I had a terrible stuttering problem, I was about 5 or 6 when I realized. It’s already hard enough being a kid and having to learn new things. I had to do it while trying to learn how to speak correctly also. I tried everything I could to shake the stutter and nothing worked at first but through life’s experiences and with the help of friends and family throughout the process I overcame the stuttering. Although the introverted part of me and low self confidence would still be very much present In my young adult life, I eventually broke through that shell also thanks to a manager I had at a former company I had worked for.
I had a normal childhood, I grew up playing outside with friends and siblings. I wanted all the cool new toys and watched cartoons on weekend mornings waiting oh so patiently for the bacon and chilaquiles to be ready while the delicious smell permeated the room. I even won a couple certificates mostly for outstanding achievement and honor roll and won a writing contest on a paper I did on John F Kennedy in the 5th grade. I received first place in the entire district, that was a very proud moment for me. Although I excelled in many aspects of my life, there was always something that hung in the back of my mind.
As I previously mentioned I was about 5 or 6 years old when I realized I had a speech impairment, for me it was a terrible problem but my parents always encouraged me to think otherwise. What a normal person would take to say a sentence took me double the time sometimes even triple the time. Every word was a constant battle, I had to sound it out in my head way before I even spoke. I basically had to pull each letter from my vocal cords.
My siblings were protective of me and looked after me. But as much as they looked after me they would tease me also and my stuttering problems were not off limits to them. I’m sure they didn’t mean to make me feel bad, they did not understand what I felt and for the most part I don’t blame them they were kids themselves at the time. I remember the moments when I would be in the middle of telling them a story and they would get so impatient with me that I couldn’t speak that they would just walk away. I guess everyone though it would be something I would grow out of so we wouldn’t really ponder on the subject. Although they were right and I eventually did in my late teen years the fear of embarrassment or getting stuck on a word always lingered.
So, I avoided speaking and participating in class for most of my school years. I stayed away from new conversations and never spoke my mind, I became introverted. By 18 the stuttering seized but when I was nervous or intimidated the stutter would return briefly and I would just lock up. All my wonderful thoughts and opinions would be left in the back of my mind somewhere yearning to find a home and an outlet. I went through a couple jobs in my late teen years gaining confidence from each one. But as I became a young adult and took on more responsibilities at work I would realize the effect that the early years of stuttering had on me.
I worked in customer service for most of this time. Let me tell you. Conveying a message properly from customer to consumer, otherwise known as the sales pitch is not an easy job. You need to confidently sale your product here, be passionate and knowledgeable. Now that I think back it was almost like an on hand class to help me be more social. Through my journey of multiple customer service jobs I started working for a furniture store and met the man that changed my outlook in life. His name was Roderick. He would be the new manager when the current one moved up to regional. He was short in stature and had a Louisiana accent, he was a church man in every sense of the word. He was kind but stern and lived by his values 100%, he had a great sense of humor on him also.
I have had many managers but those were the clock in can’t wait to clock out types. Roderick on the other hand was very dedicated to his job and really invested his time in the company. One day during my shift we were expecting the owner to come in for a visit. As I’m answering the manager’s questions and going over the reports with him I became nervous when he started asking things I did not know the answer to. Luckily now that I am older I was able to control the situation and just shook off the nervousness as best I could and after a few small stutters I continued to finalize the meeting with the owner. Later that day I went into Roderick’s office to round up all the sales for the day and he asked me how my day was going. I told him what had happened and that I got nervous when I talked to the owner. He asked why, I briefly explained to him that as a child and young teen I had a stuttering problem. And that due to that I became more introverted, so when I’m nervous I can relapse into that old mind state and lose all my confidence.
At that moment is when everything changed for me, I did not know that the next few words he was about to say would change my outlook forever. He looks at me and says “Liz, everyone in this world has a heart, everyone has bloods running through their veins we are all equal. There is no reason why you should fear or be intimidated by anyone regardless of their social or economic status or if you don’t know something they do. We are all equal. The only person that you should fear to be judged by is God” Now I do want to point out I’m not extremely religious, but his words had such an impact on me. Maybe, I just really needed to hear that at that exact moment to appreciate the meaning or maybe it was the true and the compassionate way in which it was presented to me. Whatever it was, his words nestled in my mind and I truly embraced them.
I’m 25 now, it’s been 4 years since that day and every time I give a speech for a meeting at my current job or need to present something to the owners you can see my confidence. I can still here Roderick’s words in my head building me up like a football coach during a season ending game. Just exactly as he said them that day he gave me back my confidence. I’m grateful for him and always will be.