Bad Mouth Programming

November 9, 2017


Imagine having so much to say but physically being unable to get the words out of your mouth. In school even though I often knew the answer in class or had a question to ask, I remained silent because I knew my mouth wouldn't work properly.  In elementary school, I was enrolled in Japanese school after my regular schooling every day so that when school ended at 2:30 I was off to Japanese school until my working mom could pick me up at 6:00. This was the earliest time I can remember having trouble with my speech. When I had tests in which I had to read out loud in Japanese, I didn't understand why I could mentally read the text correctly but somehow lose the message on it's way down to my mouth, with my words coming out all jagged and jumbled. Therefore in both my English and Japanese language schools, I often got marked down on verbal assignments even though I intellectually understood everything that was being taught.  For obvious reasons this became extremely frustrating. Since my single mom could not afford to take me to a speech therapist, I was forced to organically learn tricks on my own to help me perform adequately in everyday interactions. I found that reading aloud and doing mouth stretches (not unlike a theatre actor) helped prepare my mouth for battle on days I anticipated would be particularly difficult like for meetings or class presentations. 


I've been told throughout my life by multiple guys that they find my stuttering "cute." My impediment is not so debilitating that it's uncomfortable for them but it's just obvious enough that it becomes more of a quirky flaw.  While I'm glad my stutter can often pass/be overlooked, it can also downplay my personal struggle and the very real life implications that my impediment has had for me. Also, would you still think it "cute" if I were not considered conventionally attractive?  Probably not. Growing up watching movies, I was always so enraptured with the way people talked. I became envious of the eloquently way the spoke, never tripping over words or sounds. I wished my speech was like that and that I possessed the ability to speak thoughts as they entered my mind.  But as I grew older, I realized that would never be a reality for me. I would always struggle to find the right words, even though I had a constant dialogue in my mind. My mouth would always strain over ever word I tried to say.


I have complex feelings about my speech impediment. Some days I can forget about it; some days I am painfully reminded of it; most days I hate it.  But like anything else, there is an ebb and flow where you just have to go with it and hope for the best.  A particular talk that changed my life and still makes me cry every time I listen to it was one by Alan Robinowitz on The Moth podcast called Man and Beast.  People with impediments should really speak more about their experiences (even though it may often seem counter productive) so we can stop struggling in literal silence. People need to know that when someone stutters, it's often not because they are anxious or nervous, but because that is just how their mouth and brain work. It's not something that should make you feel uncomfortable.  It's just a different way of speaking that should not be dismissed as insignificant or devoid of intelligence.  I can't tell you how many job interviews or meetings I've been in where as soon as I stutter over a word, the boss says something like "oh don't be nervous..."  I want to tell them that I'm truly not nervous at all, I just speak this way and that I will inevitably trip over certain vowel-consonant combinations from time to time.  Human speech is not perfect, and the way in which people speak in movies does not reflect how most humans actually speak.  I can only hope that one day people won't immediately shut down whenever they hear something as small and common as a stutter.



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