In more recent years, I have had several people come up to me and tell me that they are slightly amazed by my fearlessness - in particular how ‘out and proud’ I am, but also how little I care about other people’s thoughts of me.
Here’s the thing - I wasn’t always like this. I used to clog up my existence with layers and layers of filters, trying to tone down who I was. When it came to my personality, the volume was at a thousandth of what it is now. When it came to my identity, it was on mute. No matter the country, no matter the culture, no matter the language, schools all over the world are united by how they force students into their cocoons - making them feel they have to build a barrier round themselves, and fade into the walls. We’ve all been there.
When I first competed in WSC, in 2014, I was shown that you could have so, so much more fun, and be so, so much more free, if you let the weight of people’s judgements evaporate from your shoulders. Sitting there in the Scholar’s Bowl, watching a blurring line of 11-year-olds and 18-year-olds pushing past anyone and anything, simply to get a brightly-coloured stuffed animal, I realised that nobody in that room cared about anything in that moment, except for what colour Jerry they would be bringing home that night (okay - and maybe the number of medals and trophies, too).
When I attended my first Global Round and, later that year, my first Tournament of Champions, WSC taught me, more than anything, that I could let go of all my cares, and stop worrying about how I present myself. Because, at the end of the day, the best version anyone can be of themself, is the most real one.
I brought home from TOC, along with a new Alpaca, and very few (if any) medals, a newfound sense of peace, and freedom. With time, I allowed myself to stop feeling the pressure of having to be “cool” or liked by the masses, and started to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and who would continue to be by my side, however much I changed.
WSC, for me, has always been more about the community than the competition. Ok - it is a great feeling to go home feeling the weight of medals on your neck and trophies in your hands, but that’s always been an added bonus. Just being there, surrounded by the ‘odd-ones-out’ of hundreds of schools, not having to worry about being an ‘odd-one-out’ there, will always be a feeling I adore.
I have competed in this competition every single year since I was old enough to, and will continue to compete until I graduate school. I cannot begin to explain how heartbreaking it will be to sit in the closing ceremony for the last time, for WSC has been such an important part of my life for coming up to five years, now.
It was with the courage that WSC gave to me that, quite a few years ago now, I first came out, and I am eternally grateful to the competition, and the participants, for giving me a community to feel safe in and the courage it would take to open up about parts of me I thought would remain secrets forever. I feel extremely honoured and overwhelmed by the number of people from the competition who have contacted me asking for advice about sexuality and gender identity. Four or so years ago, I was the person reaching out to others about all that. WSC has helped me so much to find out how to be comfortable with myself, and how to be confident in myself and my identity. Since that first Bangkok regionals all the way back before I started listening to good music, my life has been changed for the better.
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