Fine, thanks.

It’s been a while. Not since I stuttered, of course. But a few things have been happening, and I’m still struggling with this blog, a direction, and everything else going on.

Someone came to my desk the other day and asked me how I was doing. It was one of those “good morning” kind of greetings. The one where you’re just sort of expected to say, “good, how are you?” and get on with it. But after I told him I was “fantastic,” he said, “your face tells a different story.” I made a joke about how “dammit, it’s not working any more,” and we moved on. But it really got me to thinking about these quickie exchanges that we have all the time in offices.

I’ve never been one to give a long, detailed answer to “how are you doing,” when it comes from a coworker. That’s not what they want. That’s not the protocol. But then there’s a spectrum of colleague — from person you don’t know at all to person you’d consider a close friend. Although how does someone you don’t know become a friend? Or even get closer? Through these kinds of interactions? I’m wondering if I’ve been subconsciously keeping people at bay because I want to keep the numbers small, or if I just don’t want to talk to them because I know I’ll stutter.

I think there’s a lot of pressure in those small exchanges, too. It’s a fast, straight-forward query. Same as when someone asks you your name. You’re expected to give a quick answer. If you’re not doing well, then yeah, maybe a long sigh and a “well, it could be better,” is fine. Followed by a laugh, because well, let’s not get into why. This is why I always say “yeah, good,” or whatever I can feel is going to be fluent. I never thought to get my facial expression in line as well.

So what’s the path forward on this? Should I slowly give longer and longer answers? Feel out how much time we have to talk? How much I can get out of them as well? I’ve gotten really good at asking other people questions (even though they start with “w,” and I usually stutter on it). At least for me when I get to know people better, my stuttering decreases because my comfort level rises. (not always, but often).

Minding the Gap

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gap. There’s that space for all of us who stutter — between who we are now and who we think we should be. It covers everything — our job, our spouse, our friends, our relationships, our outlook on life. There’s a gap to be found in them all. How would life be different if I didn’t stutter? If I had been more confident during that interview for the job I didn’t get? If I had asked about a different neighborhood or apartment when I moved into a new town? If I had spoken with my guidance counselor or friends of parents about career choices?

Even people who don’t stutter have these gaps as well. They’re constantly comparing themselves to this that or the other.

Career-wise, I’ve been very good about not ever doing this. It wasn’t terribly hard. My friends who I grew up with basically didn’t have the same college degree as me, nor did they have the same kind of job. They didn’t have the same upbringing, and didn’t have the same goals. We are different, and that’s fine.

But things always change. You find out someone at work is the same age as you, someone who is more charismatic, outgoing, talkative, and ambitious. And you start to wonder. You think that you’ve got all the same tools, all the same opportunities. The same amount of experiences in similar projects, and are now in the same office. So you start to wonder. Is he slightly ahead of me because I’m not more outgoing? Because he can talk a good game? Because people find it easier to talk to him?

This has thrown me off lately because it’s entirely new. I’m trying to handle it by breaking it down into smaller pieces and rationalizing my way out of it. Asking myself, well, sure we’re here in Saudi, and it’s easy for him, but I want to move back to the States sooner than later. And maybe doing the sales thing instead of engineering isn’t really my thing. Maybe a technical job again would be nice.

And even bigger than all of that is how much importance I’ve placed on work. Is that really necessary? Sure, there’s going up and doing a good job and all that, but there’s also extracurriculars to focus on — like this blog, more writing, and doing more stuttering-related things when I get back. It’s all been helping. The gap is getting smaller. I’m going back to, his goals are different than mine. We want different things out of life.

Rearranging things …

Regular followers will note some changes. I thought I should make it a little easier to navigate and find older posts. I also like that I can see what’s going on with other stuttering bloggers. I updated the About and FAQs slightly. If you have anything that could be added to the FAQs, by all means, let me know. Over the next few days I’ll also be going through the Resources page and adding another page of old blogs that aren’t update any more but still have interesting content on them.

As for stuttering itself, I suppose I’d like to revisit my Thanksgiving post and what I’m thankful for. After being at a new job for just over a month, I’m thankful for working in a very professional environment with respectful people who have never mocked me for my stuttering. I’ve been in quite a few meetings with people I don’t know — in person and on the phone. And they’ve all been patient and understanding.

Stuttering and Searching

Things are going well here regarding the move within the Kingdom. Making progress, but it’s been a little rough, speech-wise.

What happens is that my company gives me a list of compounds with phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Some work, some don’t.

So what I’m left doing is driving to the compounds. This involves pulling up to the gate, and then … opening my mouth. And explaining what I need. It’s simple, really. To talk to the manager. Is he here? I need to ask about housing availability.

Yeah. Lots of words. To someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language. And from the inside of a car that’s several feet away from the gate. And sometimes there’s a random person standing nearby watching this all happen. And sometimes there’s a car behind me, itching to get in. Plenty of fun stresses to add up.

Since I drove around on a Saturday (weekends are Fri-Sat here) some managers were in, most were out. So I got a bunch of phone numbers to call (mobile numbers … more fun). I did talk to a few managers (or their lackeys) in person. Most of them said, no, we’re full right now. Thanks!

But I’m pushing through. Just sucking it up, stuttering, stammering, bumbling, stumbling, getting numbers and looking for things to follow up with. I’ve got a good lead on something now, so hopefully it’ll work out, and this part will be done.

Fortunately I’ve been able to do this solo — the family is out of Kingdom. I can’t imagine how much more stressful it’d be with a car full of kids …

Unfocused on Stuttering

Alright, just a quick hello today — still alive, and still stuttering of course. I’ve gone across Saudi to my company’s home office to talk to some people about my next assignment. Since I know some people in the office already (from several years ago) they took me around and introduced me to others — so I didn’t have the stress of having to say my name at least.

After that, it’s a quick rundown of what I was doing and what I’m looking to be doing in the near future. And the meetings are usually really, really quick, less than a minute or two. Just a quick drive-by. Which is fine at this point. I had some longer discussions that I’m still waiting to hear the results on.

One fun stuttering bit that happened was here in the hotel. I needed an ironing board and iron. They weren’t provided in the room. But I looked through the guest handbook thingy, and it says you can call a number (housekeeping) and ask for it.

So … I have to … use a phone. To say the word … iron. And ironing board. And I have to do this. Gotta look good for the office visits!

So I took a nice deep breath and tried to think past my stutter, tried to ignore the word, tried not to think about how I was going to stutter. I thought about already saying the word, no problem, no problem, no problem.

Them: Hello, housekeeping.
Me: Ah, yes, hi, I need an iron and ironing board.

No stuttering! Success! Sweetness.

Them: What room are you in?
Me: !@#$!^%&%%!!!!

Are you kidding me?! I thought you knew this. I thought hotels had this part covered. Always. It’s a simple contract — I pick up the phone, you know it’s me. Here, apparently, not so much.

So yeah, I stuttered out the room number.

I’m still calling it a win. I mean, it would have been a win at another hotel, probably.

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.

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