Saturday, June 30, 2012


I talk a lot about debate on this blog. It's funny, and kind of random, because this blog was born out of my love for books. That love hasn't changed in the past four years, but something else did -- me. It isn't from writing, though, that I've become different. The part of me that loves books and words will always be there. The part that got good at using those words, though, came from debate.
That actually has very little to do with anything, but it makes me laugh.
I graduated high school in May. It wasn't a particularly stunning event, honestly. Nothing felt any different. I was sad to leave my friends, and it's odd to think about going to college and waking up on my own, working on my own, but none of those things are the most troubling aspects of leaving school. No -- for me, it was leaving the debate room.
Yep. I'm a nerd. It's not disputed. (But come on, dudes, this is a literary blog. Do you expect much different?)
That's me. Yep.
Here's the thing, though.
I started high school shy. No, seriously. I was relatively quiet. I was political, but didn't like voicing it. I was very, very insecure. I was, however, still incredibly competitive. I planned on only two years of debate, taken with the purpose of securing a good college. Funny thing was, by my junior year, my grades were often slipping, because I was too busy with this:
I filled binders with literally hundreds of pages of research each month. I learned how to speak. I choked on nerves. My sophomore year, I barely did anything in terms of debate at all -- I couldn't get past those stupid, idiotic nerves. And then, toward the end of the year, my coach did something totally and utterly horrendous. He made me get up in front of my class, in front of kids that honestly, kind of scared me, and I started a speech. I say started because seriously, that's what it is. I never finished that dang speech. Instead, I started it 22 times.
No. Seriously. 22 times. I was cut off with 'Speak slower' and 'Sound calmer' and 'Sam, chill out' 22 times. I left school basically in tears like the pathetic and emotional kid that I was and then I ranted a lot about my coach to my friends with calm vigor and newfound respect for my coach.
Or...I might have acted like this for several weeks toward him.
Then came Junior year. I've talked about that a lot on this blog. I don't really know why, except  for this: for me, Junior year was my turning point. It was when I attended Alpha. It was when I first experienced the hell of high school drama first hand, first went through that stupid melodramatic thing sad first heart break that everyone has to experience, and when I first won a varsity tournament. It was the first time I qualified to Nationals. It was when I became a National semi-finalist in a supplemental debate.
And then my senior year. 
There's not as much on this blog about my last year of high school. In large part, that's because it passed so quickly. I've been wanting to write this post for some time, but it needed to wait until now. I want to talk about winning.
I am incredibly competitive. I said that earlier. It's a problem. I don't have the grace to apply that to sports, but it does apply to academics, and with debate, I found something that I was good at. Beyond that, though, I found something that if I truly worked at, I could make myself better. And I did: I brought home a lot of first place trophies this year. It got to the point where I was incredibly cocky. Like, beyond words kind of cocky. The kind I was ashamed to admit to and yet didn't really understand just how bad it was.
And then I lost.
But I didn't lose something small. I lost Districts. I lost the bid to Nationals, and the bid to State. I was someone who was slated to very possibly win State in my event ...  and then I didn't qualify.
It was -- quite bad. I made Maggie  pick me up and deal with my emotional breakdown  calm confusion. It wasn't just that I had lost -- it was that I had lost something that I had poured my heart into, that I had built my world around, that I had assumed was mine already. 
Sound familiar?
A lot of writers, I think, feel that way. To finish a novel, you have to break off a piece of your soul and press it into the pages. When that still isn't enough, when you still can't get published, when people still don't take notice, it is heart breaking.
But that isn't the point of this never ending post.
I still qualified to Nationals. I qualified in something called Public Forum debate. Puf, as we call it. Puf has always been the event I liked more, but it was not the one I won as often. At semester, I switched debate partners and ended up debating with one of my close friends. We made it together to Nationals. Even so, it hurt so horribly to give up the event that had been my baby. The thing I had loved, that I had poured so much of myself into.
Debate Nationals for high school, 2012, this year came in the form of Indianapolis. I attended, along with about 250 other teams. The best teams in the country. Many of them were private school. Many of them had much, much more money and resources than us, and they were quite happy to tell us about that.
Right. Here's the thing, and finally, the elusive point.
Two weeks ago, I ended up coming home with one of these.

I ended my high school career walking off the National stage with a very large trophy and a significant scholarship. I ended up placing very, very high, higher than I ever could have imagined and higher than anyone from my school ever has. My coach ends his career with that behind him, and my new coach, the assistant that I loved all year, saw his first Nationals end with my partner and I walking off that stage. Someone on my team had also done exponentially well, and as such, our little public school did better than anyone could have imagined. 
I spent my last four years enveloped in debate. I learned to speak. I learned to research. I learned to be part of a team. I learned to dress, walk, and talk as if I have confidence, even when I don't. And even though I lost -- I lost so badly, even as recently as this year -- I ended up winning more than I ever, ever could have hoped for. I walked off stage with someone that I love and trust, I left a team that I honestly think I might have helped make better, and I left better. I left different.
So. Back to writing.
Sometimes you lose.
Not even that. Often, you will lose. Ask anyone that writes. Hell, ask me: I entered my last year of high school pleased and confident after leaving Alpha, and ending up often hating writing for reasons that have nothing to do with recreational habits and everything to do with some poor choices in a class room. 
You can win. You will win. Sometimes, when it seems as if everything is done, it really hasn't even started yet. Just keep working. Yeah, I know. None of this is shocking or new. But it is something I have always believed in, and I am so, so glad to have seen it proven to myself not just once or twice in the past years, but time and time again. My life has bled high lighter ink and statistics and quotes, and it's hard as anything I've ever done to leave it all behind. But moving on is moving forward. Debate is over, but I still have writing, and I still have everything I learned. That is priceless.

More later. Someday, maybe I'll even go back to putting up legit book stuff, like reviews! (Or more likely, a spiel about Game of Thrones.)