Good afternoon everyone,
I thought I'd start this entry of the blog with one of the famous lines from William Shakespeare. The phrase "Et tu, Brute," is literally translated as "You too, Brutus!" and refers to the moment when Julius Caesar is stabbed by his best friend and compatriot, Brutus. I have to admit I had one of those moments yesterday. And even though it came from the mouth of my parents, it doesn't make it any easier. In fact, it just adds more concrete evidence that they don't understand stuttering, and probably never will.
As those who read my blog know, I am aggressively looking for full-time work. I keep myself focused on my job search while I work part-time. Recently, I was discussing the latest developments with my mom and dad, and I informed them that I had decided to apply for an opening as a screener with the Transportation Security Administration, at LaGuardia Airport in Queens County, which is about 45 minutes west from where I live. Their response was shocking, and quite possibly the worst thing any parent can say: "That's a good job for you! You wouldn't have to talk a lot." I was absolutely infuriated by this comment.
I want to say for the record that in no way I have ever let my stuttering stand in the way of applying for a job. At the National Stuttering Association conferences, there are many workshops that are dedicated to networking and helping attendees establish themselves in a career. One of the most frequently asked questions is something like this: "How can I apply for a job when one of the requirements is good communication skills?" Well, early on in my life, I worked in journalism. There may be some people who might have thought I was a glutton for punishment-since there was talking every day. I even had to ring doorbells of perfect strangers and go up to people on the street and talk to them. I felt like I was waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop: the snickers, the comments, the blank stares as I was fumbling for the right words.
One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is that parents often feel the best way to talk about something is to avoid it. You see this all the time with touchy issues: drugs, sex, and so on. I just had a chance to see this year's conference program for the NSA, and there are a few seminars presented by a parent and their child who stutters. How truly awesome that is! Not just for the fact that it brings the adult and child together, but it shows there is hope that you can talk about stuttering with your family. One part of me does wish that my parents could attend a conference and see what a truly special event this is. Then again, I see myself playing the devil's advocate. If they really don't even care about your speech, then why would you want them there in the first place?
In today's world, we shake our head when we see the way things are headed. We can't choose who our parents are. We can't try to change someone who is set in their ways. But we can make peace with the fact that we are special, and together with our gifts we can improve our lives, day by day. After my parents made that comment to me, I went into my room and read my conference programs back-to-back, looking at my Volunteer of the Year award from 2008. And I'm reminded that I am somebody who has a lot to offer. You have something to share with this world. I want you to promise me you will.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.