Good evening everyone,
Part of being a person who stutters means having to accept many different things. Not only adjusting to various social situations on a daily basis, but also accepting that even the basic tasks will have pressure in intense forms, some more than others. It can be saying "good morning" or even walking up to an information counter asking for the arrival time of the next train. And then, there's the pressure of setting expectations. Are we allowed to set expectations for ourselves? What happens when we don't meet them?
This is a very exciting time for me as a hockey fan because of the Olympic Games being held north of the border. Of course I root for everyone to achieve success, but I have a very keen eye on the ice hockey scene, and not because I am a passionate fan. The host city of Vancouver will play out a very special competition-because the Canadian team is expected to win gold. All the factors are aligned for them: a team loaded on offense and defense, the home crowd and the spirit that hockey is Canada's game by divine birthright and anything less than a gold medal will be seen as a complete and utter failure, that will have major ramifications. As Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby said in an interview with The Sporting News, "Everyone expects to win, so that's pretty much it. That's the way it is."
Throughout the course of my life, I never really had expectations. Or wanted them, for that matter. When you're a teenager navigating the turbulence of adolescence, you really could care less about what's going on in the world outside of your own. It's all about school, crushes, your first job, and sleep...a lot of sleep. It wasn't until I joined the National Stuttering Association that I learned that I am capable of setting expectations for myself. But more importantly, I learned how to deal with them in a positive manner when things didn't work out.
One of the biggest challenges for us is job interviews. In this economy, getting one is a nerve-wracking task, but actually going on one...is enough to cause beads of sweat to come pouring down on even the most confident of people. I've been in so many situations where I told myself, "This is an occasion where I have to be fluent. I NEED to be fluent. My life could be riding on this one moment." Then, I'd open my mouth, the crushing of my vocal chords would start to begin, and the locking would freeze like a deer in the headlights. I'd have one hour to try and force out as many words as I can. And a few days later, I'd get the dreaded form letter in the mail, and be like, "Damn it! The one time I need to be fluent I can't!" and as a result, I'd carry that feeling of misery for an extended period of time.
However, to be 100 percent fluent all the time is setting an unrealistic expectation. No one can ask that, and to do so is asking the impossible. However, there's nothing wrong with having reasonable expectations: "Today I will try to be fluent, and if it happens, it happens. And if I am not, that's OK." It will not be the end of the world if you There are members of the National Stuttering Association who have set great examples which I follow every day. I expect to conduct myself as a representative of the organization with integrity. I expect to meet new people and show them great levels of respect, for together we live our hopes and dreams through each other.
Although many writers and hockey fans are saying that it will be the end of the world if Canada doesn't win the gold medal, I highly doubt that will be the case. It's great to have expectations, and to set the bar high as a motivating tool. But regardless of what happens, I am sure class and respect will be on full display at all times. At the National Stuttering Association, class and respect are evident everyday. Respect yourself. But most importantly, respect each other. Your stutter can be your greatest asset!
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard. I also want to share a special note: If you want to give your stuttering a supercharged jolt and see that your speech doesn't have to hold you hostage, come to our annual conference in July. You'll see 600+ people who stutter shatter every myth and make you realize everything is possible. For more information, check out http://www.westutter.org!