Good morning everyone. I apologize for the lateness of the hour that I am posting this. It's approaching 1 a.m. here on the East Coast, although in the suburbs of NYC life really starts at 3 a.m. Yesterday, the center of the New York Yankees universe descended on Tampa, as superstar Alex Rodriguez held his press conference after confirming he took steroids. And as I watched it, I realized that as a person who stutters, I actually shared something in common with him. But there's one difference between us: extremes. The only difference is, I learned now that I don't have to have everyone like me, as I said in my last blog. Please allow me to explain. Although Alex has never come out and said this, many of his so-called "handlers" say that he wants to be liked more than anything in the world. He can have all the records and fame he wants, but he just wants to be liked. And supposedly, that's his ambition. Unfortunately, what we just witnessed was an extreme. He wanted to be liked so badly because of his achievements, he wanted to do it at all costs. And now, he's going to have to live with the consequences.
As a person who stutters, that was me throughout high school, college, and my early twenties. I wanted people to like me and want to hang out. But in the situations that I was presented with that, my speech was so horrendous that my palms sweated and all I could say was "Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom," and I could probably visualize what they were saying when the doors were closed. I decided to focus my hurt and angst into academics-and when it was all over, I graduated with very high honors: Dean's List, magna cum laude. But I paid a very high price. I went through the most demanding, socially growing years of my life all alone. I wanted it so badly that I too, took it to an extreme.
I often draw a lot from reading Shakespeare. The saying "ahead of his time" can apply to the number of fingers on both your hands: Andy Warhol, Picasso, etc. Watching the show in Tampa made me realize that A-Rod, unbeknownst to him, has turned into a modern-day MacBeth. MacBeth's ambition was to be king of England. As the Thane of Glamis, he and Banquo defeat the armies of Norway and Ireland and for that, he is to be awarded the title of Thane of Cawdor, where he starts to realize he can have all the power he desires. Consumed with rage and extreme ambition, he begins to eliminate all the heirs to the throne until he, too, falls prey to his flaw-the need to want more. A-Rod wanted to belong so badly, he was willing to push himself going outside the rules-considering he has immense talent to begin with. It was just never enough for him.
We often hear of type-A personalities in this world. People who are perfectionists. But as a person who stutters, I don't need to be perfect. The only perfect people are dead people, because they have no problems. Everyone has challenges to be met. If you met me four years ago, the slightest comment about my speech would have set me off. I remember being set up on a date and the woman came right out and said "Is your speech a defect?" and I was like "A defect? Cars have defects. Appliances have defects. I am not a defect." That date ended shortly after. These days, if someone makes a comment about my speech, I refuse to revert into a condescening lecturer. I speak about my stuttering with passion, enthusiasm, and maturity. That's what the NSA has given me, among many other things.
If someone doesn't like you because of your speech, all you can do is continue to represent yourself to the best of your ability. Accept this simple axiom: "I am not a stammerer. I am not a stutterer. I am a PERSON who stutters." They say for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. How you react is a reflection on you. Don't be Alex Rodriguez.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.