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Confronting College With Courage Despite My Stuttering

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“Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”   — Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I fighter pilot.

Recently, I made an unexpected decision to begin college this year, instead of waiting until next year as originally planned. My heart nearly exploded with joy when I received an offer of admission from the university I love, and my heart is still so happy at this very moment as I think about it. For the next four years, I hope to study professional writing, finally pursuing this insatiable passion that has been strengthened by my stuttering. Underneath all that excitement and happiness though, lies some fear and uncertainty about what the next four years of my life as a college student might bring, especially as a student who speaks very differently. In about three months, my life will drastically change. I’ll face unique communication pressures that I have never had to handle up to this point. In the simplest words possible… I’m afraid.

Just as in every other situation, I am really not sure how people might react when they hear me speak for the first time. Will they laugh? Will they nervously avert their eyes (which I truly can understand) or become impatient with me? Will they treat me the same as everyone else? After all, stuttering sadly carries so many false stigmas and stereotypes with it. All of these things could happen, and it becomes very unsettling to dwell on these worries for too long. But, with God’s help, I am determined not to think this way. I believe in always expecting the best from people… in always giving them a chance to prove that kindness still abounds in this world. Sometimes, I think when we expect the worst from people, it starts to seem like the worst is all we ever see. What you see is often, not always, what you’re looking for.

However, if they do laugh, if they do grow impatient, if they do treat me differently, I also believe in grace. How can I expect people to fully understand, when stuttering is still such a little-known condition? How will they know unless someone takes the time to explain it to them? For me to be upset with people who genuinely do not understand is completely unfair. Most of the people who have said hurtful things to me have said them without understanding, and I believe that with every fiber of my being. I can’t — I won’t — hold resentment in my heart. Always be slow to bitterness, and quick to show grace.

Thinking about giving speeches and other oral presentations to college classes scares me beyond belief; but in a strange sort of way, the challenge excites me. Up until now, I have rarely been pushed more than a few inches outside my comfort zone. Now, as I consider this new adventure ahead of me, I realize that I will have to leave my comfort zone completely behind. I will have to summon new courage every day, for every class. All of us experience moments of fear, and probably all of us just want to run the other way when we are afraid. But we will never know what we are truly capable of accomplishing for this world as long as we flee from fear. In the end, all that will really matter is what we did for others; and this often requires courage in moments of fear.

On my first day of classes, I know I will have fear; but I believe God can help me confront that fear with courage. Without courage, I may miss out on some wonderful opportunities. I am far too thankful for this new chapter to let fear stop me from making the most of those four short years, whether that’s by simply raising my hand in class or reaching out to someone and making a new friend, even when I am afraid.

Someone once said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”

Getty image by jacoblund

Originally published: June 3, 2018
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