Small Fish, Big Pond

by Sara Catherine Cook

few days go by where i don’t think about debate.

prep prep prep prep more prep you need more prep oh! beyond resolved, love br with other things occasionally occupying my attention for what seems like only seconds.

a few things swimming into focus at a time.

the same is true for tournaments.

i walk in with a list of people i need to see to make the weekend worthwhile and hopefully? amend it?

rarely expand it, talking to the same people who i really love about the same types of things.

so those small things become people, swimming into focus one at a time for what seems like only a glimpse, when i want them to stay in focus forever. i’ve been told to make the most of my time by every goodbye debate post that shows up on my facebook feed and i guess i’m trying to do that.

and this all seems somewhat great and it is and we laugh on one specific side of the cafeteria laughing and looking around at all of the people. who. aren’t. even. near. us.

and it isn’t like that at all i swear because we don’t know them, and maybe we’d be friends

if we did.

but the issue is privilege.

it’s that everyone seems like they are already friends and i’m not and i don’t belong here.

they don’t swim into focus one at a time when they all are a blur of round results, completely unknown.

i used to sit alone at tournaments.

because who wants to talk to the girl who isn’t “qUaLlEd”.

who doesn’t know what a turn is.

who goes to a school that no one has heard of.

who coaches call just a “fan club” for the A TEAM when i promise you i’m trying i just. honestly. didn’t. know.

it’s that i don’t know “T-O-C” or “T-K-O”, when the price tags of “N-D-F” or “I-S-D” are bigger than my E-G-O (p.s. look into financial aid and scholarships at camps if their price tags are biggo).

the only acronym i knew was UDL.

never talked about, probably underfunded and seen as something only for the underprivileged.

maybe that’s why i get the “on a scale of one to david zell, how good are they? 4.” that makes it hard to go up to new people because it seems like friendships are driven by something called “clout”.

double bind:

either, they already know me and don’t think i’m good; arrows point to NO THANKS, TRY AGAIN

or, they have 0 clue who i am and therefore, don’t think i’m good; arrows ding ding ding NO THANKS

it’s that i’m a skirt that i will probably want to burn by the end of the day in a sea full of suits.

that the circles build and ebb but close when i approach.

that i have to be aggressively friendly to make the same types of friends that come naturally to opponents with deeper voices and more opportunities.

you hear it all the time, a small fish in a big pond. what i will be next year in college, what i was last year in the debate space.

and it’s kind of terrifying. to sit on the other side of that big group in the cafeteria, wishing that your voice was a bit deeper, record a bit more impressive, or that you had two weeks instead of 44 minutes yelling about catalonia, or debt, or the kyoto protocol to make the “lifelong friends” people describe.

look up, look out, make this next tournament, this next year, this next moment the moment you try to make debate literally 1% less exclusive. thanks, so much love.


disclaimer: i did compete on the UDL for a year, but have a considerable amount of privilege and opportunity in the activity now. i did go to expensive camps, i do travel nationally. part of this stream of consciousness type thing is written from my perspective last year or two years ago. kind of trying a new type of writing here also. oh! also there are a ton more things that make debate friendships exclusive, i just talked about the ones that are personal to me in this. 

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