I had always prided myself on my sharp tongue and witty retorts whether in class
debates or casual arguments. Thus, when I was selected to represent the school
in the national debate series, I was naturally supremely confident of my
readiness for the task. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of
the most important lessons in my life.
The run-up to the finals was a breeze
for my team. We were all good speakers who had the benefit of an experienced
teacher who trained us well. But in the team, I was undoubtedly the most
outstanding speaker. In each of the rounds that I debated in, the judges had
unanimously selected me as the best speaker. This meant that my confidence was
at an all-time high by the time we found ourselves with one week to train before
the finals. I had no reason to even think that I would not be voted the overall
best speaker for the debate series.
Unfortunately, this meant that I began to get arrogant about the whole
business and started putting on airs with my team-mates. I would scoff at what I
saw as their pathetic rebuttals and poor debating style. I saw myself as the
natural debater who would be let down by their bad performance. As the finals
drew near, I became more and more dissatisfied with my team. I began missing
practices, much to the panic of my team-mates and the frustration of my teacher.
They had no choice but to rely on me to pull through on the day of the finals.
Much as they would love to remove me from the team, they could not as there was
no replacement good enough.
The day of the finals dawned bright and fine. I practically skipped to the
venue of the debate finals, feeling the exhilaration of being able to finally
show off my debating prowess. But the reality was not something that I had ever
imagined. My absence from the practices had created a rift between my teammates
and I. We could not seem to work seamlessly like we did in the previous rounds.
Instead, our coordination was so bad that even our school supporters were shamed
into silence. When it was my turn to conclude as the last speaker of the team,
an expectant hush fell over the hall. Everyone knew that I was touted the one
most likely to win the coveted overall best speaker for the series.
As I launched into my speech, I knew that things were very wrong. I was
hesitant in my elucidation of the issue,
realising too late that what I was saying sounded incoherent as it did not
follow logically from my other team speakers' points. The puzzled looks on the
faces of the judges almost drove me to tears. I had to struggle on with my
speech, trying to hold back the hot tears that threatened to overflow I saw
immediately the stupidity and arrogant oaf
that I had been. I realised too late that I could have been a really good
speaker if only I had not been overconfident. As I sat down after speaking my
piece, tears broke their banks and scalded my cheeks. I knew that we had lost
the title. Never before had I ever felt so alone, or so rightly so.
Suddenly, a reassuring hand clasped mine. I looked up into the kindly face of
my team-mate, the one whom I had earlier condemned as a moron to her face. She
gestured that it was all right and that I should not feel bad. That made me feel
even worse. I felt like a scum that the tears now came unabashed. The other two
team-mates of mine came over and hugged me. Together, they hoped to stem my
feelings of regret and pain even though I had rightfully deserved everything and
more. In fact, I had cost them the title. I kept sobbing the word "sorry" to
them, feeling even worse now that they had repaid my irresponsibility and
haughtiness with their kind words and
comforting gestures. Even my teacher came over to give me a tight squeeze on the
shoulder to say that all was forgiven. When we were called to receive the prize
for the first runner-up position, we went up together as a team and bravely
lifted the trophy to salute the cheers of our supporters. I finally realised
what it was like to be a team.
Till today, I will never forget the trauma of defeat fashioned by my own
hands or the sheer joy of knowing that I had support in my lowest moment. I went
on to the next debate series and eventually clinched the title with the same
team in the following year. I had learnt that no man is an island by himself.