I started this blog with the idea of writing about my experiences as a teacher who stutters and someone who is trying to grow comfortable with that set of labels. But since it’s still summer vacation, this first post will be about something slightly different.
Last night I went to see one of my favorite bands play at an outdoor music festival my town holds every year. I always look forward to it and was excited to go with my brother, who happened to be visiting from California, as well as my husband. We walked despite the 98 degree heat and stood in the crowd waiting for the band to begin. It was hot and loud and exciting. In order to talk to my brother and husband I had to speak very loudly. Of course I stuttered, because that’s what I do. I noticed immediately several heads turn to look at me. This happened more than once and made me uncomfortable but I was having a great time, so I chose not to let it get to me.
That is until later, when I was lying sleepless and buzzy in bed. That’s when my mind returned to the experience. At first I assumed the feelings I’d had were shame or self loathing; these are very familiar to me and stem from a childhood of being asked to read out loud in class and getting teased on the playground. But the more I thought, the more that didn’t feel precise. Then I thought maybe I was just angry; perhaps not at myself, but at those people who felt the need to look at me. But I didn’t really feel mad either. What I finally settled on was vulnerable. I’m not sure that’s actually an emotion, but it’s often how I feel when I draw attention to myself by stuttering. I just feel exposed and under examination.
It’s a luxury to have a difference that you can choose to reveal or not, but it becomes a burden as well. If you inadvertently reveal your vulnerability you can get caught off guard and feel a loss of control. And if you are too selective with how much or often you choose to reveal, then you can get caught up in the trap of privilege. There is privilege that comes with keeping your vulnerabilities hidden, then when you are exposed, those privileges get suddenly ripped away. So that’s what I was feeling: that nakedness of losing my veil of privilege.
I don’t know exactly what to do with this new insight. I do know that I want to begin living more transparently and honestly. I want to stop trying to control everything and let go of the need to have privilege. I want to learn to love what makes me unique. So maybe acknowledging that this is what I feel in those situations is the first step in getting there.
Perhaps I’ll write about it further.
This is a great Ted a Talk in vulnerability I came across while reading what others had written: