I have something to say and I want to be heard.
I want to be understood. I want to express myself. That’s been the struggle of my life as an introvert and a stutterer.
I don’t remember not stuttering. I remember starting speech therapy in elementary school. I remember being teased for it. I remember wanting to give an answer in class or read a passage from the textbook, then regretting it as soon as I stuttered the first time. Then the second. And on and on. Being asked to speak in front of class was its own special hell.
Because speaking is such a struggle, it enhanced my introversion. I learned to think things out before I opened my mouth. It was my outlet and my way to process what was happening. Do I really want to say that? What are my thoughts? What is the bottom line? Is what I have to say worth the struggle to get say it?
In my junior year of high school, I signed up for a journalism class because it looked like fun. The discovery that I could write, and the journalism teacher saying that I wrote well–this was all the encouragement I needed.
My last experience with speech therapy was during my senior year of college. After a conversation with the program director, I realized I’d done as much as I wanted. I knew I’d always stutter. I owned it that day. I stutter. So be it. People will have to learn to deal with it.
Now I’m a journalist covering government, which ended up being a good job for an introvert. Court offers time to sit in the back of the room, observe, and come up with serious follow-up questions after everything wraps up. Driving between the office and interviews provides time to process new information and think about the story I will write.
The hardest part is still introducing myself to people. One of the most difficult things for a stutterer to say is his own name. I still dread picking up the phone to call someone who has no idea who I am and how I speak. It has not always gone well. People have hung up on me. Some didn’t think I could truly understand their situation to report it properly. But many of the regular people on my beats became trusted sources, and they, in turn, trusted me. They knew I wasn’t out for dirt or to burn them in an expose. They knew I would be straight and accurate in my reporting. I just wanted to tell the best story I could.
Many times after a day of talking with people and playing extrovert, I go home, shut the door and crash on the couch to recover for the next day. Knowing that I have a story to tell makes all of the hurdles worthwhile.