“People talk without stuttering everyday. Why should I be proud of something people do everyday?”
– James Hayden circa. early 2014
The other day I was talking to my friend and former roommate, Richard, on the phone. We hadn’t talked in awhile, so we were just catching each other up on what we have been doing. The conversation turned to my writings and how they have been cathartic for me. Richard said he enjoyed reading my open letters, but more importantly he liked how I was now open about my stutter. He then reminded me of a conversation the two of us and another friend of ours had a few years ago.
At that point in my life, I was in my second semester of speech therapy and was in the early stages of accepting my stutter. Yet, I most likely would have taken a “magic pill” to get rid of my stutter. That’s because I still viewed stuttering as that annoying friend from home who I did not want to associate with nor talk about. So, the three of us were hanging out Richard and I’s apartment one night after Mass. I had read the readings at Mass and barely stuttered, an event that didn’t occur all that often. They both said that they were proud of me for my fluency during the readings. I did not receive their complements well and shot back at them with the above quote. I didn’t celebrate it because that’s what I expected of myself. I had the mindset of “I’m in speech therapy to become fluent and I did what I was suppose to do. Why should I celebrate?” With that mindset, celebrating the small victories of fluency was clearly not on my list of things to do.
Richard immediately shot back using an analogy from my personal life. In his analogy, I would have been proud of that person and would have celebrated the small victory, yet I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it for myself. I most likely mumbled some smart-ass comment and switched the topic of conversation, but deep down I knew he was right; however, I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself or others. I wasn’t ready to see and celebrate the small victories of stuttering that occur each day.
After that night, I moved on with my life and over the years grew in confidence with my stutter and ultimately myself. I vaguely remembered the conversation, but never thought about it until Richard mentioned it the other day. Looking back at that conversation with four and a half years of hindsight, all I can say is “Wow!” “Wow” in the sense that I can’t believe I said that about my stutter. “Wow” in the sense of just how far I’ve come in the past four and a half years. “Wow” in the sense of how much I’ve grown in terms of acceptance.
If the same situation occurred today, I would have said thank you. I would have celebrated the small victory with them. I would have been proud of myself. I would not have shot back with the above quote. I would not have been mad at them for bringing up my stutter (or lack of in this case).
I hope by sharing this story someone can have a “wow” moment. A moment in which they can feel proud of themselves and celebrate a small victory in life, regardless of what it is.