Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!!!

Good afternoon everyone,

I want to wish a Happy New year 2009 to those who are reading my blog. New Year's Eve has so many different meanings, depending on who you ask. For some, this is THE party night of the get ready to slip into your tuxedo or ballroom gown, dance, drink, drink some more, and then you can't remember what you did, but you're so happy you did it anyway. For others, it's a time to reflect, move forward, and realize that you have the power to change. My New Year's Eve was spent differently, for sure. I drove down to Jones Beach, and just listened to the waves crashing, even if it was eighteen degrees. Yes, I have a thing for cold weather, but it wasn't the drive I enjoyed. It was the process of being, and reflecting on what 2008 was all about.

The one theme that I focused on was about stepping out of my shell and becoming the type of person I can, and want to be. This year hasn't been easy for me, or then again, for a majority of people-job losses are mounting, the economy is struggling, but in some ways, I feel like 2008 was possibly the greatest year of my life so far. This past year, the National Stuttering Association's annual conference was held in Parsippany, N.J., and part of the conference is the awards luncheon, where the NSA recognizes people who have truly made a significant difference to help others who stutter. I received the shock of my life when I received the Volunteer of the Year Award, and was recognized by my peers for my work ethic and commitment to the organization.

Like it or not, sometimes this world can seem cruel and we all seem distant. But we have to believe-we need to believe that there are people who do care, who want to work to make things better. I think back to the very last scene of the 1987 film "Dirty Dancing," one of the many movies that I enjoy, and I recall the last scene where Patrick Swayze is on stage with Jennifer Grey, and he speaks of "how there are people willing to stand up for others," and additionally of how he met someone "who taught me about the kind of person I want to be." Well, I've met a great deal of those people at the NSA, and I will always continue to meet more of them. We all have a choice. It may have taken me a long time to realize that, but we can either sit back and play the sympathy card about our speech, or we can work hard and declare our independence from stuttering. I don't want sympathy anymore. I want to make my voice heard. I AM going to make my thoughts about speech known. And I promise you I will help others make their voices heard too.

We don't know what this year holds for us. Sometimes those thoughts can be scary. They can also be exciting, too. You have the power. You don't need to be Optimus Prime or Starscream to be a transformer. Start out small, if you want to. But once you begin to realize that you are a person who stutters, and not a stammerer, or any other label someone may give you, you will reach that ultimate goal of self-acceptance. And it's my wish for you that you do find it, and may it last forever.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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