Just months ago I stood behind a debate stand, timer in hand, ready to speak at hyper-speed.
Having been involved with policy debate for the entire four years of high school, it is bizarre to not have debated in months and to know that I will likely never debate again. I decided to stop debating, but to remain in the activity as a judge for high school tournaments.
The immediate changes are bizarre. No more camp? To not know the topic, to not speak with other debaters in debate jargon, to miss your high school team but to know that you have to move on eventually, because that part of your life is simply behind you?
That was me during the summer, suffering a mild emotional breakdown now and then. Continue reading
To put it simply, Bryant is my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since the beginning of time, way before pre-school began. During the rough elementary years, we didn’t attend school together, but I think I saw you here and there at tennis practices and remembered the fun times we’d had as toddlers, toddling around Disneyland and North Carolina and whatnot. Continue reading
I started debate in 8th grade, but my mom was actually the one who pushed me to join. I wanted to quit before freshman year but I was convinced by one of my friends to stay a little longer; ironically, she quit before her sophomore year, but I’m still here.
For the longest time, I practiced tennis year-round, with private lessons and tournaments on the weekends. When I was in middle school, I tried out for our school’s tennis team, twice. Not once did I make it. I have long since quit not just tennis, but sports in general.
From the start of sixth grade to my junior year in high school, I tried out for All-State, a state-wide violin competition. Every summer, I dedicated my practices to scales, etudes, and one solo piece that I painstakingly perfected for months. I went to private lessons, but I never got past the second round of auditions.
Of course, I played in other out-of-school orchestras, but I eventually stopped trying for All-State, collapsing down to my school’s orchestra, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I know that around this time of year, many debaters will be nearing the end of their high school career. We’re all different; some of us want to finish the semester strong and go out with a bang, and some have already fizzled out of the activity. Continue reading
A year ago, I wrote a post entitled “What It Means to Debate.” Looking back on what I had written, I still agree largely with what I had written. But alas, we are never stationary and that means that my opinion has changed, shifted, and accumulated much more knowledge and experience since when I last touched on the subject on policy debate as an activity.
8. The Novices.
They are the future of your debate team, the kids that will be seniors when you’re juniors in college, whose life courses you have the ability to influence depending whether you convince them with your charisma and behavior to stick with debate.
When you think about it, debate is what you make it and part of what you make it is demonstrated to others that join as weak freshmen and look to the seniors to see what they might look like one day. Continue reading
I miss everything and everyone so much, it hurts.
This is the first post published from Atlanta in 7.5 weeks, as the rest have all been from Ann Arbor.
I woke up this morning-er, afternoon, after a heavy 15-hour sleep and all of this emotion and soon-to-be nostalgia came flooding towards me. It finally materialized into withdrawal. Today is Sunday, and on Saturday when I left in the morning, I was mainly in shock. It was hard to comprehend that I would no longer wake up in my small dorm room and focus on debate for the next 12 hours or so.
No more practice debates. No more flow paper. No more speaking drills. No more independence, and no more walking long distances between the labroom and the dorms. No more beautiful scenery each and every day, no more waking up to my beautiful roommate Sarah, or randomly seeing darling Connor in the hallways and giving him giant hugs, no more of that. There shall be no more lab nationalism, or dance parties on the girls’ floor, or walking around in a city that I’ve grown to know so well, each and every crevice. No more of my favorite restaurants, coffee shops, or ice cream parlors…
I’m past that lifestyle. No more summer camp for me, unless I’d like to be a counselor. This was the last summer. In years past, I’d always cheer myself with the prospect of going back in the future, but this is really it. Even if I end up going to college there, it won’t be the same as debate camp in the summer, which really made the whole experience.
But at the same time, no more repetitive cafeteria food, no more dirty, unwashed clothes, no more worrying about not having a room-key on me at all times, and no more flip-flops in the shower.
So, there are definitely some aspects of camp that I will not be missing.
I come home to my diverse wardrobe, my big and comfy bed, home-cooked Chinese food, and my loving family.
I’ll listen to music I discovered while there or that was recommended to me by people I met while I was there, and I’ll make sure to make the greatest effort ever to stay in touch with all of the wonderful people I met while I was there, as I will be seeing them many times through the year.
This camp withdrawal will no doubt stay with me for the next few weeks, and I won’t fight it. I’ll scroll through the pictures on my phone, all of the selfies and candid shots. I’ll look receipts and ticket stubs like the sentimental person I am.
If you went somewhere over the summer or just had an amazing experience, don’t forget to remember. These memories won’t change, even if the people might. Freeze these moments in time, the important ones. Chances are, I’m not going to remember that one debate where we lost or won (unless it was an epic upset debate or something…*wink), but rather, the people that I spent it with.
I am never stationary. I left debate camp much more experienced and learned than I was when I left, and I rode an emotional roller coaster. I can say with confidence that I did not expect things to turn out the way that they did, but hey, I regret nothing.
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.
You’re going to go many places during the course of your life, but I think it’s absolutely vital that you have a place that you refer to as home.
Home…is the center. Wherever you call home has shaped your personality is so many subtle but intricate ways. It’s the foundation and the location that you compare to every other place that you live.
Personally, I would be fine travelling from place to place, as long as I never forgot where I grew up. Home is the city that I lived in for the majority of my childhood. Even though I have since moved from there, the city will always have a special place in my heart. Whenever I drive half an hour back to this place, nostalgia overwhelms me. There’s the backyard that seemed to never end, the beautiful willow tree that I used to play under, and the neighborhood bubble tea joint run by the adorable couple of grandparents.
