Why I Do What I Do

Why do you do what you do?

I stepped up onto the podium and listened to the rumble of conversations hush almost instantly. The room was full—packed so that everywhere I looked, the eyes of a stranger stared back at me. I glimpsed the flashing red lights of several recording cameras and felt the thick layer of expectation that was eminent in the air. It was the fourteenth round at the 2013 National Speech and Debate Tournament, and my partner Zoe and I had gone farther than we had ever dared to imagine. I could almost hear my pulse throbbing through my body as I arranged my papers, set my timer, and prepared to deliver the first speech. Some people, upon experiencing this dizzying rush of pounding energy may be tempted to label it as detrimental, a sign of debilitating nervousness. That final round could have been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Instead, I launched into the speech, harnessing my overwhelming love for debate and the rapt attention of the audience, and ultimately recognizing all of my anticipation as a product of my overwhelming excitement.

In my life, I chase what excites me.

For me, passion entails the thrill of a challenge, the opportunity to overcome odds that previously seemed insurmountable. One of my earliest...

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