Thankful for Stuttering – Part 1

I’m thankful for:

The barista who stands there patiently with their sharpie while I force out my name
The passport agent who sits there quietly while I force out ‘dates’ as hard as possible
My parents who never said anything negative about my stuttering or that I had to sort it out or be a failure
My friends who never laughed at my stutter
My coworkers who wait while I explain something during a meeting and stumble through it
The person on the other side of the phone who hangs on the line while I stutter out my address
The cashier who doesn’t roll their eyes while I stutter out my phone number
The new people who I meet in the Kingdom at lunch who’ve never commented on my stutter

I could go on.

I’m thankful for all of these people because they show me that stuttering isn’t going to kill me. If I want to talk to someone, I’ll get through it. I’ll make more positive associations with talking than negative ones. I’ll learn that 99 out of 100 people are patient, loving and kind when it comes to listening. And that one person out of a hundred isn’t going to bring down my moment, my afternoon, or my day.

Stuttering and My Job

Alright, so here’s the last thing to say about jobs and stuttering (for the moment).

I talked about what my own situation is — and whether I’m one to even talk about these things.

Thirdly, am I one to talk? I will readily admit that my stutter probably pushed me into engineering. Maybe not fully, but it had something to do with it. Well, the thing is, I didn’t just sit and stay in the first job that I had. I saw my boss and his job. I saw how much he talked, and how he carried himself with others and in meetings. And despite the fact that I didn’t think that would be possible, I kept working at it anyway.

The question is, if I had to do it all over again knowing more about stuttering, getting help and being more open, would I have made the same choices? I don’t know. Engineering isn’t too bad. I don’t think I knew enough about it to think that, ‘hey, here’s a great job where I can sit in a cubicle for 40 years and never have to talk to anybody.’

I think maybe some of the changes I would have made (if engineering was locked in as a major) would be regards to job-searching and networking. What were my peers doing? Could someone tell me what I’m supposed to be doing at a job fair? Drop off my resume, or … talk?

But again, it’s hard to say — I graduated 30 days before 9/11. The job market got a little soft, and there was a lot of uncertainty. So having a family contact for my first job was probably the only answer.

Was ignorance maybe better? What if I had someone who knew more about certain jobs? And then assume that I had the courage to ask them about speaking and stuttering in those jobs. Wouldn’t that have scared me off? Would I have known to seek alternate opinions?

The other thing of course is that everybody’s stutter is different. I usually don’t stutter on every single word, but hey, it’s happened. If I’m talking to familiar people it’s not too bad. If I have to make a presentation, it’s hit and miss. So many variables.

Afraid of speaking on the job. Before getting the job.

Going back to last week’s posts on jobs. In my second paragraph, I talked about well, fear. Fear of having to say something, having to present something.

As many people have said, fear cannot run your life. It’s definitely a lot more prevalent if you stutter, but it’s gotta be controlled.

If you see someone doing your dream job, and you see them (for just an hour, or a day, or a week) and they’re talking way more than you think you could, then you still need to ask more questions. What about all of the other time? What are they actually doing?

Being afraid of a job because you might have to do a presentation once a year is an irrational thought. It’s the same thinking that goes into why people buy bigger houses than they need — well, maybe someone might visit us once a year for a week. So we need that extra bedroom!

No you don’t.

Here’s a crazy thought. What if the person who you see doing your dream job is a covert stutterer? Or someone with other speech difficulties? Someone who worked a lot at speaking and then gained the confidence to present and carry on at work?

I’m not saying that you have to be covert to be successful. Of course not. But you can practice, practice, practice. You can get more comfortable with your coworkers. You can advertise to them that you stutter (on your own terms and on your own timeline) which may take some of the edge off.

I’m telling you that you can’t do that job.

I talked the other day about jobs and stuttering. Let me go through it again, but in more detail. I’ll start with the first point today and do the others tomorrow.

What I said was that there are going to be people who will hate on your future job dreams.

So basically, here is what they’re telling you:

1. They know every single verbal interaction you will have.
2. They know that you will fail at every single one of those interactions.
3. They know every single person who has that job that you want, across the country, and around the world.
4. All those people who they know do the exact same thing in the exact same way, and you won’t be able to do that.

