Growing up I never realized there was anything different about the way I spoke. I thought I was like everyone else. It wasn’t until I was 11 years old that I realized there was something odd about my voice. Or so I thought.
I was the subject of many bullies throughout my middle school and high school years. They thought that the “girl with the funny voice” was an easy target for their cruel words. In all honesty, I was. I was a weak little middle schooler with not many friends. Eventually, once I got to high school, the bullying did stop, but my self-confidence had already suffered. My stutter made me feel worthless. I got it in my head that no one would ever truly like me because of my voice, which I thought of as stupid and annoying. The thought of having to speak up in class or say my name hung over my head like a dark rain cloud; I felt like I’d never fit in anywhere.
In the spring of 2012 I stumbled across a website for this summer camp designed for kids who stuttered. I’d never met anyone else who stuttered so I jumped at the chance of going. When August finally rolled around and I boarded the plane going to Camp Our Time, I was incredibly nervous. What if they thought I was weird? Would there be anyone there who was as nerdy as I was? As the plane landed I was almost in tears because I was so afraid no one would like me. Waiting for me at the gate was the first person I’d ever meet who stuttered. “Hi, I’m Joel!” He said, smiling. It was in that moment that I realized this camp would effect me in ways I wouldn’t, and still don’t, fully understand. In that instance all I could think was “This is it.”.
To put in plainly: Camp Our Time, now Camp SAY, saved my life. I was in a very bad place that summer of 2012. Once I got to camp and met so many amazing people, and one amazing man named Taro Alexander, it changed my life.
This wonderful place gave me a reason to keep going, to never stop fighting. Taro made me realize that I have a voice and it demands to be heard. The people of SAY have impacted my life in so many ways that thanking them wouldn't even begin to cover my gratitude.
Now, as I finish up my freshman year of college, I no longer feel worthless. My voice doesn’t dictate my life anymore, it adds flavor; it’s what makes me unique. We stutterers are a rare bunch, which is what makes us even more special. I used to be ashamed of my stutter, but I’m not anymore. Stuttering is a part of me and it always will be. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way