On October 3rd, 2012 at 3:07 PM, I made a Facebook status that said, “PRAISE THE
LORD!!! I MADE THE FORENSICS TEAM!!! Who else made it?!” Now, fourteen year old me
thought that I would just continue on in Declamation with the audition speech I used, “Tear
Down this Wall” by Ronald Reagan… Yeah, you could say that things didn’t go exactly as
planned. Although it has been over five years since I first made the Ridge Forensics team, I still
vividly remember mixing up Iraq and Iran in my first ever Extemp fluency drill and crying about
it on my way home! In fact, I was so embarrassed and overwhelmed by the demands of Extemp
that I wanted to quit after just the first week of practice. I did not quit, and I managed to make it
to my first ever tournament in Novice Extemp. While waiting for finals, I was so overwhelmed
with nerves that I felt physically ill and swore that I would never, ever put myself through such
horrendous torture again. I ended up getting second place alongside some of my now dear
friends, so I decided that perhaps I should stick with Extemp, and I am unfathomably glad that I
did. I make acronyms for absolutely everything, so it’s only fitting that I sum up some lessons I
learned in forensics with one.
Pressure is an opportunity to succeed; you can either cave to pressure or step up to the
plate and amaze yourself and others at what you can do. While the latter is the ideal
situation, at some point, everyone, no matter how intelligent, talented, or hardworking
they are, is bound to have a humbling experience of failure. It’s important to remember
that failure is a mere lesson for the future, not a limit on the future. Tenacity aids you in
everything you do, and nothing is over until you stop trying.
Of course, there are some rules you have to comply with, for example in Extemp, you
can’t (or, probably shouldn’t) do a 13 point, 20 minute speech, but when it comes to your
personal style or the combination of events you do, go beyond the cookie-cutter mold.
Make the event your own and let your personality shine through. Add your own unique
flair to everything you do.
Forensics is undoubtedly a mental game as you deal with obstacles that are tangibly in a
round or in your own brain. But not only does this activity require great mental and
emotional endurance, but physical as well! Probably none of you will take this advice,
but at a certain point, prepping super late into the night or early morning only hurts you,
so strive for 8 hours of sleep and always stay hydrated in order to perform your best.
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel as though you’ve hit a wall in terms of progress in
forensics, or to have your personal life inhibit your performance. While you may be on a
high, someone else is at a low. It seems so obvious, but it very often gets lost in an extremely competitive environment. Be kind to everyone you meet, even if they don’t
seem to give you a reason to.
Nobility doesn’t lie in being better than your peers; it lies in being better than your
previous self. Strive to become a fiercer competitor and a kinder friend.
Stress management is arguably one of the most important skills that forensics teaches
you. However, there is a catch with forensics desensitizing you to stress; when you are in
college and have very important presentations for either academic or professional
purposes, don’t tell yourself, “Whatever, I’ll just extemp it.” (Well, not all the time.)
Interdependence & Independence
We rely on each other for moral support and critique, yet oftentimes we are our own best
teachers. Strike a balance between doing things for others and for yourself. When you are
a healthier, stronger individual, you are better equipped to aid those around you.
The atmosphere in the prep room (or outside any round for the non-Extemp folks out
there) that’s just arbitrarily floating around and something we don’t have control over.
Everyone contributes to the culture of this activity, in a positive or negative way. The
choice is yours. If you don’t like the way the forensics community is headed at any given
point, you have the power to fix it. Your voice is powerful and impactful. Don’t let
complacency crowd your judgment and your ability to truly make a difference in not only
the current generation of people around you, but future ones. It is in your hands to take
care of your fellow forensicators and ensure that everyone can have an awe-inspiring
experience in this activity.
Competitive success is an amazing feeling; it’s a huge confidence boost and a sign that
your work pays off, but it’s not the only type of success. Success can come in many
forms: it can be when you survive outside your comfort zone, find joy in helping a
teammate, and at the end of the day, surprise yourself with how you blew away your own
expectations. You will find much more personal satisfaction if you focus on your growth
as a speaker rather than solely pining away for trophies.
To everyone still competing in high school forensics, do not wish any moment of
it away – even the exhausting, heartbreaking ones that make you question your
involvement in this activity. Do everything with conviction. Make every speech, every
argument, every round count, for you truly don’t know if you will get such an
opportunity again. When you do finish your forensics career, you will carry with you the
skills you developed and the dear friends you made along the way; these are the things
that truly matter. We are all so blessed to have the opportunity to make our voices heard,
and it is our job to make sure we use our voices to make a truly positive, meaningful
impact on the world around us.