Thursday, January 22, 2009

What it means to be safe..and why safe is death

Good evening everyone. I thought I would focus on this blog on a lesson that like so many others took me a long time to learn. I would like to focus first on what it means to be "safe." And by that, I don't mean feeling safe in your house, or in any neighborhood you may be walking around in. I want to explore the meaning of "safe" and why "safe is death." For those of you who have been reading the blog since its inception or may be joining me recently, you know I am a hockey fan, and a passionate one at that. For many people, their morning routine starts out with the usual: brushing their teeth, reading the paper, running to make the train into the city (usually that's the 7:14 from Hicksville en route to New York's Penn Station LOL), and breakfast if there's time for it. Mine starts off similar, but I try to also have time for the 7 a.m. edition of ESPN SportsCenter. One time in 2004, the anchor of the show was talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning, and their clinching of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. John Tortorella, the coach at the time, was asked about the team's offensive strategy, and he summed it perfectly. "Safe is death," is how he responded. When he was asked a follow-up question, he spoke about how you need to be on offense all the time and make plays happen...yes, sometimes you will get burned in the process. But don't sit back waiting for something to develop. That mantra was a big factor in the team running all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although it took seven games, at the end of an exhausting series...the Lightning had won it's first championship. To make it even sweeter, the captain, Dave Andreychuk, waited 20+ years for the one moment everyone dreams of. When it comes to stuttering and speaking your mind, the exact philosophy holds true. "Safe is death"-but it's the death of your voice. In some ways, my life feels like a rebirth. I'll be 31 in April, and for the most part, the twenties for me were anything but roaring. Come to think of it, the MGM Lion roared more times. On the weekends, I'd rarely do anything. I would go to the movies every Saturday night, feeling "safe" and protected. I'd order my tickets online, and avoid the box office speaking experience. If I went to the supermarket on an errand, and the checkout girl/guy said "hello," I would smile, but not even be able to say hello back to them. When it came time to buy anything, I'd try and go online. This is what being "safe" is. "Safe" is fear. "Safe" is doubt. "Safe" is guilt. "Safe" is whatever emotion you think it will be. I felt for a long time that stuttering would have me in its iron-clad grip, choking every last spasm out of me as my chords would lock, never again to be broken. I would feel I have no right to enjoy myself, and I'd always feel all alone. All I could think of was the line from "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls: "I don't want the world to see me, because I don't think they'd understand." That was me, succinctly. I would remember when I was younger being in the AOL chat rooms and meeting people...and I had a few women who I developed a good relationship with. But when asked if I wanted to move offline....I just deliberately vanished. I knew what would happen if they found out I stuttered. I just could not risk that, and there I went again, being "safe." We've all felt that way at some point or another. It's very ironic that now, the person who stuttered was so deathly quiet now can't keep quiet LOL. But in a good way, of course. I want to share everything with the world. And the world is going to listen. You don't have to be "safe," and you shouldn't want to be either. Give yourself a chance. I know, it's easier said than done. But try it...say "hello" to someone. Ask for a certain type of sandwich at the store. Because each time you do, your voice is going to live. And it's going to be stronger and more dominant than ever. It feels so good to speak out loud, doesn't it!!!! 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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