Monday, June 22, 2009

No longer the winter (and summer) of my discontent....

Good evening everyone,

The first official day of summer came and passed quietly, but yet it does not feel like summer here in the Northeast. Still, I do not complain, but rather relish the cool, raw breezes that greet me to the dawn of the day. I wanted to use this edition of the blog to talk about summer and what it means to me as a teammate who stutters. William Shakespeare, whose works I read to this day and still embrace the lessons that have pertinent meaning, once wrote in "Richard III" a famous line that utters the phrase "the winter of our discontent," from Act I, Scene I. For one who stutters, there is no seaon of their discontent. The feelings of shame, isolation, and guilt last all year round, which often attack the psyche and self-worth.

The summer is often associated with long, sunny days, laughing, and a cheerfulness of innocence, that is so precious because we only get three months of the year dedicated to that....but sometimes Indian summer is bestowed on us and it makes it even more special. But growing up as a child, I held on to those times because for the first time it made me feel that I could be seen as just another person in the world. I never had the luxury of going to sleepaway camp, but for four years, I enjoyed being a camper at Camp Kenwal, learning in the Athletic Development specialty area. I wasn't seen as "Steven the Stutterer," I didn't have to endure the "Here comes the stutterer" comments, I was just seen as Steven, one kid who wanted to talk to others and participate. I came into my own those years, but like the swoon of humid August days, those days came and went, and it was soon back to school.

I've blogged on here about the painful and cruel experiences of high school and college. In some ways, I am very grateful for the opportunity, but more importantly the calling, to work with teammates of all ages and show them how their stutter never needs to hold them hostage. But I can say emphatically that the years of my discontent ended with a few days in Long Beach, Calif. And in less than three weeks, it will be time for another conference on the West Coast. A chance to re-ignite my flame and passion for stuttering, which has never gone out at all...because I won't let it.

I've been asked by some teammates to describe the National Stuttering Association conference. There's so many adjectives out there it's quite feasible every one would be exhausted just trying to make attempts. But each conference is unique in its own way. There are some universal themes, though. In some ways, it's part summer camp. It's part bonding. It's a big part education. It's about the journey. Let me reemphasize that, because it's important: It's the JOURNEY. The ultimate goal for any teammate who stutters is self-acceptance, but the journey is what transforms us into who we are. It's the experiences....the laughing, the tears. It's about the closing banquet, conversing and relating, slow dancing and just knowing that all is right with the world, if only for a few days.

Lita Ford once sang "If I close my eyes forever, will it remain the same?" Well in a few short days, it will be. We'll pick up where we left off-and I hope you'll join us. If I can help you on your journey, don't hesitate to contact me. I'm here for all my teammates around the world.

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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