Reaching New Stuttering Milestones Has Changed My Perspective on Growing Up
As I reflect on last month I truly feel like jumping for joy. The milestones that God helped me reach used to seem impossible. They are all things that used to make me restless at night, filling my mind with a flurry of fear. Things that used to make me dread growing up.
If growing up meant I would have to start advocating for myself more and communicating independently, then I was intensely afraid of it. However, some new experiences have begun to completely change my perspective.
A few days ago as I was driving to a doctor’s appointment alone with my thoughts and gazing at the open road before me, all I could think about was how drastically, and how beautifully, my life is suddenly changing as I enter adulthood. There are several things I recently experienced for the first time that reminded me how exciting entering a new chapter of life can really be. New opportunities, new friendships and new growth are just over the horizon.
Last Monday I walked into my room, closed the door and took several deep breaths as I quietly asked God to please give me courage. Finally, I reached for my phone, inhaled deeply once more and dialed a number. For the first time in my life, I was scheduling my own appointment over the phone. Now at 18, I know I am a little behind in taking this step. Most teenagers have probably already done this by 16, but living with a stutter often transforms simple, ordinary tasks into huge hurdles to mount. One of the best ways for me to cope is taking things one day at a time and being OK with moving forward in life a little slower as long as I keep moving. The phone has struck terror into me for as far back as I can remember, much less using the phone to call total strangers. When I did stutter slightly, the lady I spoke to was so kind and patient that it was as if nothing ever happened. As soon as we hung up, a huge smile crept across my face as my heart sang in celebration. I did it! I finally did it!
Although it has become a cliche to say that few things are ever as scary, or even as impossible as we imagine them to be in our minds, this statement is remarkably accurate. Talking on the phone was certainly unsettling but not nearly as much as I had envisioned. Something about it actually made me incredibly happy, and I really enjoyed speaking with the individual on the other side. Conquering that fear filled my heart with such sweet peace afterward and kindled a new hope in me for the future. Taking the leap is scary, but as someone once said, “If you don’t leap, you’ll never know what it’s like to fly.” To be honest, I think I felt like flying after that phone call!
Two days later I went to my appointment on my own, another milestone. When I pulled into the parking lot, I again felt so much gratitude to God for how far He has brought me. I could have never conjured up enough courage in myself to face the world on my own. There are no words to quantify how frightening it can be for someone who stutters to ponder the prospect of communicating in the real world, away from the support of your family and friends. As much as I wish they could all be with me every day, sadly life does not allow us to always be surrounded by our loved ones. But as I spoke with the sweet receptionist at the desk, it was hard to keep myself from smiling from ear to ear. In that moment, I realized how much I had been longing for this kind of interaction with others. In the past (and I still do sometimes), I had run from any interactions that might reveal my stuttering, because I just didn’t know how strangers would react. Now that I had finally taken this step, I could have spent hours talking to everyone in that office.
Just a few weeks ago I had a very difficult emotional breakdown about my stuttering. Tears streamed down my face as I cried out to God to give me the strength to accept this. Times like that will probably continue to happen, but that does not mean that I am not still unbelievably thankful for this journey ahead of me. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever been so excited about life.
Every single day that we live as people who stutter is a gift filled with brand new goals to chase.
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