A Sense of Clarity

When I first participated in Quizbowl in middle school, I expected a fun academic activity that I would be good at because I was “smart,” at least in terms of school. And at first that was true, because the questions were easy and I had relatively fast reflexes, so I could often buzz in with a correct answer. However, as tournaments got harder, I began to realize the limitations of my knowledge, and my points per game drastically dropped.

I decided that I wouldn’t participate in Quizbowl in high school because I failed so miserably in middle school , but when tryouts came around at the beginning of freshman year, I decided to give a try. Even at tryouts, which was a mock buzzer round, I noticed the love and wittiness among the team just with the commentary in between question, and I desperately wanted to be part of their group.  And by some pure stroke of luck (seriously), I made it onto the team as a freshman.

My deficiencies were quickly realized within the first few practices. Often times, I wouldn’t answer a single question in nearly two hours of practice, and seeing the other members constantly power on questions (cough P and R, along with the seniors) was a real hit to my self esteem. How could they know so much more information than me? Were they just better than me in some metaphysical sense? What was I lacking?

Apparently the answer was just some hard work. The more experienced players would constantly say that the only way to get better at Quizbowl is to study on your own and take notes during practice, but I never had the motivation to do so. What was the fun in memorizing a bunch of clues just to regurgitate them in a completely artificial activity?

After this tournament though, I realized the passion that went into Quizbowl. This was my first time seeing R play in an actual tournament, and I have a completely new respect for him. Sure, he was always smart, but watching him power away all those tossups and hyperventilate in his tiny chair that was obviously made for middle schoolers put his passion in a whole new light. As he spit out the names of foreign authors and places and works of art that I didn’t even know existed, much less could remember, I realized the hours of studying that must have went into building this massive wealth of knowledge and how focused he was on the activity.

The point wasn’t cramming facts into one’s head just for the sake of Quizbowling well, like some other players would do. There was an energy of learning things for the sake of learning, not for grades or for impressing people. Perhaps Quizbowl was the only place that was mentally stimulating and challenging enough for them, with only seconds to recall information and milliseconds to buzz in before the other team.

Perhaps this is sudden jump in analysis, but this is the clarity I seek in life, where I can focus on an activity that I know I’m good at, pour all my mental energy in, and feel a strong sense of accomplishment at the end.

Similarly, when I quit debate, I knew I was giving up a chance to meet incredibly smart people and throw my passion into a productive extracurricular, and I’m still not too sure why I quit, despite telling people that I was determined to stay out of it.

I feel like the Oatmeal put this sensation the best although about long-distance running:

I’ve always considered the question to be: “Why am I alive Why am I here? What’s the point of me?

And to that I say:


I run because I seek that clarity.

Maybe it’s superficial.

Maybe it’s just adrenaline and endorphins and serotonin flooding my brain.

But I don’t care.

I run very fast because I desperately want to stand very still.

I run to seek a void.

The world around me is so very, very loud.

It begs me to slow down,

to sit down,

to lie down.

And the buzzing roar of the world is nothing compared to the noise inside my head.

I’m an introspective person, and sometimes I think too much, about my job and about my life.

I feed an army of pointless, bantering demons.

But when I run, the world grows quiet.

Demons are forgotten,

Krakens are slain,

and Blerches are silenced.


We’ve come to live in a world where superficial beauty and online presence mean so much that we’ve forgotten the attractiveness of intelligence itself. This tournament was as close as I’d ever get to R in terms of Quizbowl, and in the middle of rounds, I would just stare at him and marvel at his intelligence, the same way one feels towards a god. Even when observing L play, I couldn’t help but radiate a sort of virtual love towards him for knowing what he knew.

The Quizbowl team has easily become my favorite group of people because of the intelligence and wittiness of the group. I aspire to be like many of the players (pretty much P and R, but female) and I don’t know. There’s a certain snobbiness I want to earn by being smarter than others. This is exactly one of the problems with intellectualism, yet it’s a right that seems so sweet to earn. As my dad says, “The only way to get people to respect you is to be better than them.”

Perhaps the most incredible part: When I was playing quizbowl, no matter how many questions in a row I hadn’t buzzed in for, I didn’t pull my hair out. Not a single strand.  That’s the ultimate sign of focus.

Slightly irrelevant fact: p drank out of n’s soda. what is this.


3 thoughts on “A Sense of Clarity

  1. Pingback: Reading comprehension and memorization

  2. Pingback: this post is so meta, even this acronym (more writing about writing) | Educated Opinions

  3. Pingback: Letting go of Writing | Educated Opinions

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