So again, seriously? You’re going to buy that?

You’re going to believe that an engineer working at an auto factory has the same verbal demands as an engineer working on a job site in Texas? That an IT professional at a small company is doing the same things as someone at a Fortune 500 company? Just because you’ve spent 12 years in school observing your teachers, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to teach. Every coach isn’t always yelling and explaining. Managers don’t always have to give presentations. Every lawyer isn’t arguing in court.

Nobody’s an expert on every single job in the country. Nobody knows that much about what your daily demands are going to be. So don’t let anybody tell you that they do. You have to find out for yourself. You have to reach out and do some research.

And what if you do some research and find out that the verbal demands are really tough? Well, then you have to prepare yourself. You have to do the work. How badly do you want it? If you’ve prepared yourself academically (and possibly physically) why not verbally? Do the best you can at it, and if you have to do some advertising and get help early in the job, so be it. But build up your confidence. Build up your network. Make people comfortable with your stuttering.

Remember that those haters are like the voice in your head. Every day, you have a verbal interaction. And every time, you say to yourself, I can’t do this. I will avoid doing this. I don’t have to do this. The little person in your head — the hater — he wins. But what happens when you do talk, and you do stutter, and you do succeed? You’ve proven to yourself you can win and shown the hater that he’s wrong.

Some Stuttering Jobs

Recently on the Stuttering Community Facebook page, Amy asked what jobs everybody has. Remember that all of these people stutter. Here are the jobs and/or places where people work. So what’s your excuse now?

Call center, machinist, SLP, engineer, grocery store stocker, receptionist, doctor, paramedic, firefighter, journalist, professor, restaurant manager, IT, chef, electrical engineer, project manager (that’s me!), police officer, sports writer, accountant, nurse, priest, teacher, woodworker, lawyer, ultrasound tech, data scientist, graphic designer, HR, heavy equipment operator, web developer, care giver, soldier, salesman, and counselor.

Stuttering and your future job

I wanted to comment on something I’ve been seeing lately on Facebook groups and Reddit — young people who stutter worrying about what sort of job they might have since they stutter. I remember a few posts that said the person who stutters talked to someone in their profession or industry, and they said, no, you won’t be able to do this. You have to be able to talk.

This is all a bunch of crap.

Let me go through this in three parts. I want to just put forth some main ideas on this.

Firstly, hearing one person hate on your future job prospects is like having one person telling you that you can’t lose weight. Think about it. They’ll tell you how they’ve tried everything, it’s genetic, just don’t worry about it, just live with it. Seriously? And you can’t find ten other people who have lost 50 lbs and are more than happy to tell you how to change your life to do the same thing? You can communicate with anybody now through the Internet. You can ask to talk to someone who has your future job. You can reach out to many of them, and you’ll find someone who can help guide you through the process.

Secondly, if you’re looking at what a future job entails and then just giving up because you think — think — that you can’t do the speaking involved, then you’ve already failed. You’ve said to yourself that you’ve tried everything — various speech therapists, group therapy, self therapy, daily practice of techniques and things like Toastmasters. So, again, really? You’ve tried all that. You’ve done all the work, and you’re still going to give up? You’ve worked hard to change negative connotations of your stuttering into positive ones, and a dream job is still not going to happen?

Thirdly, am I one to talk? I will readily admit that my stutter probably pushed me into engineering. Maybe not fully, but it had something to do with it. Well, the thing is, I didn’t just sit and stay in the first job that I had. I saw my boss and his job. I saw how much he talked, and how he carried himself with others and in meetings. And despite the fact that I didn’t think that would be possible, I kept working at it anyway. I’ve moved up. I’ve freaked out, I’ve practiced, I’ve had good days and bad. But I’m still going forward, and I’m still being scared at what the future might hold. But I’m better prepared.

What I’m Stuttering on Lately – A Trip Home

So I’m back stateside now after traveling over from the Kingdom. As with any change to my routine, there’s more stuttering. I’m out of my comfort zone more, so the anxiety is up.

