Friday, June 21, 2013

Not Giving Up

Once upon a time, I attended a debate camp as a newbie Lincoln-Douglas student with high hopes. The previous year had seen me as a novice TPer who could never quite get higher than 3-3, an experience I wished not to repeat. The camp tournament came and went and left me with a record of 2-4. After a couple of frustrating tournaments where I found myself the top 3-3 debater (so close!), I finally broke into an upper bracket, making me an automatic semi-finalist, with a 5-1 record. As the months passed, I had the opportunity to debate three of the four students whom I lost to at camp. I won each rematch. I was particularly thrilled to win two out-rounds against two very, very good and high-ranked debaters, and several months later, am still surprised it happened. The fact is, I kept working and improved.

Once upon a time, I had a DI my first year. I only did it at one qualifying tournament, squeezed my way into finals, took 8th place (not to be confused with last place, by the way), qualified for Nationals because you only needed to place in the top 40% once back then, competed at NITOC, didn't break and certainly didn't expect to. Throughout the tournament, I watched lots of other DIs and noticed that each was way, way more dramatic than mine, and decided that I would never do another DI again. Three years and three DIs later, I came home a few weeks ago from another NITOC with a shiny trophy that says, "First Place: Dramatic Interpretation." The fact is, I kept working and improved.

It took a friend of mine years to win more than one round at a competition, but he has since won entire tournaments. Another friend was so terrified of giving her first impromptu speech that she ran away and cried rather than speak that round, and years later, won a limited-prep event at Nationals. A third friend put a lot of time and effort into debate year after year and never managed to get a winning record, then suddenly went 6-0 a few times. They worked hard, and improved.

The best speech I ever gave was the only interp I did that didn't qualify for Nationals, but not only was it a powerful speech in the opinions of much of my audience, if not my judges, it also stretched me more than any other speech and allowed me to later prepare speeches in two or three weeks and still break to finals, to really know what it means to be in character, and ultimately, to become the interper I am today. I would not have grown that way if that speech had been getting checkmarks and winning tournaments like we expected it to, because then I wouldn't have had to work as hard.

The fact that I and countless others can keep at it and someday taste success makes me very, very happy to be a part of homeschool speech and debate. Never ever ever give up. Keep working. Keep taking feedback, especially criticism. Keep watching some of the greats if you wish to improve. Keep practicing, keep writing, keep discussing with others, keep speaking.

This is a friendly reminder that lots of us CHSADKs like not giving up, and we're right to. Success in competition is a minor perk to becoming a great speaker. There may come a time when you lose much of the thrill of breaking to finals because you aways do, when trophies become things you have to struggle to find room for, when you're more concerned about being one of the top competitors than qualifying for Nationals, because you did that a long time ago and the former is a real possibility. There may not. It's not important. What's important is that you don't stop doing what you are supposed to be doing, and if you are called to be a speaker, then speak as though Christ Himself is speaking through you. Success only matters as a sign of improvement, and if you work hard and don't give up, you will improve.

You're homeschooled. Keep at it, and carry on.