Monday, February 2, 2009

Does the window close?

Good evening everyone!

As the memories of Super Bowl XLIII fade away, taking with it people's hopes and dreams of profiting in the office pools (yes, we know you're out there, hell my dad lost his shot at $1,000 thanks to Larry Fitzgerald), I can't help but ask myself this question: Does the window really close?

For any professional sports team, the ultimate goal is to win championships. That's just how success is judged. In some parts of the U.S., a winning season is enough for fans. "We met expectations," is a comment heard often. However, you have different markets where every year is described as "win now." You've probably heard this term tossed around, but I think it's interesting to discuss. "Win now" refers to the limited window of opportunity a team has to win a title. Once a team enters that "win now" mode, it simply means time is running out and the window is closing. The players are getting older. The team may not have money to sign players the next few years. We can't wait for development, and the list goes on down the line. And nine times out of ten, teams in the "win now" mode fall flat on their face, and their goals get set back a few years instead of focusing on the big picture.

As a person who stutters, I felt this way for a long time. When you're a teenager, fighting to belong in the social jungle, facing the pressures of speaking in front of teachers and peers can be enough to shatter you. Multiply that by five times a week, and well....let's just say the memories never go away. I felt that stuttering had closed "my window," before it even started. I had struggled with speech therapy in my early years, at one point going through several therapists in a few years time, learning a new approach with each one: easy onset, airflow, stretching. But after getting frustrated, I felt the window had closed. You know the feeling-the best example I can give is looking for a car to buy. No one wants last year's model, or even the one a few years before that. Everyone's attracted to the bigger, better deal.

I know some people who stutter who have accepted that fact, but do not feel the need to go to speech therapy. I respect that. We all have the right to think and act as we please. But if your window is "closing," I want you to know it will close only if you close. If you want to keep it open, ask yourself, what are you prepared to do about it in order to keep it open? Maybe it means going to speech therapy twice a week, instead of one. Maybe it means practicing your speech with a tape recorder and reading out of a book, which I've done many times. Or maybe it means doing something you wouldn't do. Call up a restaurant, and ask about a certain item on a menu. Go to a train station and ask where the schedules are. Every time you do this, you open that window a little at a time. Until that time when you continue to evolve as a person who stutters, and the rays of sunshine pierce your soul.

You should never have to feel you're in a "win now mode." If you find yourself feeling that you have a pressure to "be fluent now," let that go by the wayside. And know the window is always's just how far you want to push.

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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