Here’s what I’ve been stuttering on lately:

Before the trip –

I noticed that most of the stories that a married man with kids tells either have to do with, “I was out the other day,” or “my kids are crazy, the other day they …” or “my wife was telling me …”

The first two aren’t that bad. But that ‘w’ on wife as well as my wife’s name have been difficult lately. (Note that most of this happens at lunch when I’m talking to native English speakers). So sometimes what my wife has gone through or told me about gets told. Oftentimes … not so much.

During the trip –

I was traveling to Washington, DC. Another ‘w’ word. So at the checkin counter, I got hung up on this. With some people you can chicken out and say “DC” but that doesn’t always work. What was annoying is that from our small town, I could only fly to Jeddah (by which I mean I could only have my bags checked through to Jeddah). So I stuttered and stumbled on ‘Washington,’ when all I had to say was ‘Jeddah.’ Which is easier.

When I got to Jeddah, I had an 8-hour layover. So I decided to get a cab and go to Shake Shack (duh). Well, the driver was a Saudi and didn’t know any English. But I said the name of the street (Tahlia, and I can say that) a few times, and finally he understood. I had to point as we got closer, but that wasn’t too bad.

The Shake Shack ordering went well; I usually do the “menu assist” stuttering technique. You know, say it as you point to it on the menu. So that was fine. Next to the Shack was Starbucks (remember, I’m trying to kill a lot of time here).

Ah, the Starbucks. There’s my usual order of a medium non-fat, no-whip mocha. No cream. A stutterer’s delight half the time. But lo, what was this? They actually had seasonal offerings in the desert?

Now, I promise you that I ordered the gingerbread latte because it was the season. Not because I knew I’d stutter on ‘mocha.’ Besides, I still had to stay ‘without cream,’ or ‘no cream.’ I spelled my name for them after trying to say it. That wasn’t too bad. Please also keep in mind in that our small town we don’t have a Starbucks, so any trip there is a treat for me. As are the seasonal offerings.

Then I had to get a cab back to the airport. This was fun as well. I don’t know how to say airport, but I kept on saying “Saudia” over and over again and making the hand flying up into the sky motion. The driver got it. He could speak some broken English, and I used a few of my Arabic words. Our small town starts with a “Y,” and that was difficult to get out. But the cabbie didn’t laugh or give me a weird look. Maybe he thought I was just speaking a second language, so … it’s not easy.

No problem checking in — all the counters are for the Washington flight only. So just hand the passport, ask if the flight is full (no, not at all, you’ll have room to stretch out) and be on my way. At the passport desk they don’t ask you anything on the way out.

Flight was uneventful. I’m tall and can never sleep soundly on airplanes. But I got some rest of the 13-hour deal …

Into DC … and hurrying to get to passport control.

Wait, let me back up.

When I Jeddah, I discovered that I didn’t have a pen. And I knew that I needed to fill out the customs card in DC with a pen. And I knew searching around (or asking) for one would be annoying and tricky. So I sought out a cheap pen to buy. Done. On the airplane I dutifully filled out the card and wrote, by the ‘declaring fruits’ section that I bought in DATES. Because I knew they’d ask, and I knew they’d write it down as well.

So of course when I get near passport control, I find that they have the electronic kiosks. You scan your passport, answer the questions, and it spits out a paper. No pen necessary.

Then I’m waiting for the officer, things are relaxed, not a lot of people, I’m not doing anything wrong, I have my passport, I’m taking a deep breath, I’m trying not to think of the questions they’ll ask. I tell myself that I will advertise my stutter if I’m bumbling over everything.

I get called up. “What fruits are you bringing in?”

Ddd-

Dd-

D-

Push harder. It’s almost here.

“Dates.”

“Oh, ok. Dates are good. Welcome home.”

And that was it!

A trip home

Just a quick post today. I’m traveling over the next two days, and then we’ve got the weekend. So I should be back at posting come Monday. I’ll have What I’m Stuttering on Lately along with a Link Roundup early next week. Since I’m traveling, I’m tempted to try to advertise my stutter to the passport control officer when it comes time. I dunno. I’ll see how I’m feeling after the flight. And since I’m traveling, it means another Starbucks interaction … or two. Or three. And since I’m going Stateside, I’ll try to order a burrito as well. (I just took a deep breath thinking about that …)

Over the next two weeks I’m going to have time to go through the site and update sections that are pretty old (6 months!). I also want to try to get the logo on there in a better way — the one that I use on Twitter.

