Let’s get the awkwardness out of the way first: I am a stutterer. There, do you feel better without that giant white elephant in the room? What? You weren’t really bothered by it to begin with. Thank you. That is exactly what I, and other stutterers, like to hear. That attitude of yours sure does make it easy for me to talk in front of you. And it definitely helps in us becoming friends. And I’m going to be honest here: I am awesome so being friends with me is like being friends with awesome!
I kid of course, but only a little. I do have a stutter. I do think I’m pretty cool. But I’ve also learned a few things at my advanced age (some of them took a long time to grasp), that allows me to continue laughing at something that was the root cause of the worst day of my young life. For the full story, please revert to my blog post “Worst Day of my Life”. It was that blog post that got James to my blog and he asked if I would like to join this community of fellow stutterers and perhaps contribute from time to time. So, here I am.
I am not a teacher. Nor am I a preacher. I won’t be writing this hoping you learn something. I am writing this because I was asked, and because at 42, I have overcome what I perceived as a terrible affliction. Seriously, there was a time when I was younger when I would have traded my stutter for losing my throwing arm! Yeah, it was that bad. I chose throwing arm because I was a soccer player and wanted to keep both my legs so I could still play. I hated my stutter; but I loved soccer too much to give up playing it. I was supposed to be a professional soccer player you know. I was. Or a professional hockey player. Neither of those two professions turned out for me. Something about not having world class abilities at either of them (although I did play soccer in college and once scored three goals against a guy who would later play for the Canadian National team), but I digress.
In my early to mid-teens, my stutter was terrible. I saw a speech therapist until I was 13, and because I wasn’t making much of an improvement (based on the little clicker they gave me to register how many times I would stutter per week), my family decided that it was a waste of time not to go anymore. And quite frankly, I think it was the right decision. Looking back, and hindsight is always 20/20, I think a lot of my problem came from thinking about stuttering too much. I was too conscious of it happening which forced me to do it more. Well, that is one of my theories anyway. The professionals had other ones – too nervous, trying to speak to fast, socially awkward, low self-esteem. Truth be told, it was probably all of them combined and many more factors as well. I haven’t ruled out aliens yet either.
The stutter wasn’t much of a social problem until I entered high school at 15. In my junior high school, where we had a total of 90 students scattered through grades 7-9, I was the star athlete. I ran 9 events for the track team, played volleyball, basketball and softball on the school team (the only sports teams we had). I played hockey and soccer for rep teams outside of school. I didn’t have to talk because I walked the proverbial walk. That changed in high school. I was just another under-sized, scrawny kid lost in a sea of others like me. Well, almost like me. They could string together a sentence. And when that worst day of my life came at 15 years old, I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t anything could have prepared me for it. But since then, and we’re talking nearly three decades now, it has been a path of trial and error, acceptance, and education. Not just for me, but for those around me. And believe me when I say this – it does get better.
Hopefully you guys will join me for more stories, some old, some new. I can’t guarantee you will learn anything other than some odd things about me, but there will be some laughs along the way. When I look back from my office in Dubai to the fighting back the tears teenager who nearly dropped out of school because of a comment from one, probably insecure teenager herself, I have to smile. Despite the fact that 30 years ago I didn’t know where Dubai was, I would never have thought I’d end up here. And right now, here is pretty damn good.