by Evy Cutshall
When I found debate, I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. Every tournament I competed in I absolutely adored; I came out the other side happier than I went in. Debate has helped me get over a breakup, push through an incredibly tough, friendless season of life, and given me this community of wonderfully strong womxn and allies that I have the privilege of calling friends.
But I am below you.
I am below you because I found debate too late, sophomore year, and haven’t entered my second year of debate yet. I am below you because I don’t understand what a kritik is or how to pull off a flawless summary. My cases are too essay-like and I can’t write one that wins in varsity. I didnt even do a full year in novice, I was pushed up to varsity second semester because of a tournament sweep I’m sure was a sham.
I am below you but here I stand, right next to you. You and I both are baffled. I don’t deserve to be here. We both know this.
But I’m here. I’m here and even though I don’t understand your jargon or what to talk about regarding the nat circuit, I’m here. And I’m trying.
I try to keep up with you by modeling every step after you. I try to write case after case just to get a little better. I struggle my way through varsity tournaments and shove down feelings of inadequacy. I put on my blazer even though I feel that I haven’t earned it.
I have struggled with feeling below those around me the second I joined debate. I got pushed around for just being a novice, for writing my cases like I would write an essay, and even for using the “wrong paper” to flow on.
From what I knew, asking for help in the debate arena showed weakness. I thought that if you didn’t go to the best camp or have the best coach that you had to just figure it out on your own for fear of judgement and discrimination. I thought that not knowing all of these things made me less of a debater than everyone around me.
But then I learned that everyone else doesn’t have a clue either. Everyone else has an area where they just aren’t very sure how to proceed. They all feel like fakes, like they aren’t good enough. That it’s just a fluke that they made it to quarters. That just because I was a little newer and had a few more areas I’m not sure in, didn’t mean I was any less than anyone else. Not because of how or where I debate, not because of when I started debate. I worked just as hard as everyone else there, and I sure as hell deserve to be where I am.
Just because I don’t debate on the Nat Circuit doesn’t mean I love it any less than those who do. It doesn’t mean that I work less than they do. It only means I have a little farther to go.