I have had a stutter ever since I can remember. I carry it with me to every restaurant I order from, every job interview I have, every class I have to speak in front of and everywhere else.
Stuttering is always on my mind and most of the time I have no control over it. I have been embarrassed, made fun of, looked over and questioned so I know a thing or two about the pressure of having a speech impediment.
To put stuttering into perspective, imagine you are talking to someone about something important to you. All of sudden your throat and mouth tenses. Your tongue is stuck in one position and no sound is coming out. You have what you want to say in your mind, but you’re stuck in a spasm that seems to last forever. While you’re stuck, you start feeling nervous and embarrassed, causing yourself to tense up even more. Finally, a sound comes out, but it’s incomprehensible.
It is the one syllable that is stuck in the back of your throat, trying to push itself out. Your stomach is in a twist from all the nerves and tension and the person you’re talking to is now starting to look at you like you’ve grown a third head.
Now imagine having this happen to you every other word or every other sentence. I promise, it is as tiring as you think, and it takes a toll on someone who just wants to get their message out.
Over the years, I have only encountered about a handful of people who stutter and for someone trying to make the best out of it, it’s hard to find people to relate to or for people to relate to me. That’s why this year I was excited to hear that someone with a stutter was a candidate for the president of the U.S. I have always been told about celebrities and actors, kings and emperors who captured the hearts of people all over the world, regardless of their speech impediments but, to personally witness having someone who went through a lifetime of stuttering be elected president is especially important to me. It gives me hope about being able to overcome my stuttering and it reminds me that I can accomplish anything as long as I persevere through the challenges presented before me.
With the circumstances of this year, in addition to the election, I felt as if it would be great to have some kind of support group that could understand what I was going through and could help me through difficult times. With this in mind, I decided I would start a club in Spring 2021 for UF students who have speech impediments. The club would be a safe space for members to talk about our experiences, share techniques and advice for building confidence in their speech and hear from guest speakers who may have experienced stuttering. Having a president who stutters would be a prime example of what a person who has a stutter is capable of and would also be a great way to spread awareness about stuttering.
I can honestly say that I have had my doubts about whether I can accomplish what I want in life, which for me is to become a veterinarian. However, as hard as life can be sometimes, I see my stutter as a blessing because it has only made me stronger and more resilient. The most important message I always keep in mind while going through my toughest challenges is that sometimes you must drown in failure in order to bathe in success. If Joe Biden can live his entire life with a stutter and become the president of the U.S., then who is to say the other three million people in America who stutter can’t accomplish their dreams.
Paloma Quadri is an animal sciences junior.