I’m pretty sure I made a list of things I wanted to do on this site by the end of the calendar year. Need to reread that …

Have a good weekend and stutter on.

Not Stuttering … now what?!

So I picked up my new bike the other day here in the Kingdom. It’s a Canyon — I ordered it online, and ten days later it showed up. I know the right thing to do is to go to a bike shop and give them my business — but we don’t have them here in the Kingdom. And besides, after the bike fitting, I found out that the Canyons would be a really good fit.

Anyway, the way things work here in Kingdom is that if you have a package going to UPS (or FedEx or DHL) — at least in our small town — you have to go to the carrier’s office to pick it up. They have daytime hours only. Sometimes on weekends. And if you’re tracking your package online, it may or may not say exactly where it is. For instance, it said mine was still in Jeddah — and we’re three hours from there.

So I got to the UPS office in the morning after getting a call from them (that’s the other thing — you have to put your phone number on the shipping address) and there wasn’t anybody there except for the UPS employee. I saw my bike — they just leave the packages out and about.

I went up to the guy and said my name using the more Arabic pronunciation — which I don’t stutter on as much. He said, “yeah, I know.” Ooookay. I guess he either recognized my voice or …? I’m here to pick up my bike. Yeah, ok, there’s a customs fee. I paid the fee and complimented him on how perfect his English was. He said he had lived in the States for more than a decade … and …

…And what was beginning to happen? I told him I grew up in Pennsylvania, had been in Saudi for about four years. I wasn’t stuttering. I was comfortable. There wasn’t anybody else in the office breathing down my neck. I was happy my bike had made it. I was making successful small talk! What should I do? How friendly am I supposed to be? Should I take advantage of these non-stuttering moments? I didn’t want it to be awkward. He didn’t need to know my life story. But I felt I could tell it all right then and there!

Stuff like this happens to me once in a while. But I usually catch myself pretty quickly. You’re talking pretty fast … you’re talking a lot … they’re not looking as interested … move along …

Does this ever happen to anybody else? You just kind of zone out for a few moments and everything is right with the world again? Do you find yourself happily babbling away?

I guess this is what keeps me from advertising. These moments of fluency happen, and I think, well, see, I didn’t advertise, and everything is just fine.

Stuttering and the Dentist

I talked the other day about Stuttering and the doctor, and something else occurred to me — that’s assuming you’re even seeing the doctor.

I was at the dentist’s office the other day getting my teeth cleaned. The last time I had this done was a little over two years ago. Yes, I know, that’s terrible.

But then, is the reason why because I stutter? Because I didn’t want to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment? Which I didn’t do anyway — I actually went to the office to schedule the appointment. But there again, the need to talk to someone, to say “I need a teeth cleaning.” And knowing I’d probably stutter on the “teeth” and the “cleaning.”

After a while, of course, you do just sort of suck it up, I suppose. After looking at your teeth in the mirror long enough, you say, “well, I think there’s enough nasty stuck in between them that I’ll have to go, stuttering-be-damned.”

And yes, there are fluent people reading this going, “are you serious? You aren’t going to go in for a routine, paid-by-insurance visit to the doctor because you’re afraid of calling to make an appointment?”

Yep.

The whole idea of a teeth cleaning is preventive medicine. That you take care of them before a problem arises that’s much bigger and potentially more painful. And costly.

So I wondered how many people aren’t going to the doctor or dentist because of their stuttering. Because they have to call to make an appointment. Because they don’t want to express what’s wrong over the phone. Or because they think they’ve got it covered on their own. It’s no big deal.

One thing I’ve heard people doing is taking a sick day to go into the doctor/dentist for a preventive checkup. Is that allowed? I think so. Do I have to call HR to find out? Yes. Do I want to pick up the phone and call someone when I could just not go instead?

Of course because of my avoidance of the dentist, my teeth have suffered. That was many years ago though. I’ve been getting better. But yes, I’ve got a few cavities. Yes, I’ve had a root canal. Is it all because of stuttering? Well, probably not. But it certainly hasn’t helped.

%d bloggers like this: