DIY Debate Memory Box

By Esme Longley

With the coronavirus shock cancelling the few remaining tournaments, many of us seniors have reached the end of our debate careers. Personally, I was not ready to say goodbye to the empowerment, the argumentation, the community — even the prep. Inevitably, it was going to be over one day, but I had clung to the four final tournaments I had left with my partner and I felt pretty miserable. I think the decision to postpone tournaments is definitely the right one, but a selfish part of me wishes for one last round where I could debate knowing that it was the last one.

However, in the midst of my social isolation, I’ve had lots of time to process The End. I want to make light of the situation, so I made myself a debate memory box. Even if you’re not a senior, if you’re interested in making some sort of reminder like this, I recommend starting collecting what you want to put in your box sooner rather than later. I definitely lost a lot along the way. Nevertheless, I am a hoarder and had a surprising amount of debate paraphernalia. 

Below are some guidelines if you want to make your own debate memory box.

* Note: What’s in my box will differ from your box. Part of that is due to the privilege I’ve personally had in debate — privilege to have committed coaches, financial support to travel to circuit tournaments, and close friends. I want to acknowledge that, but I do also urge you to materialise what you can about debate if that helps you remember it because even the little things can trigger positive memories that you might want to keep later on. 

  1. Find a box — a shoebox, the box from a Cheezit pack, or even a tin. It doesn’t matter what the box looks like— big or small, colourful or plain, you can take this shell of cardboard and transform it into whatever you want. 

  2. Find one ballot you hate. If (unlike me) you don’t hoard your ballots under your desk at home so you have thousands of paper sheets strewn across the floor, look to Tabroom or an equivalent to print one out or ask your coach if they kept records. If your tournaments haven’t used Tabroom, you can skip this part. It isn’t essential to creating a powerful box. 

  3. Find three ballots you love. If you find more, keep going! Fill your box with positivity. You can fold them up tight and put them in a jar to conserve space or copy out the comments you love best in your own handwriting to reclaim them. This box is your creative space. Of course, these comments don’t have to be from rounds that you won. They just have to be remarks you’ve been proud of. 

  4. Write yourself a letter. Release yourself from the validation of others and acknowledge what debate has been for you at your best and at your worst. Be honest, write to your accomplishments and the lows. (Step 4.5 is write a letter to your debate partner in the future. When you recover this time capsule, send it to them. 

  5. Print out pictures. Add pictures of your friends, fun memories from tournaments, your team, etc. Stick them on the side of your box to decorate it or put them in a bag and pack them carefully inside the box. 

  6. Make a debate playlist. Collect the songs that will always be associated with debate. For me, that was Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, “WHALE” by Yellow Ostrich, “Icon” by Jaden, and “Replay” by Iyaz. 

  7. Compile miscellaneous items. Here’s what I put if you want inspiration: a coin to flip, my camp name tag and timers, my stickers (Beyond Resolved, my school debate sticker, a tournament sticker), a plane ticket from nats, a tea bag from a tournament, Mac’s sunglasses, a pin that reads “fearless women make history”, an article my grandma sent me in the post about why high school debate is impactful, my empty G2s, a pamphlet from NCFLs. 

A final note: I have registered later that my box did not include anything about the victories or losses we’ve had. It’s been about the times where Mac T-posed in front of the whitehouse, Alayah made Tik Toks at a Dogwood, I met up with Angela at Yale for the first time in three years, drank bubble tea with Luci on the way back from a local, stayed at a weird hotel with Anna, and met up with Trisha at an airport. What I’m trying to do is add to the host of voices who claim that debate is more than your win to loss ratio and in order to get the most out of it, you have to let go of that. 

Anyway, tag BR in boxes you make, we’d love to see them. All the best, please stay safe and treat yourselves well. Farewell, Durham LH, we’ve had a good run.

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