Today’s post isn’t directly related to personal finance, but more about life in general…
Have you ever looked at someone and thought that they just have it all? I don’t mean random people that you see at the grocery store or the mall either. I’m talking about people that you see more than one time; people that you’ve actually talked to and got to know. Certain people just have that “successful” vibe about them, and it’s easy to see. It’s easy to look at those people and assume that they’ve had things pretty easy in life. Maybe you know someone that is naturally intelligent, and learning new things comes really easily to them. Maybe you know someone that has a natural charisma that people flock to and put trust in. It can be any number of things, but the point is that sometime we see people who are successful and assume that they’ve had an easier path to get where they are than what you’ve had. I think most of us would admit to thinking that at some point. Maybe it’s directed toward a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or someone else.
The thing to keep in mind is this: We all have issues. That’s right. Those “successful” people you encounter have issues just like you. The key to finding success in life is not to allow your issues to stop you from living the life you want.
My Own Personal Issue
I don’t talk about this very often, even with my friends and family, but I have a moderate to severe stutter. Everyday conversation that is such a normal and natural part of our daily lives can be a struggle for me. I know what I want to say, I have the words and sentences formed in my head, but sometimes I just can’t get the words to come out of my mouth. Sometimes my words get blocked, and there are long awkward pauses where the person I’m trying to talk to knows that I’m trying to say something but can’t get it out. Other times, it’s more of a traditional stutter; you know, “st-st-stutter” here and there.
Stuttering and School
I think I started stuttering around the third grade; at least that’s when my parents and teachers first noticed it. I started meeting with my school’s speech therapist once a week. Throughout the rest of elementary school, I don’t really remember my stuttering being an issue. I had friends, got good grades, actively particpated in class, and everything else. I didn’t feel “different” because I had a stutter.
That all changed when I made the shift from elementary school to middle school. As anyone can tell you, those middle school years are often awkward enough for even the most “normal” of kids, let alone a kid that can’t spit his words out. I had no self-confidence, few friends, and went through school knowing that I was “different”. Taking part in classroom discussions terrified me. And giving an oral presentation in front of the class was the absolute worst. Looking back, I can see that I established some pretty unhealthy coping mechanisms. I simply shrank further back into my shell, became a very quiet student, and did as little as possible to be noticed. I did find a group of fellow “un-popular” kids that I ate lunch and did homework with, so I wasn’t a complete loner. On a side note, I still did well in school.
The first two years of high school were similar to junior high. I did well in school, but was extremely introverted. I dreaded presentations and classroom discussions, and never raised my hand to answer questions. I remember there were a few classes where participation was part of the overall grade, and points were subtracted if you didn’t raise your hand and answer at least two questions during class. I was pretty good at scenario analysis and planning, and I just did the math and figured out how well I’d have to do on the homework and tests to still get an A in the class without the participation points.
A Paradigm Shift
But somewhere around my junior year of high school something changed. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I had a paradigm shift. I realized that I didn’t have to be like this. Yes, I had a stutter, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still do things. I started to actually talk with people and participate in class. I still had my stutter, but I found that people still cared about what I was saying. I would get funny looks sometimes from people, and I knew that I would. But I didn’t let it get to me. Basically, I decided that I wasn’t going to let my issues determine how I was going to live my life.
I joined my high school’s website development team, a group of around eight students that maintained the school’s website. My senior year I was the lead web designer, led a re-design of the school’s website, and gave a presentation to the entire school faculty about the work we were doing. Did I stutter during the presentation? Oh, I’m sure I did; but it didn’t matter.
My physics teacher was looking for students to particpate in building a cosmic ray detector over the summer in partnership with the Indiana University physics department. I volunteered and spent a week at IU with some fellow students working on the construction and functionality of a cosmic ray detector. The next fall at the start of my senior year, my physics teacher asked if I would help give a presentation to the administration of the school corporation about what we did. Did I stutter during the presentation? Again, I know I did, but it didn’t matter.
I joined the concert choir, became a member of our school’s national honor society, took part in an economics competition, attended Rotory luncheons, was invited to attend a weekend camp on student leadership, was named our school’s business/technology student of the year, and worked part-time as a cashier at Wal-mart interacting with customers all the time.
To Be Continued…
I just realized I’ve passed the 1,000 word mark with this post. If I go on too much longer, I’m afraid you all will stop reading. Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the story.