For: A shortened season.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve felt a massive amount of pain recently because our season was cut short. Honestly, it is the most important thing in my life. It’s something that I’m proud to call my own and constantly better at. It’s my journey, along with my peers beside me.
The fact that I competed with a speech I felt so passionate about for the last time this year, and didn’t even know it, breaks my heart. I think about the people who needed to hear my speech at the tournaments that I lost, and I honestly grieve.
I miss my friends. Some senior friends who I didn’t say a proper goodbye to at our last tournament because I told them I would see them once more in the future.
It’s okay to feel. You are not dramatic, you are not overreacting, you are not wallowing in your feelings. It is okay to love what you do, and grieve for losing the time to complete it. You are valid. I see you.
Nonetheless, I recognize my growth and strength. I am appreciative of the people I have been able to meet and the people I was able to touch with my speech. I love speech and debate with all of me.
The abrupt ending of this year’s Speech and Debate season has been extremely bittersweet for all of us alike. Not only are we left with uncertainty of what we could have been capable of as we advanced to state, or even nationals, but we are also left with an unexplainable feeling- almost like emptiness- regarding our season. We are left with the ‘what if’s. These emotions can be undoubtedly overwhelming and affect our mental health in ways that we didn’t even think to address. Because, at the end of the day, how could we address them? We are incapable of doing anything about all of this. Every causality that COVID-19 has brought upon us has been completely out of our control. And sadly, that can make it even more unbearable to try to deal with these feelings. The important thing that we can do is think about our future in Debate, and think about our past successes as well. I know, dwelling on the past isn’t always helpful, but personally I often find myself undermining my own triumph and accomplishments that I have made during this season, and in past ones. This mindset can be incredibly toxic, and promotes the erasure of our own successfulness through self doubt and insecurity. It’s important that we remember and celebrate the good times, and honor them as we go on. And with that, I present to you; my letter to my unfinished season.
This season has been my most successful yet. Not only have I shown growth in my personal performances, but I’ve seen myself grow socially. I have made countless new friends this season through competition, some that I would consider to be some of my now absolute best friends. The environment that has been created this season is incredible, and I see it everywhere. I see it at every competition. I see it in every team. I see it in every single round that goes on at our tournaments. I am so unbelievably thankful for the opportunities that this season has brought for my little team, having been discouraged by past years of non-cooperative coaching and an uneasy team environment. Things have really turned around for us this year, and I’ll never forget when and why this change happened. It happened because of all of the people along the way that have supported and loved us, from community members, from educators, and from our very own Oregon circuit.
It is so hard to think about how different our state circuit will be after this round of seniors makes their way across their stages (hopefully) and go on to conquer the world with just as much fierceness and determination as they entered the countless rounds that we have shared together over the past couple of years. I want to take a moment to talk about the amazing seniors that this year held and shared with us. The class of 2020 is some of the most influential and supportive people that I have ever met. As someone in the class below them, the class of 2020 have always been role models for me. They are amazingly talented, and they’ll always be those older brothers, sisters, and non-gender conforming siblings that they always have been to me. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned their world completely upside down, and I honestly don’t blame them for having hard feelings about these bittersweet goodbyes that we are all having to make. For them, this was more than just a speech and debate season. This was THEIR speech and debate season. I can only hope that they are able to see past this unfortunate ending and do amazing things for our world, because every single one of them has the opportunity and talent to do so.
To anyone reading this right now, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not dealing with this grief all by yourself. We are amazing young people who take time out of their weekends to talk about important issues and spread love to our generation in all sorts of ways. (Metaphorically) Hug your teammates tight. Tell your Parli, Duo, Pofo, or any sort of partner that you’re proud of the successes that you two have made this season. Tell YOURSELF that you are proud. We’re all in this together. Here’s to bigger and better things, and may we all celebrate success in various ways in our speech and debate seasons to come!
Dear unfinished season,
When I was a freshman my coach showed me a video of a public forum national debate round. The debaters had flawless speeches. I could hear every argument loud and clear, no stumbling, no filler words. Their crossfire was magical, as responses just flowed out of their mouths, seemingly effortlessly. I wanted to be like them; I wanted to be in the final round on the national debate stage. It seemed impossible from the position I was in. When I started PF, I belonged to the sole PF team at my school. A small school, from a lay district. I thought to myself: what if I made it to the final round? From that point forward I took that as a challenge.