Home wouldn’t be home without the people that made it such; some of my childhood friends have since departed from the city, but the memories are still there…
The nomad life seems to be an inevitable part of life. Of course, lots of people stay in the same city for the entirety of their life, but I find nothing wrong with leaving your hometown for college and moving somewhere else, as long as you never forget where you come from. As long as a certain physical location is remembered with metaphorical significance, and as long as you never feel ashamed of your background, it seems completely appropriate that you may venture all over the world. The opposite – never leaving a city – has the tendency to confine you to a physical location and mental perspective.
There is no place like home. – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Yesterday at debate camp, we had an intense discussion about a college debate team that used the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for the debate community that they wanted. So that got me thinking – does a home necessarily have to be a place? Why can’t it be an activity or a community?
Debate is my home. It means not being ashamed that a majority of my friends are in the debate community, and it means that you feel more comfortable being yourself than anywhere else. It entails making memories that you will look back to and remember. It’s about triumphant wins and tragic losses, but it’s also NOT about triumphant wins and tragic losses. It’s about the people, the activity…
It’s really weird being a senior because I actually feel myself getting better at debate every single round. I can explain concepts in more detail, I understand strategies, and I have an urge to discuss debate in general. It used to not be like that. Back in freshman year, I used to have to force myself to listen or make blocks or highlight cards. What changed?
I angled my life more directly towards the debate community; I let it pervade every aspect of my life: school, decision-making, and extracurricular. It has become my home!
So in conclusion, yes. Meander where you’d like in life, because physical location is not the most important, as long as you never forget where you come from. Whether the impact of your “home” on the rest of your life has been positive or negative, know that your reaction to certain events has shaped who you are and made you a net-better person because of it. If all else fails, remember that there is a metaphysical “place” you can call home…for me, that’s policy debate.
Look, I’ve got to buckle down and accept the truth: THIS IS MY LAST YEAR AT DEBATE CAMP.
No more morning lectures, no more afternoon research sessions, and no more waking up at 5AM to go to what might be the biggest sale of the year.
As a senior, it’s a madly saddening thought to accept; the weeks sort of just pass one by one. On the first Monday, your lab leaders say something like:
We’re going to prepare you so well over the course of seven weeks!
Today, they might say something like:
Don’t worry, we’ve still got six weeks left to solidify that skill!
I approached this inevitability like a countdown and all I felt was doom and nostalgia.
When people ask about my summer plans, I am ready to see the mixed emotions on their face when I say I’m going to debate camp for seven weeks. First comes judgment, then comes pity, then comes fascination when I describe to them that I spend 8+ hours every day in a classroom by my own will. To the average outsider, that’s probably what this seems like, but I come back to my dorm positively enlightened by the genius of my lab leaders; they have made me change the way I approach the activity and have expanded my perspective on the game of debate.
So, as a rising senior, when you’re forced to consider the future, where your debating in college is not necessarily guaranteed, it’s a bittersweet train of thought. On one hand, you’ve had such a wonderful and experienced debate career, but on the other, you’re watching it slowly make its final cycle around your senior year. This is the last camp experience of your life.
College kids don’t really go to camp. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be under the supervision of RA’s and lab leaders. While the transition to college might be something to look forward to (much more freedom), there’s something particularly attractive about being a high schooler in this sort of situation. There are certain obvious perks to still being a kid, even if you are right at the peak.
Combining the freedom of summer and the mental state of mind of a high school student provides you with a unique opportunity to balance immaturity with maturity; add in the role of a debater, and you’re left with a senior summer experience that no other kids in the country will get.
This summer is…the beginning of the end, but it could just as well be the beginning of what is merely a transition to a better portion of my life. I am not only potentially ending my debate career, but also just my high school career. It’s a bittersweet good-bye to a lifestyle that I shall soon retire to the back of my mind, only to be relived through stories and photo albums.
When I was in ninth grade, the debate topic was military withdrawal from certain countries, one of which was South Korea. A large portion of the debate community advocated for the withdrawal of our troops because of we didn’t, Korean provocations would escalate and North Korea would eventually use its nuclear weapons against the US and South Korea, and a global extinction would occur. Raise your hand if you advocated this?
In this day and age, this might seem like a reality. You’ve probably read multiple news articles (or skimmed the headlines) about how North Korea is flexing its nuclear muscles, trying to look threatening by carrying out nuclear tests. You’ve read about the irrationality of Kim Jong Un and his predecessor, and how this nonsensicalness is eventually going to lead them to launch nuclear weapons at the United States. Some assert that these claims are merely empty rhetoric. What do we believe?
Have you read about the brainwashing and corruption that exists within the borders? The government propaganda allows the citizens to believe that their dictator is their god, and that the places outside of North Korea are much worse.
I’ve changed my perspective on North Korea. In ninth grade, I generalized everyone within North Korea’s borders into a group of people that were absolutely crazy, irrational, and threatening. But that’s not true. There have been a substantial (while still relatively small) amount of people that have escaped from North Korea, come abroad to places like China or the United States. Some of these refugees have even created documentaries to portray the life that they lived. They are all not the same; we are all humans. It’s taken me a bunch of years a lots of news reading to understand this.