Blazer: 9 and Co., similar here from ChicWish ($48) || Dress: Forever21, similar here from Ivy and Blue || Bag: Forever21, love this design from BCBG ($29.99) || Scarf: Ross, similar here ($15) || Shoes: Zara, similar here
For the past four years, I have never celebrated my birthday here at Rice. I have always been on the road, in a foreign city, mingling with competitors and vying for a trophy. Our national debate tournament always takes place on my special day, which means that I'm forced to wake up at an ungodly hour, stuff myself into a suit and spend the entire day listening to people telling me why my arguments are wrong. Sometimes, I have judges tell me "happy birthday" before they launch into a list of reasons that they have to vote against me; more often than I'd like to admit, the universe gives me a losing record as a birthday present. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
This past weekend was my last debate tournament ever. Even though it hasn't fully sunk in yet, I already feel lost. After all, I've been doing this activity for 7 years, and it's part of how I construct my identity: "I'm Brittney. I debate for Rice." At the expense of sounding dramatic, I have to ask, where do I go from here? Who will I argue with now?
I started debating sophomore year of high school, and I could never have guessed how much it would change my life. In the time since, debate has transformed me from a gangly, shy girl into an authoritative and confident woman. Without debate, I could not have become an advocate writing about race and body image, I could not have interned in D.C., and I would not have developed any research and public speaking skills. But more than just being the top activity on my resume, debate has given me a family: my team here and in high school have become some of my closest friends. And I'm devastated that I have to let all of that go.
I'm sure that I will find new team dynamics in my future, and I'm sure that I will find some activity to fill the void. But to the community of judges, competitors, and coaches---thank you so much for some of the best years of my life, the time spent discussing social issues, staying up late and collaborating, and the adrenaline-fueled Final rounds. I'll be sure to dedicate next year's birthday toast to all of you. And in honor of the many drab debate blazers that I've worn to threads, here is a bright pink tribute in their place.