The mercury has finally dropped, and now I look forward to this time, although fleeting as it may be. I know the holiday season is in full effect, and everyone is ready to lose their mind, running around like a chicken with their head cut off. The crowds at Black Friday, the nerves getting ready to be frazzled. But I am not a holiday person, for the most part. I actually relish the cold weather because when I was growing up, I felt the cold winds acted as a protector from the negative feelings that would envelop me from my parents and classmates. The snow flurries would be grabbed by me, if only for a few seconds, then to turn to tears, as if to say "I understand what you are going through, and I will cry with you."
Saturday night, Dec. 4, the National Stuttering Association chapters of Manhattan (New York County) and Long Island got together to host a holiday party. I know as the adage says there is always places to go, people to see, and we all run on different schedules. Some of us are struggling with a job search, others facing challenges raising children or having difficulty in relationships. But I always relish the times I can spend with my NSA colleagues. I emphatically believe we will always know each other better than anyone else can even begin to understand. After deciding against having a party at a restaurant, we chose to have a catered meal at a private party room on West 43rd between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, within striking distance of Times Square. Although I live 45 minutes from Pennsylvania Station, to me New York City might as well be a different world. Every time I go there I am awed, and yet I still feel like I don't belong.
I caught the 6:16 train from Hicksville, and it was standing room only into the city. There was a cacaphony of conversations that going on, bombarding me from all sides: "Hey, did the Rangers play tonight?" "No, Megan, I don't have the kids, doesn't Uncle Joey have them?" And of course, there were just those trying to catch a nap or text their friends. But you couldn't help but notice that there were smiles, even if the times we are living in test us all times.
I entered the private apartment building, and took the elevator up to the club level. After walking through the door, I was greeted by the chapter leader of the Manhattan chapter, and I was elated to see one of my chapter members join us. I also had the chance to exchange greetings with some other NSA members, one of which is a social worker and his lovely wife, who runs a fashion blog. And of course, more people filtered in, one of them being a first-time attendee to the National Stuttering Association conference this past July. We all sat down to a delicious dinner from Ben's Deli, a platter full of roast beef, turkey, corned beef, and pastrami, rye bread, pickles, cole slaw, potato salad, pizza, beer, wine. And although it probably went to my butt a few days later, that didn't matter to me at all. Neither did the fact that the beautiful buildings of NYC provided the backdrop.
There's been so many sentiments echoed that the holidays are now all commercialized, and all that matters is how much you sell or buy. But I am also starting to unlearn many things that I learned growing up, and as I am 32, I'm beginning to see the world in many different ways. Those four hours I spent with my new friends and current ones meant more to me than any gift I could possibly get.
Sometimes the best gifts aren't the ones that are wrapped. I know I can be my own worst enemy, and no one sees my flaws like I do. 2010 has been a year shaped by a lot of setbacks, and a lot of exciting things: the mission of the NSA is taking on a bigger meaning, stuttering awareness is becoming a major issue for a lot of people that needs to be shared. But the last few weeks are reminding me that New Year's Day is another chance to raise the bar even higher. I will do something great with my life. I am going to let the world know that no matter what happens, Steven Kaufman is not going anywhere.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Kwanzaa to all those who celebrate. May you be blessed and remember that you are somebody. I know I am.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.