The only time you truly fail is when you give up. This is something my mother has said to me since I was a child and has helped me through all of my hardships and failures. I have stuttered since I was eight years old and could not say my name until I was nineteen. My entire life I have faced giggles on the other end of the phone, long pauses after finishing a hard word, and the sounds of snickering at the drive through after I order. These days, I have my own coping skills such as substituting easier words for hard ones and relaxing my stomach, but it was not always this easy. There were many years as I was growing up when my mother fought for me, teaching me to stand my ground with people who were either insensitive to my difficulty or just wanted to be cruel. Countless times she finished phone calls for me, after the person on the other end of the phone would say to me, “Honey, slow down so you don’t stutter.” However, in ninth grade, I finally got the courage to stand up and put a stop to the harassment, after a classmate humiliated me by mocking me. I dealt with the situation and the young man quickly learned that his laughter was not appreciated. These experiences helped me realize “I” had power over this hardship.
I was raised to be strong and never back down from a challenge and yet, it always seemed someone else was fighting my battles for me. For instance, I was talking to a cell phone operator, and the man mocked me. Usually, people will giggle or they will try to anticipate what I am going to say and finish my sentence for me, but very rarely did I get mocked. I was so stunned I could not say anything. My mom must have seen the look on my face and the tears welling up in my eyes, because she marched over to the phone and had words with the customer service representative. Although I was grateful to her for the support, I felt humiliated at my inability to speak up for myself. She always reassured me that I would learn how to handle these situations in time. Many years went by and my mom would help me when the need called for it. Time after time, I would fall apart and my mom would pick up the pieces and say, “it’s going to be okay.”
Learning to stand on my own two feet suddenly took root when, at the age of fifteen, the harassment had become too much so, I took matters into my own hands. One day in my World Geography class when the teacher spit us into groups, Craig, a classmate, asked me a question that caused me to stutter and he started to laugh hysterically while I struggled to get the answer out. There I was, with everyone’s eyes upon me for what seemed like an eternity. All I could see was red! I jumped across the table and literally pounced on him. As soon as I realized what had happened, I ran to the student affairs office to call my mom. Craig came up to me, eye red and lip busted, and apologized to me. He told me that it was not his intention to hurt me, and that he was sorry. We talked for a while and from that day forward we were friends. I was so happy I had not just let it go like I had done so many times before. This was a huge turning point for me. My momma gave me many life lessons, but none more important than learning to have a voice and speaking up to the people who tormented me about my stuttering.
This one event is what led to my standing my ground, looking ignorant people in their eye and telling them, “Yeah, I stutter!” Through many years of encouragement from my family and the strength I gained through perseverance and determination, I learned how to say my name without stuttering as well as many other coping skills to give me control of my speech. I was not going to let stuttering beat me. Another’s inability to control their tongue was not going to control my life. There are so many times I can remember my mother coming to bat for me. The numerous phone calls she helped me through and the important social skills, all showed me love. All of these experiences could have changed me and made me a different person. I do not let my stuttering affect me at work or in everyday life, because it is a part of who I am and that is okay. I had to learn to love people and be myself, even when they are being cruel. I will not let my failures predict my future.