The summer before my freshman year, my older brother Aaron approached me with an idea: a brother-sister duo. After three years of dabbling in middle school speech and debate, I fully intended on joining my high school’s team, and thought the idea was a brilliant one. I accepted his invitation with great enthusiasm and we began looking for novels that would play to our strengths, eventually deciding upon A Wrinkle in Time. Aaron, an already established senior competitor, had a lot riding on him for what was to be his final speech season. He had goals to achieve and places he wanted to go. I later learned that many of his peers doubted his decision, thinking he was crazy for risking it all by partnering with his freshman sister; but he trusted his gut and knew that together we would have a special chemistry. We began our season with wavering success, but quickly gained speed, making semifinals at the Harvard Invitational, winning our state championship and qualifying to both NCFL and NSDA Nationals. I was thrown into a chaotic world of suits and heels -- and I loved every second of it!
At the end of our season, my brother and I parted ways and he ventured off to Georgetown University, satisfied with the success we were able to gather in his final year of high school speech and debate. However, I was left behind to navigate the deep end of this pool that I was tossed into without first learning how to swim. As my sophomore year began, I did my best to keep up the stamina from last year, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be as cut and dry as A Wrinkle in Time had been. Through a few ups, many downs and a ton of disappointments, I learned the most important lessons that speech has taught me: how to lose graciously and how to stand back up when you’ve been knocked down. Before, I spent a lot of time worrying about keeping up with my older brother’s quick pace and drive for success. I found myself focusing on what happens at the end of the tournament, rather than everything that leads up to it. I quickly learned that this is not a healthy way to motivate yourself. Once I was alone, I realized that the best thing to do is to focus on one round at a time. Accepting this message has helped me achieve all that I have in my junior and senior seasons.
Regardless, I wouldn’t change a thing about the past four years. Starting my high school speech career with such a successful freshman year was a bit intimidating, but it also helps remind me that nothing comes effortlessly and that you must work hard, practice often and care about the things that you do. Speech has taught me to respect others and myself. It has taught me how to share my ideas and teach those around me. It has taught me how to portray messages effectively and accurately. And most importantly, this speech has taught me that it’s okay to take a lap back to the shallow end of the pool before venturing back out into the depths once again.