Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Power of Passion

When I was a kid, I was in Forensics Club. It's like Track & Field but for geeks; a bunch of different events, you choose your event, you compete against other students, blah blah blah. My category was informative speech. My speech was on thrill-seeking as a sport. This was the 90's; bungee jumping was all the rage, Point Break was a box office hit, and I thought it was all totally rad.

In the one meet I did, I had three opponents. One did her speech on bats. Another on nuclear energy. Another on the Titanic. All three of them had posterboards and slides. All three of them had memorized every word of their speeches and recited them like trained dogs, complete with putting their head down and closing their eyes when the speech was done. All three of them were in formal attire, ties and all.

I didn't get the memo. I didn't make a single poster or chart or anything. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. I hadn't even memorized my speech; I read it off index cards. I rehearsed it once, in front of the teacher, two hours before the competition. I was mortified as I watched their polished, perfected presentations through three rounds of competition and then I, who looked and acted like I had just wandered into the wrong room, stood before an adult judge and bumbled my way through a speech about skydiving.

Finally, at the end of the evening, the winners for each event were announced. When it was time for the informative speech event, I was so embarrassed I barely could handle standing on stage while they announced the winner, who would definitely not be me.

Except it was. Not only did I win, I was the only participant in the entire meet who scored perfect 10's in all three rounds of competition.

I was stunned. I could not for the life of me figure out how this happened. Did they take pity on me? Did they think I had some kind of developmental disorder or something? The judges gave me their scoring sheets and I desperately looked for an explanation.

What I found written repeatedly on all three sheets were "This is so cool!" "You are so excited by your topic, and it's infectious!" "You clearly cared about your topic and explained WHY to me!" "It was so much fun seeing you burst about bungee jumping!" "I loved Point Break, too!"

It's funny; when you're young, you learn these lessons, and they never leave you. No matter what the logic is, no matter how times change, sometimes you learn something as a kid that goes on to define almost everything you do. Here's what I learned that day: nothing matters except passion. If doing something takes away from the passion, then it's not helping, it's hindering. I understand now what I didn't back then: those other three kids, they choose topics that they thought they could sell to the judges. They stressed and obsessed about their visual aids and their attire. They didn't worry about the right thing: whether or not they actually gave a damn about bats, or the sinking of the Titanic (that third kid did care about nuclear energy, though. A lot. He went into pretty gross detail on what nuclear radiation can do to a human body. I think that might have actually been his big problem).

I was going to tie all this back into role-playing, but I kind of forgot what my point was, so I'll let you, Dear Reader, figure out why you just read this.

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