My senior year was supposed to be my year. I vigorously flowed rounds, did speech reruns, and practiced until I nearly lost my voice. My partner Kate and I had spent hours at Starbucks and Panera, working to find those golden blocks to use as frontlines. Both my partner and I learned how hard it was for small schools and women debaters to succeed in break rounds. We came so close to finals. We qualified to Nationals and bid out. I finally was starting to feel like my dream was in reach. My new challenge was learning how to adapt to biases, especially when rounds were so close. The turning point was a national circuit tournament at Bethel Park, PA. Kate and I had never competed on the national circuit besides NSDA and NCFL; we felt like fish out of water. We scraped together our savings and traveled to bethel in a blizzard. The tournament was big and intimidating, but each round I grasped Kate’s hand and we told ourselves that we believed in each other. After going 6-1 in prelims, we came out as the top seed for break rounds. From that point forward, we needed to have confidence in ourselves to continue advancing, and we did. We endured aggressive, rude, and unethical rounds, as we advanced to the final round of the tournament.
As I stood outside, crowds of people shoved past me to get into the room. “Excuse me” they told me, almost as if I didn’t deserve to be in that room at all. The two guys we were facing had a huge reputation in debate, and everyone looked up to them. Kate pulled me aside,
“We cannot be nervous, nobody is unbeatable.”
I took that advice to heart. My entire career I had been focused on how good my competitors were, convincing myself they could never be beaten. We held our head up high, and took our seat in the center of the room. That round, I spoke my heart out. I held nothing back, I was confident and unafraid.
When I stood on the stage for awards, I clutched Kate’s hand. We finally found our voice and we were not afraid of being silenced anymore. When they announced we had won the tournament, I felt a surge of electricity and accomplishment. Yet, a small but pointed voice in the back of the auditorium rose above the cheers
“YOU GOT ROBBED.”
After literal years of learning the ins and outs of this activity, these words stung. How could someone consider one of my proudest moments in this activity, a win I didn’t deserve? This is supposed to be a community that is uplifting and kind. Even with a 4-1 decision, a small school winning a national circuit tournament was nothing more than a mistake to an observer. These words should have made me sad, but they made me motivated to prove myself more, and I wish I would have gotten the chance to.
I was at the peak of my confidence in myself before this coronavirus outbreak happened and I just wish I had one more tournament to prove that I can speak with passion and fearlessness. I wanted to experience TOC, NCFL and NSDA with my best friend, the person who finally helped me to believe in myself. Debate has taught me many things, and introduced me to many kind people, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is to never silence yourself. Keep the fire in your voice lit; nobody has the power to put it out but you. I wish I could have kept the fire going this season.
To the Puget Sound Debate Community:
Goodbyes are hard. Imagine not seeing the seniors anymore, the people who we’ve seen grow into fixtures at tournaments, who have left a legacy not only in their schools but in the community. And with the seniors who leave and the new freshman who join, it feels like every year our teams feel a little different. This year was special. And next year will be too, but not in the same way. In my community and yours, we all feel the lack of a goodbye to THIS year, to THIS group of people, to THIS specific season. And that is a loss worth mourning.
We are all facing different forms of loss due to COVID 19. But this particular loss doesn’t have to be permanent. Speech and debate gives us a voice, not only to stand up for social issues or express our perspective, but also, to connect with the people we value. It’s easy to forget that the skills we learn have applications outside round.
I feel lucky, because I don’t have to wait to tell my team that I am so incredibly proud of and inspired by them. I can tell my friends in other teams and other events that I’m rooting for them, that when they win I can’t wait to cheer for them. I can tell my coach that she has accomplished something important, something that can and has changed kids’ lives. And I can tell the judges and parent volunteers, thank you for letting us do what we love.
I have a next season. I can’t wait to see you all again. If I won’t see you at tournaments, I hope we can stay connected online. Because even after graduation, you are my family.
Thanks for a great year!
Mehek Gosalia, Overlake Debate