A Letter to the Microphone, From a Person Who Stutters
Ever since my stutter returned I avoided you at all costs, and I mean all costs. If I were given the choice between yelling, straining my voice and being able to stutter less, or use you and speak at a normal tone (but allow the world to hear every intimate detail of my stutter), I chose the former every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
When people would ask why I didn’t want to use you my response was, “I have a loud voice.” It’s true. But if I talk loud for more than a few seconds it strains my voice. When I had to use you, dread came to me as if my body was the place to be. Those times were few and intentionally far between. Of course, those times would occur when I read at mass for hundreds of people to hear every possible block, repetition and every incoherent sound I made while trying to get the word out.
Oddly enough whenever I listed my goals in speech therapy, using you to project my voice was never on that list nor even crossed my mind. I guess I figured I could use my “loud voice excuse” for the rest of my life. Either that or I figured I would never put myself in a position where you were my only option to project my voice.
After I graduated college, I didn’t use you for close to two years. There were many opportunities, but each time I used my “loud voice” excuse. As a result, I strained my voice while talking to a variety of different audiences about a variety of different topics.
Ironically enough a few of those opportunities were at open houses my local National Stuttering Association (NSA) chapter hosted. During those times I was in a room of people who cared more about my message, as opposed to the intricacies of my message. Yet I was still terrified of the intimacies of my speech being projected to the entire room. Rather than facing you, I once again strained my voice for a couple of hours and then guzzled a bottle of water as soon as the event was over.
The first time I willingly opted to use you was last year at my first NSA conference. I walked in late to the first open mic, and I was strongly encouraged to go up and speak within minutes of me walking into the room. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember feeling accomplished. For the first time in years, I willingly chose to use you. I think what also helped me use you was my audience. I was in a room full of strangers who knew what it is like to stutter and didn’t care about my stutter. They cared more about my message than the intricacies of how my message was delivered. I went to a couple of other open mics during that conference and used you to project my voice at those events.
In the past year, I have used you every time the opportunity presents itself. Yes, I’d rather my audience not hear every intimate moment of my stutter, but it is a part of what makes me me. My message deserves to be heard and if my stutter joins, then so be it. I have more important things to worry about than how you project my message.
Photo credit: cookelma/Getty Images