De Bate and Switch

There is no poetic way of putting this. I wish I could write some beautiful post about letting go and moving on, but after trying several times, I realize I just don’t have the emotional strength to do that. I hope it will suffice to just get to it: my debate career is over. There are two more tournaments left in the year for me to go to, and I have decided I will not go to either one. I’m done.

I have been wanting to leave for a while. The most obvious reason is burnout. There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into debate, from researching to writing arguments to practice to the tournament itself. A committed debater could easily spend twenty-five hours a week doing debate if he/she/they really wanted to, and the season goes on for more than six months. And so many debaters are committed, so it’s not just a ridiculous, potential maximum, it’s an expectation to spend that kind of time. And that expectation elevates debate from a fun extracurricular activity into an adversarial sport. That’s the second most obvious reason. There is no reason to be told that you are letting millions of people die for trying to convince a 53 year old lawyer to circle your name on a piece of paper. And yet that is done in nearly every debate round, at nearly every debate tournament, delivered at the top of the lungs at the rate of 300 words per minute. And it’s accepted as part of the game. It’s disgusting.

My most personal reason: I should be writing, not debating. The opportunity cost for debate has been enormous. There are hundreds of hours I put into debate that I really should have put into writing, especially considering how important writing is to me compared to debate. It’s fun and absorbing for me to do research and give big speeches; it’s important and practically necessary for me to write poems and stories. I let debate get ahead of writing for years, and I need to put that to an end now. Debate has to be stopped for writing to be truly, sincerely, started and appreciated.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that are some other reasons relating to team and school politics that factored into all of this. But the big reasons for my premature exit are the ones I mentioned above: I’m burned out, I’m sick of adversaries, I want to write. Now, there are many, many high schoolers who have had high school forensics change and improve their lives, and will be writing posts just like this one soon, with nearly all positive comments. And it’s true that I have become a better speaker, researcher, and politically-involved person because of debate. But debate is not perfect, and its flaws need to be acknowledged for the activity to progress. I hope to continue to acknowledge those flaws in the future, with more hindsight to view these past four years.

For now, though, it’s time to slip out the back door, into the cool spring night, to see what the world has to offer me in lieu of Saturday mornings spent in crowded high schools.

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