Maybe the Fact That I Stutter Doesn't Matter
On radical self-love and pushing through the fear of public speaking
BY IDAYAT JINADU
"I should not let myself drown because of this heavy baggage. After all, it was imparted to me by people who have no idea they hurt me at a point in their lives."
BY IDAYAT JINADU
21 April 2023
It is 2012 and I am in a classroom full of thirty pupils. My teacher asks who would like to come to the front of the class and read out loud. I eagerly raise my hand. To be chosen is an honour, and I want it. My seatmate nudges me, urging me to put my hand down, but I ignore her. When the teacher calls my name, I am excited. Standing in front of my peers, I start reading. The words come in a pattern that is my nature and I am not worried. After all, the words are coming out eventually, and my classmates can hear them. But my teacher cuts me off in the middle of a sentence, sends me back to my seat, and appoints someone else. As I walk back to my seat with my head hung low, my seatmate says: “I told you not to raise your hand, you know you stutter.” It now occurs to me she had wanted to spare me the embarrassment.
I remember that day vividly - yet it wasn’t an isolated incident. In a different classroom, a teacher shut me off as I was answering his question, and asked why I sounded like a generator.
When I was 5 years old, I wanted to become a lawyer. But at the age of 12, I doubted my abilities, because I was scared and nervous. What if I embarrassed myself in front of the judge? What if no one would want to hire a stuttering lawyer?
In recent years, as I stood in my living room trying to tell a relative some story, they cut me off: “You shouldn't be stuttering at your age.” What they might not know is that I have tried, a lot. I have taken acting classes, and even went to auditions, but didn't get them because “actors don't stutter”.
A few weeks ago, while studying for my Master's degree, I was asked to be the welfare director of my department. I loved the idea, but it also frightened me. What if I stuttered and these new acquaintances realised I was not capable ? What if they booed me off the stage?
I still decided to try it out.
The day I had to read the manifesto in front of everyone, I repeatedly swallowed before speaking. I carried on, and answered questions. They listened. When I was through, the audience clapped for me and I shed some tears. Then came a sudden realisation: Maybe the fact that I stutter doesn't matter. I should not let myself drown because of this heavy baggage. After all, it was imparted to me by people who have no idea they hurt me at a point in their lives.
I won the election and I was given a certificate of honour. I told myself my classmates didn't see the imaginary mark on my forehead, the stigma no one wanted to be associated with. They only saw me and what I was capable of, and I owed it to myself to not allow the ghosts from my past disrupt my present.
Yes, I stutter. But I feel better about myself, and I’m taking on new challenges. I said yes to being a tutor even though it is nerve-wracking to share this side of me with people. I even started a YouTube channel last week, after several attempts in the past few years. In those days, I would shoot the first episode, hear myself stutter, then delete it. I wasn't grounded in myself enough to know that I had a voice. Whatever it was that I wanted to say, deserved to be said - no matter the way. There were some people out there who would want to listen. I stutter in all my videos, and I don't care.
Radical self-love has made me see myself from a different perspective; from another angle. I can accomplish great things, and it’s my duty to keep going. I will make myself heard.