Anabelle Ross #1
“——–!” “Why don’t you give the answer?” My seventh-grade math teacher said to the class. The answer was 7.75, it was an easy question, but it started with the letter “s’ ‘; the sound I struggle with the most. I looked down at my paper, the numbers looked as if they were staring back at me, waiting for me to mess up. I could feel my teacher’s eyes on my red forehead, waiting, not so patiently. “2.25,” I said. “Close, but no.” My teacher responded. The feeling of shame and embarrassment ran through me, shown by my reddened face. I knew the right answer, but I said the wrong one, I was paralyzed by fear. No one knew I stuttered; however, in order to do well in both school and life, I would have to face my fear.
I reflect on this now and the many other similar instances when I let fear take over. I went to speech therapy for six years. I learned speech tools and all of the different ways to improve my fluency; however, my biggest challenge was to be able to be set free from the fear that was forced by my stutter. I was given guidance, but I learned the only one who could set me free was myself.
This growth was challenged by the Covid-19 virus. I was able to once again hide. When I wore a mask, I could hide the words that caught in my throat. I was no longer vulnerable when my mouth was wide open as I was caught on a stutter. I ran for class president. I had to give a speech in front of the class. I was given the option to either keep my mask on or off. I chose to keep it on to eliminate the fear. Keeping my mask on gave me comfort. It hid my words; it hid who I was. It made me feel safe to hide, but I can work to avoid moving backward by recognizing that.
I took on the challenge of representing my school as the 2021 Potato festival candidate. I knew I had to speak in front of others and share my story. I got to leap out of my comfort zone, I was able to remove my mask of fear, and move forward. I am diagnosed with severe anxiety, with panic attacks at age five. I was always afraid. Through speech therapy, taking leadership roles, and participating in a community that is full of support I was able to become the person I am meant to be. I went from hiding my speech impediment to talking about it in front of an audience at a scholarship banquet, free from the box my stutter put me in.
There is so much fear in the world. Everyone is filled with uncertainty and afraid of what might come next. Knowledge of how to control my speech impediment and how other people would react, allowed me to let go of the fear that overwhelmed me. Knowledge of what’s ahead, and what we, as a community will face next can allow us to overcome this fear that has held us, hostage, for far too long. Small achievements have given me the ability to let go of fear. This gives me hope that if we can overcome the small challenges, we can overcome the big ones, and the fear that has held us hostage will be turned into hope for a better future.