I wanted to start off this latest entry of the blog by asking a familar question: Have you ever had to go back to the scene of the crime? You probably know what I am talking about-you may have done something wrong and had to go back and apologize to the person(s) offended, you could have had a bad experience and never wanted to go back, but there were circumstances that made this choice unavoidable? Well, that was me just about three weeks ago. I, too, returned to the "scene of the crime," and no, it did not have tape or any law enforcement personnel. It was a brick building which I spent four years in from 1992-1996. Yes, you figured it out, high school.
I had decided to sign up for a local adult education class which was sponsored by my school district. It was to be an Excel for beginners class. Now I do have experience with the program, but you can never go wrong with taking a brushup class and keeping your skills sharp. When I found out where it was, I was startled and began to sweat. The class was being taught on the second floor of my high school in the business wing. At first, I didn't think anything of it. Then when I turned into the parking lot, right off Kennedy Drive, I could feel the intense fear, which had been repressed for so long, starting to ooze to the surface, like a shark smelling blood in the water. On the outside, things hadn't changed all that much. Well, there was a digital mesage board welcoming you, and it was evident that there had been a fresh coat of paint (or two) on the marquee and in the lunchroom, which I could see from the outside.
As I walked through the doors, I began to feel that my heart was beginning to squeeze in my chest a little tighter. It's OK, I told myself, I am feeling anxious and this is normal. While in the lobby, I couldn't help but decide to walk to the right, and see if the nurse's office was where I remembered it. As I walked closer, I could hear the screams from the two volleyball teams that were playing each other yet it might as well have been the cruel teasing and alienation I felt. The janitor had not locked the door at that time, so I decided to go in. For those of you who have read my blog, you have understood how for so many periods, these 42 minutes I had to myself were 42 minutes of solitude and a place where I could escape everything. I never dared tell my parents where I was or why I chose to spend time there. I sat on the bed, closed my eyes, and just fell into a deep reflection. I could feel a shift coming on in my thinking. But I knew I had to remain steadfast. You are not the same person, I said to myself. You have achieved so much and come so far in a few years. The words you say no longer hurt, they empower and inspire.
When I left the office, I could not help but feel like I had undergone a spiritual cleansing, a rebirth if you will. Our scars never do go away, but every year they grow a little smaller. Whenever we take a step forward in accepting our speech, they also shrink. I noticed that the world of high school never really has changed all that much. Well, there were a few aesthetic changes. The high school radio station, WPOB/88.5, was moved up from downstairs to the main level of the building.
I already feel like a young veteran in the eyes of the National Stuttering Association, since I have attended five conferences and next year in Fort Worth will be my sixth. I always used to grow up thinking and with good reason that high school sets the tone for the rest of your life. After all, there are many people who still haven't changed, who act like every day is another day at the gym, fooling around, trying to be ultra-cool to impress everyone. Yet I have met so many teens who clearly can prove otherwise. They are confident, they know who they are, and they are ready to make their mark on the world. And they do stutter, some are mild, others are moderate-but they know that at all times the National Stuttering Association is with them. I may have found out about them too late, but I have also learned one thing that is paramount above all-it's never too late to inspire. It's never too late to help someone grow up into a new person. And it's never too late to confront your past and let it know who is in control.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.