Keep Holding On (A Post-Conference Reflection)

August 21, 2010  |  Posted in: Members' Blog - Stuttering Perspectives   |  By:   |   0 Comments

It’s not every day we stutterers get to surround ourselves with others just like us. It’s not everyday we don’t have to worry about having a block or making a funny face. This past week I had the opportunity to attend my first NSA conference in Cleveland, Ohio where for the first time in a long time I was not the outsider, or the only disfluent person in the room. I could have never imagined while sitting in the airport on Wednesday morning I would walk away from the conference with a new understanding and acceptance of stuttering and the friendship of some of the most remarkable people I have ever met-but I did and I could not be happier. I find great comfort in knowing that when I’m having a “good” stuttering day, there are other people out there experiencing the same emotions and anxiety as I am.

The workshops and events I attended really showed me that I am not alone-in fact we are all in this together. Here’s a question for you-what do you think of when you hear the phrase “Advertising your Stuttering?” My first thought was ways to tell people in your life or those you may not know that you stutter. Turns out I was right! What I wasn’t expecting was to have to advertise my stuttering to strangers-at the mall during the workshop. Now you can imagine all of us sitting there thinking stuttering is the one thing we don’t have to worry about during the conference and being told we have to tell random people that we stutter doesn’t exactly paint a fluent picture does it? I then reminded myself that everyone in the room was most likely experiencing what I was- sweaty palms, a racing heart, and a hundred images of how this exercise could turn out terribly wrong. I’m glad to say that in the end I completed the task and I spoke to 5 complete strangers about my stuttering, all of who were very supportive. Before that workshop, I never thought of advertising my stuttering in such a way so here is my challenge for you my fellow stutterers-are YOU brave enough to advertise your stuttering? Bring a friend or a family member with you to a public place and approach a stranger. Tell them you stutter and ask them if you can ask them a few questions about stuttering… 1) Do you know anyone who stutters? 2) What do you think causes stuttering? and 3) How do you feel when talking to a person who stutters? A word of advice is that there will be people who don’t have the time or don’t understand but just remember that’s ok and think of all of those people who do. I promise that after this activity, you will feel liberated and more proud of yourself and accepting of your stuttering. If you are reading this and are thinking, “No way, I can’t do that!” it’s ok. Everyone has different ways of handling their stuttering so maybe not today or tomorrow but maybe sometime in the future you’ll want to and to that I say “Good for you!”

The conference had great workshops, programs such as the “20 somethings” and social events where we got to meet other people and share our personal experiences about stuttering. On the second to last day of the conference I had the amazing opportunity to be featured on a podcast for I had never taken part in a podcast before but now I can’t wait to do another one. 5 of us got to talk about the conference and our ways of dealing with being a person who stutters. It was truly one of the highlights of the conference for me. I was able to share my views and experiences with others while meeting a few inspirational, terrific people. The podcast will be featured on in the next few weeks so check the website if you’re interested in listening to it.

I can honestly say that the conference changed my everyday encounter with stuttering. I have amazing new friends, a new understanding of the phrase “You are not alone” and a passion to advertise my stuttering to anyone who will take the time out to listen. The more people who know about stuttering, the less awkward we will feel and the more accepted we will be and isn’t that what we strive for everyday?

Over the course of the conference, I met many incredible people but I had an instant connection with two very special people. When I met Amy N. from Ohio the first night of the conference I knew she was special. We instantly hit it off and I know we will be lifelong friends. Amy said that “Going into the conference as a first timer, I was skeptical about what I would get out of it and whether or not I would have that “life-changing experience” that everyone says I would if I attended. The first day I was nervous because I hadn’t felt that feeling of “oh I’m so happy I came here,” but as the days went on, I knew I was going through the life-changing experience. Being able to stutter and being expected to stutter were the best feelings I have had in my entire life. I was able to express my ideas and my personal experiences to everyone without feeling the need to hold back what I really wanted to say. The NSA conference was one that I will never forget because of the discussions, people, and understanding of those individuals who also struggle with stuttering. It really was the life-changing experience that I had hoped for.”

Another inspiring stutterer that I met was Cameron F. from Michigan. Cameron and I had the amazing opportunity to be on the podcast together. It is not everyday you get to meet someone you can relate to so well. Cameron said that, “The three days I spent in Cleveland during the NSA Conference changed my life. There is no other way to put it and it very well may be a severe understatement. I was given the opportunity to meet the strongest, most inspirational people I have ever met. People came from all walks of life, uniting for one cause while celebrating the trait that connected us all, stuttering. I came to the NSA conference as a person who stutters and I left as person who is proud to stutter. I owe my experience to the NSA conference and to all of the incredible people I met there. They allowed me to regain the happiness and confidence I had in my stuttering that I lost somewhere along the way. No longer do I want to hide the fact that I stutter, but I want people to know how great my stuttering is and envy the fact that I am now part of such an incredible family.” As you can see, these are just two of the inspiring, amazing people that I met at the conference.

For all of you who have not attended a conference, I STRONGLY encourage you to meet us in Texas next year!!! I promise it will be one of the most life changing experiences of your life. I never realized how comfortable I am talking about my stuttering until I attended the conference and I can’t wait to talk and educate my friends and family about what I learned. My mom has always said a stutterer is a very special, gifted person and I believe that now more than ever! To all of my friends, family and fellow stutterers out there, I leave you with these words because these words define who I am and what I wish for all of you.

“You’re not alone, together we stand, I’ll be by your side you know I’ll take your hand. When it gets cold and it feels like the end, there’s no place to go you know I won’t give in…Keep holding on cause you know we’ll make it through, just stay strong cause you know I’m here for you. There’s nothing you can say, nothing you can do, there’s no other way when it comes to the truth so keep holding on cause you know we’ll make it through.”

Don’t be afraid to be a Fruitloop in a world of Cherrios. Stay strong and Stutter Beautifully.

– Nina Z.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Blog section of the NSA Queens Chapter website do not necessarily concur with the views or beliefs of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) or the Queens Chapter of the NSA. They are the opinion of each individual contributing author who attends the Queens chapter.

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