2020 has challenged us all in unique ways, but I have encountered a rather personal challenge that has left me feeling a great loss: I feel like I don’t stutter anymore.
The types of situations where I stutter most involve talking to people I don’t know well or where communication feels rushed. At work, that might be talking to a parent or an administrator. In public it might involve ordering at a restaurant or asking where to find an item at a grocery store.
Because of a clotting disorder that puts me at high risk for complications if I were to contract Covid, I infrequently leave my home. I talk almost exclusively to my husband, pets, or on the phone with my daughter who is away at college. My work involves mostly being in zoom breakout rooms with only a few young students I know well. I use an app to order groceries for curbside pickup. The only time I leave my house is to walk my dogs. I don’t go to restaurants or places where I might have to talk to someone. Social distancing and mask-wearing make it easy to not talk to neighbors or people out on the street. So in other words, I encounter little to no situations where I might stutter.
Stuttering activism has also taken a back seat to other more pressing issues: racial justice, the election, and surviving through a global pandemic. When I look at my social media feeds, they’re predominantly filled with politics, even on stuttering awareness day– which I, sadly, didn’t even mark.
The saddest part is that I feel like I’ve lost touch with the stuttering community. This has left a gaping hole in my life. This year there were no conferences or support group meetings. Some meetings are held virtually, but I can’t face more zoom calls after working that way all day. I might even say I feel am no longer worthy of the community. Can someone who rarely stutters call themselves a stutterer?
Fortunately, this pandemic is not going to last forever. I will eventually leave my house and will inevitably start stuttering again. In the meantime, I have begun some baby steps in getting back to the place where I was before the pandemic. I have joined a stuttering positive reading group hosted by Patrick Campbell and Josh St. Pierre. I have also committed to writing more blog posts in the next few months. I’m even considering adding some voluntary stuttering into my everyday life. Hopefully, when this is all over, I can reconnect with the community and spend some time sharing about the past year. I’m sure others have had unique experiences as well.