Thursday, October 6, 2011

Being a "Novice"

"Novice". That was the word that they had called my group last night as they separated the masses into two at the debate workshop I attended last night.

I had watched the mock debate with wide eyes and a bit of a nervous twitch. The two debaters were juniors and far from "novices". They debated with rigor and professionalism that simultaneously wowed and unnerved me. With the speed at which they talked, the loud buzz of the air conditioner in the background and all of the philosophical jargon that they used, I could barely understand them.

After the mock debate was over, they split us up. I was put with the "novice" group instead of the more experienced one. We all went into one room where one teacher talked to us about debate and what it was all about, particularly Lincoln-Douglas debates (an old acquaintance I knew back in seventh grade recommended I do that. She's a sophomore now) and things became a little less confusing. I know that in time none of it will be confusing at all and that one day I might even counsel confused newcomers. Debate seems to require that I do a lot of things that go out of my comfort zone but I'm okay with that. I refuse to let my fears stop me from doing something that I know that I will like.

This ties into a greater theme of life, however. It is the feeling of being a novice, new at things. Trying something new requires you to take a risk and to take a step out of your comfort zone. Of course it's scary and it's okay to be scared. In life, one just can't let fear stop them from achieving things. So even though it scares me, I know that I will learn things and that I will kind of like it once I get used to it.

Speaking alone scares me, even if it is just one person in a conversation. Public speaking, speaking to a group of people without anyone to save me, absolutely terrifies me. I feel like I'm utterly failing and that everyone is looking at me and thinking how terrible I am at what I'm doing. Even beforehand, I imagine failing and it's enough to keep me up at night and make me so sick to my stomach that I can't eat. While I learned a lot at this workshop, it did make me even more scared. Why? Because I understood what it meant. I understood that debate means putting yourself out there and trying your best.... And still having the possibility of losing. Losing terribly, in fact. The odds of losing terribly are much greater when you are up against an upperclassman, someone who has been in it a lot longer than you. Losing, of course, translates into failing for me. As much as I've been getting better at being easier on myself, I can still beat myself up terribly over failure and rip my own self-esteem to shreds. Just the idea of doing that to myself fills me with dread and an incredible nervousness.

Why would I do that to myself, though? Because I have to get over this. I cannot let my fear of failure hold me back in life. When you try something new, you are bound to make mistakes. In my worst moments, I would translate that to absolute failure. But it isn't.

It would be so easy to quit. So easy to just never come to another debate meeting after this. But then I would always wonder what it would be like and I would kick myself forever. This is an opportunity that I have to take advantage of while I still can.

Trapped in my anxiety, I have done the stupidest and most irrational things.

One is one's own best advocate and yet I constantly put myself down. I am constantly a disempowerment to myself; I make myself feel stupid and worthless and just an utter failure. There are so many moments that I wish I could take back, so many moments where I have worried and not truly lived. There are so many moments where I have held myself back from things that could have made me proud of myself and happy because I was afraid. Consider life a big pool of water. I am the swimmer but so often I feel a hand press down my head and pin me under the water, leaving me struggling to get a gasp of air. That very hand has been the other side of myself, punishing me for all of the things that I have not done right.
Besides that, I've also had stupid little moments. I have forced myself to stay silent in class or in social situations because I am terrified of saying the wrong thing even when my mind is filled with the urge to say something. One time when I was doing my English homework I didn't do above the minimum because I was scared of being given more opportunities to say things that would make me sound stupid. Because I only did the minimum, he actually took off a half a point. I've had moments when I haven't even done my homework because I was terrified of screwing it up.

Trying something new is terrifying. Even if people don't have the stupid anxiety that I have, it's still scary. To anyone who's reading this, please take risks. Take as many risks as you can. Despite what I've told myself in my worst moments, it's okay to make mistakes. It's not okay to refuse to try.

So I am a novice for now. One day, with practice and with hard work, I will become what they call "experienced". That day will not come unless I take a risk and try this thing that is so new.

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