Do you have a knack for public speaking? Will you argue a point until you’re blue in the face? Can you say 900 words per second, thus ensuring that two centuries of continuous talking will pass before your face could even begin to turn blue? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then congratulations–debate might be the club for you. If you questioned the validity of that statement and are now composing a six-point argument against it, then debate is definitely the club for you.
Debate…isn’t the club for me. I am quiet, I stammer and “um” and “like” when I’m nervous (which is basically most of the time), and, in short, I have the speaking skills of a fox. Although I would answer “No, sorry, do you even know me?” to all of the questions in the paragraph above, I found myself an accidental member of the debate team last year.
How does one accidentally join the debate team, you ask?
A Summary of 26.5 Conversations
Friend/Member of Debate Team: “Hey, can you be my debate partner for this upcoming tournament?”
Me: “But I’m not in debate.”
Friend: “No, it’s okay, I’ll teach you how.”
Me: “But. Um. I. Um.”
A Summary of the Second Half of Conversation 27
Friend: “I really need a partner.”
Me: “Um erm um okay.”
Clearly, my ability to articulate and win an argument made me a prime candidate for this position.
What I didn’t realize until later–because I’m a genius–was that in order to be my friend’s partner for debate, I would actually have to be part of the debate team. (I also realized later that my friend, through asking me to be his debate partner, was exercising a nefarious plot to expand the size of the public forum debate team, which had approximately six people in total.) For the month or two that I was in debate, I went to meetings (like, two of them), learned how to compete in a public forum debate, paid $20 to compete in a tournament, and got refunded $20 because I never actually competed. I almost competed in three tournaments, but every time, something came up. Eventually, I just…wasn’t in debate anymore.
On the bright side, I learned how to debate, even if I never actually did it. The topics for the tournaments for which I prepared were interesting and topical. Finally, I got to experience the strange, underground universe inhabited by debaters and learned that it wasn’t so strange.
It probably would have been a more interesting and fulfilling experience if I had been more interested or willing to give a little more effort. As it was, I had ventured beyond my comfort zone and spent the entire time feeling and acting nervous and awkward. The problem wasn’t that I was inherently bad at debating (although that was certainly an accurate statement). My problem resided in the fact that I failed to put forth the effort necessary to enjoy any extracurricular activity.
The moral of the story: Don’t join debate. Never do anything for your friends. Never venture outside your comfort zone.
Feel free–in fact, feel encouraged–to venture outside your comfort zone. That’s why extracurricular activities exist. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into everything that you do, or don’t do it. If you want to go swimming, don’t just dip your toe in the water–jump in.