There's an old saying that states "You'll have plenty of time to sleep when you're dead." We have all had times in our life when we feel tired, so beaten down that we are ready to raise the white flag and throw away everything that we have worked so hard for. Friday for many people marks the start of the weekend, when your brain slowly begins to shut down in anticipation of happy hour and a chance to relax. Maybe this is me, but Friday doesn't mark the start of a weekend-it's a chance to start laying the foundation for another quest, one to find employment and represent myself proudly as a person who stutters.
Yesterday, I left Long Island for Baltimore-Washington International Airport, via Southwest Airlines. My final destination? The city of Washington, DC. For those who have read my blog, I have spoken greatly of this jewel of a city that I have come to embrace as my own. For the longest time, Washington has been known as home to The White House, and for having a very high homicide rate. But if you look beyond that, you will find something so much more. I firmly believe that people come down to our capital to work for a goal bigger than themselves. Some come to create new laws, others come to join forces with nonprofits and make their mark on this world. Whenever I walk out of Union Station onto the streets, there's just a pulsating energy that I can't explain in words. It's an indescribable feeling when I was riding the Metro from Pentagon City (just outside Washington in the Commonwealth of Virginia) and as I was en route to L'Enfant Plaza, passing the skyline and seeing the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol.
Washington is a city where something is always going on. And Friday, there was a very unique events. There's a Long Island-based company called Equal Opportunity Publications that hosts a special job fair for people with disabilities. 80 percent of the employers are federal, but there are a few private sector ones represented. I'd be incredibly naive if I said that my stuttering didn't create and challenges in my search for employment. It does, but at the same time, I have also seen different sides of humanity in the process. When I was waiting for the hotel shuttle, I recognized a man from the same fair I was at, who walked with a very visible limp. A person waiting for the bus couldn't stop staring at him. Yet on the other side of the coin, I met seekers who refuse to have their employment dictated by their disability, as I spoke with a very nice young woman seeking a librarian job, while her guide dog patiently sat at her side. I have attended this fair for a few years. And when they announced that candidates could go in, I could hardly wait for the challenge that lie ahead of me.
In this day and age, we often have a "Well, what have you done for me mentality." But whenever I meet with an employer, I always stress the biggest positive I have: and that is my work with the National Stuttering Association. When people ask me what I do, I say I advocate, educate, and inspire. But I say it with such firm conviction and passion so that people believe it. The world is full of people who love to say whatever you want to hear, even if it's not true-just because you will approve of it. Sure, I had some strikeouts. Yet when you think about so much you gained, either way, it was an overwhelming success. And maybe the opportunities will materialize. They always do, one way or another.
Another positive that came out of this fair was the chance to once again meet up with some local members of the NSA. You cannot estimate how much your life can change when you identify with others who experience the same things you do. A group of us had dinner and drinks at Fado's Irish Pub, right in the Chinatown section of DC. Sure, geographically, I was the outsider. But who knows......the Washington area may have a new resident soon.
Natasha Bedingfield once said that the future is still unwritten. I think she's right, but the decisions we make will not just impact ourselves, but others. But one decision that will always guide me is the decision to use my stuttering for good-to help others, to bring them to the world of the NSA, and to continue remembering just why I do what I do. And if you should come visit Washington DC, you might just see me. But that's up to me to write. If it leads to a new chapter in my life, great. If not, I am going forward. It's the only way I know how to be.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.