It started when I was in third grade, or at least that is where I think it began. I had gotten some math quizzes back that were sub par. I had this idea in my head that I had to get certain grades and anything below that was unacceptable. So, like any young kid, I got upset because I knew that it was not as good as I had done previously. Shortly after that my stutter started.
It was as if it was a bad habit, like biting nails, but for some strange reason I couldn’t stop. No matter how hard I tried it always popped up. Walking to class made me incredibly nervous because I was thinking, “Am I going to get called on?” “Are people going to laugh?” I began to sweat and started talking less in class to take the pressure off. It never helped because I was scared of meeting new people outside of class. I wanted people to accept me for me, and not for my stutter.
In fifth grade I was in a play, which seems weird because of the stutter, but it was something I loved. I was going to do it no matter what. I remember it was time for one of my lines in rehearsal and I heard some of the other girls saying my lines under their breath. That pushed me to a new place. I stopped everything and told them that I wasn’t stupid, that I knew my line and asked them please not to say it for me. From that day on they never once said anything about my speech.
Three years later in an English class we had a substitute teacher and we were reading passages from a play. It was my turn to read and, of course, I got stuck multiple times. The teacher persistently asked, “Do you know where we are?” “Do you want someone else to read for you?” I kept forging on because I wanted to prove her wrong. When it came to my friend’s turn to read, she read slower and started the sentence over because she wanted to demonstrate to the teacher that it wasn’t ok to say the sorts of things she was saying to me. I wanted to cry. It was such a beautiful moment that has stayed with me as a college sophomore.
High school was another monster. I had switched schools and I knew it was going to be difficult because I would have to explain myself to all these new people. Many of my teachers were understanding which was such a shock because I had never experienced people ignoring it and deeming it to be an unimportant quality of who I am. Freshman year, I will never forget this, I was walking across campus when my friend came up and told me that she heard a classmate of mine talk to someone else about me but called me “stutter girl”. It was devastating because I was not known for the fun and musical loving person that many people knew me to be, but rather was identified by my speech impediment. I continued to talk in class despite the fear that some people would chuckle or mock me. I had a great support group in high school that had my back no matter what. Without them I don’t know what my high school experience would have been like. However, there was one instance my senior year in a health class when we introducing ourselves to the teacher (always my least favorite part of any first day of class). The teacher, thinking that he was funny, decided to say my name the same why I had told it to him. I didn’t have enough strength to tell him about my speech impediment because it was so shocking to me that a teacher, someone who works with students all the time, could say something like that. The entire class went silent, even those who had mocked me before. Those people had seen how much I had grown from freshman year and that my stutter did not define who I was. And it was no one’s place to make me feel small.
As a college sophomore there are still moments when I have to tell people about my situation, but then they move on like it’s no big deal. I am no different in their eyes after I tell them. I am now, finally, becoming ok with having a stutter and realizing that it is a part of who I am, but it is in no way a defining trait. I am a singer and actor and that is how I have dealt with being “different”. In fact, I have become more comfortable with myself now that I have decided to go to graduate school and pursue a career in speech pathology to help others like myself. I want to let people know that they are not alone, and that finding the right people and doing what you love makes living with a stutter not a strange idea. Of course, certain days are worse than others but it has not stopped me from pursuing my singing and acting and speaking in class.