Whether it be on the bus that is heading towards the tournament, or right before the round there, I’m always afraid. It’s like waiting to receive a flu shot at the doctor’s office, except I have to get the vaccine three or four times in one day, one after another. It was the last speech meet in which the varsity and under varsity speakers are split up to compete in their own ranks. I was still below varsity, due to not ranking high the previous year, despite being my third year in this activity. This was my last chance to score big.
During our warm ups before round, I somehow got a papercut on my pinkie finger. “Oh great!” I said in a sarcastic tone, “Seems that’s how today is going to go.” I get myself patched up and head towards my first round and practice. The judge finally shows up to the room and now the competition is on. The first speaker had a pretty amusing piece, however, I noticed something when they were speaking. Their voice echoed through the large science classroom as if it were a cave constructed out of bricks that had been given a nice, white coat of paint. My speech tends to be pretty loud, which causes me to lose a bit of points. When it’s time for me to deliver, I adjust my volume down to the almost perfect level.
As my tale of an alien pretending to be a human doctor goes on, I suddenly feel something, something that I don’t feel that often. My speech comes to its conclusion and everyone claps for my performance. After the round, my competitors all talking about the highlights of each other’s speeches. I, however, am thinking to myself, “Man, that felt good! No, that felt amazing!” Time for the second round! I go into the room and everyone else in the room are girls. I don’t know why, but it feels strange to be the only guy when everyone else is the opposite gender. Being first on the list, I go up to speak thinking that everyone was in the room.
“Hold on!” shouts the judge. I’m looking around confused, thinking that I done something wrong. It turns out that there was still one more speaker who needed to be in the room. Once the last speechie enters and situates herself, it’s time for me to present. About halfway through my speech, I start to worry, as I had observed that no one was laughing besides the one person who already heard my speech from a previous tournament. This is odd as my speech can be extremely funny at certain points. I pull myself through till the very end, have everyone clap, and I take my seat.
After the second round, I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to place here. Only my third round could turn this around. This round just so happened to be almost the exact same as the first. I get that weird, unfamiliar feeling again. Afterwards everyone heads for the cafeteria to see what’s next. We wait about an hour or so for the finalists to appear on the projector screen. It’s only a ten to fifteen minute interval afterwards before the awards section begins.
Going by alphabetical order, my category is called first. Both the varsity and under varsity speakers climb onto the stage to await the our placements. I see my competitors go up and receive their ribbons one after another when I realize, I’m the last one. “And in first place for Creative Expression, from Cannon Falls, Jeffry Z.!” We all congratulate each other and start to head home.
I’m always scared that I will mess up or others won’t like my performance, but that day was different. That first round made me realize that I shouldn’t be afraid of what others think of me if I am able to go up there and give it my all. Sometimes I still feel that fear of imperfection, as if imperfection were a man in a dark suit lurking behind me. I cast that thought aside and stride for my best, to be number one. Or at least get close, but hey, I can always do better next time.