To the people I will meet for the first time,
I am so proud of the women I am becoming, but I still want you to know why words matter.
In elementary school, I knew I was different when I realized I was the only kid in the class getting pulled out for speech lessons. We played talking games. They were fun, so I didn’t fully realize I was there for a disability.
But that all changed in fourth grade.
That’s when I was talking to a few of my friends and two boys kept saying, “There goes the robot again. There goes the robot again.”
Every time I spoke, they’d say those words.
“There goes the robot again.”
Up until then, no one said anything, so I thought maybe no one noticed it. When I realized people did hear it, it made me upset and self-conscious.
I have a stutter, a speech-related disorder where you have a block in words or you repeat syllables. Many people think if you stutter, it’s because you don’t know what to say, or you are stupid. But that’s not the case. While I know what I want to say, sometimes I have trouble saying it. It gets worse when I’m around new people or in stressful situations.
In middle school, I began to get very frustrated. About once a month, I would come home upset because someone said hurtful words related to my stutter. My dad, who also has a stutter, would give me advice, but I felt as though he couldn’t relate to me. I didn’t understand why I had to deal with this. I didn’t think it was fair.
My twin sister has always helped me, ordering for me at restaurants or doing anything else I ask. I even have a friend that found out in sixth grade that a boy teased me. He not only said something to that boy, but he told him to apologize. A few days later, I found a card in my locker from the guy that made fun of me, saying sorry.
While my sister’s and friend’s support meant so much to me, still, every single time I spoke, I feared someone would make fun of me. When I started ninth grade, I was afraid if I stuttered in front of new people, they would think I was weird. I developed social anxiety. I thought the people I hung out with were only nice to me because of their friendship with my twin sister. There were so many times I was out with my friends and I would pretend to be sick so that I could go home. I just felt so uncomfortable.
This past year, my junior year of high school, I started to develop more confidence. I grew closer to kids at school and I began to stutter more in front of them only to realize, as my dad told me, that they did not care. They would wait for an hour if needed to hear what I have to say. And if someone does say something mean, they stand up for me.
I realized that my fear of being made fun of was far greater than the reality of the situation. While I still encounter people that upset me, I have come to learn that there are far more people who care about me – not my stutter. But I had to be brave enough to give people a chance to recognize that. As I became more comfortable around my peers, I also became more courageous.
I decided to run for class president. We taped our speeches, which were then shown during class. Sitting at a desk watching my speech with my classmates made me so self-conscious. I had to hear myself stutter, which is my least favorite thing in the world.
After we heard all the candidates speak, so many people came up to me that day, telling me that they were so proud of me. They told me my video was so good and they loved what I had to say. I won the election. I am the reigning class president.
None of you have met me yet. Maybe, you will be my classmates in college or maybe, my co-workers at a job. You could even be someone that I meet through mutual friends.
Whoever you are and however we cross paths, please be understanding. If you hear me stutter, don’t make faces. Treat me like a normal person.
Eventually, I want to work in special education so that I can make a difference in a child’s life. I’m proud of the confidence that has grown throughout the years, but I still remember every instance where someone commented on my stutter.
So when you meet me or someone else like me and you hear a stutter, even if you want to say something, just don’t. While, thanks in part to my friends and family, I am becoming a woman who won’t care, someone else might.
What you say can impact how someone feels. That’s why your words matter, so please always be kind with them.
I can’t wait to meet you,