to survive in this world. My initial fascination and wonder with this pretty ornament are long gone, as is my own desire to be an ornament of Mr. Rochester’s. Now, the beads only mock me, reminding me that Mr. Rochester had never truly loved me. After all, he had still willed for Bertha to live in his mansion. I came as a governess and I will forever be a governess; this is how Mr. Rochester sees me, how Adele sees me, even as how Mrs. Fairfax sees me, regardless of how many parties we could throw and how many nice dresses I could have.

Looking back on the events that had taken place over the last few days, I am glad that I learned of Bertha Rochester’s existence. Had I not, the wedding would have commenced. I would be eternally curious, eventually going mad, over the enigma of Grace Poole and the top floor of the mansion. All of the fancy gowns and lavish parties would not placate me; my lingering resentment of my treatment in this household would stand in the way. I would still bitterly agonize the way that Mr. Rochester would taunt me with the other women in his home, namely in his hospitality towards Miss Ingram and the mere existence of Bertha.

However vile and savage his Bertha Rochester seems, I understand that indeed it is Mr. Rochester himself with the monstrous ego. He is the one at fault here, for disregarding my emotions. He left me ignorant, leading me to believe that he was going to marry Miss Ingram. Again, I was left in the dark about the existence of his own wife. Our unequal roles are reflected even in my lack of knowledge about his true intentions and his mysterious past. Who am I, to be his slavish and unequal mistress? Am I not an independent woman? Is my future in this birdcage of a mansion, forever one step below my supposed true love?

As hard as it is to admit the suffocation I have always felt in this cursed household, I must acknowledge this obligation that I feel to escape the confinement of this cage. Otherwise, what kind of a future would I be living? Mr. Rochester is twice my age, with enough riches and experiences for a lifetime, while I am young and spry. I feel my anguish of this discovery waning by the moment.

I make my way down the familiar staircase and stow some bread in my purse. As I open the door to the outside world for the last time, my mind wanders to Mr. Rochester. For a split second, I contemplate dropping everything, retrieving my pearl necklace and opening the door to his room, to the future I had always dreamed of, with my true love, in a beautiful home. I imagine that when I am gone, Mr. Rochester will wake up and discover my absence, pacing back and forth in his study until Miss Ingram comes back to distract him. Disgust engulfs my mind, yet again; I am now resolute in my decision to leave Thornfield.

I walk through the gates, that I had been so grateful of entering after my time at Lowood, where I had been caught in a cycle of perpetual boredom and lack of interest. My pace quickens; I feel as though a weight has lifted off my shoulders.

Over fields and past small houses I stride, each step building in momentum. I stop only twice to nibble thoughtfully on bread, but I allow myself to yearn only for the house itself, not the man who ruled it. Oh, how I miss my bedroom and the rolling hills that accompany the mansion’s landscape – but not to a great extent. I miss most the sense of belonging that I felt within its walls, within my first true home.

Making my way further and further from my temporary home, I see a road that I seldom take, whose path I do not know and have not traveled. But I gather the ample amount of courage that I have and decide that I would rather keep going forward instead of staying at Thornfield, which is what a weak woman would do. All of the weeping and emotional longing in the world would still be better than the wrenching regret of not moving on, of not seeing what else could lie outside the gates of Thornfield. To give into my untrustworthy and naïve desires would cast me off as a mistress. I would certainly choose the moral, high path over the emotional, needy road any day.

A steady crunching of gravel interrupts my winding stream of thought; a coach is approaching. The horse pulling it looks healthy, with a shiny dark coat. The wheels are sturdy, and the man guiding the coach looks amicable. The vehicle looks like something better than I had seen in months, a beacon of light guiding me to a future full of potential.

Reader, I hope that someday you might experience this feeling that was spreading within me at this particular moment. To finally escape from the humiliation I had faced mentally competing with other women gave me a sense of self-worth. To be free from kneeling before the towering figure of Mr. Rochester provided a sense of independence. As much as the pearl necklace is useless to me, so much so is the accompaniment of a man.