Maybe the Fact That I Stutter Doesn't Matter
BY IDAYAT JINADU
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.