Outside of the Box

 Society has a standard for everyone.
If you’re outside of the cookie cutter
Example, then you’re deemed as different.
As we grow up, we realize we all have our
Struggles and strides, we're all different in
Some shape or form. Though, those who
Are capable of protecting what makes them
Different are lucky. Those who are able to blend
In to the normal and can pass don’t have to worry
About discrimination.
 
As Pride Month comes to a close, I was to highlight
Those who celebrate in the month of June:
Lesbians. Gays. Bisexual. Trans. Queer. +.
Those who choose to live out and proud as well as
Those who cannot embrace who they are because
Of the circumstances they’re in.
 
People of the LGBTQ+ community
live outside of the box of societal norms.  
While they’re embraced by many,
They’re also scorned for loving someone
Of the same sex or for embracing who
They really are.
 
Living inside the box is boring.
Being a cookie cutter version of everyone
Else isn’t fun or unique.
Embracing who you are, even to yourself,
And accepting your differences is beautiful.
 
There’s no shame in being who you are,
It’s everyone else who can’t understand you
Who has it wrong.

Before I Say Hello

Before I say hello,
I acknowledge
to myself
what will happen. 
I will stutter. 
Sometime throughout 
the string of words 
that will flow
out of my mouth, 
there will be a bump.
It’s inevitable. 
This is okay. 
A bump 
or two 
of three
won’t kill my flow. 
A big bump 
that causes me 
to use a trick 
won’t stop me 
from speaking. 
What’s important 
is that I share 
my thoughts. 
I speak for
my voice,
my voice
does not 
speak for me.
I continue to learn 
how to navigate 
the strong waters 
when there’s an uptick 
in my stutter. 
How I approach 
conversations has shifted.
I have gained
an awareness
I never could 
have predicted.
I still say 
what I want 
but I may not 
ramble on the way 
I once did 
when I was comfortable 
with the stutter I knew.
For things have shifted
and that’s okay,
It’s apart of stuttering,
nothing is certain.

Hello Stranger

I wake up in the morning and do not feel like myself.
My body aches in unfamiliar ways.
The joints in my hands crack,
my right thumb somehow feels unnerved.
The muscles in my back and neck haven’t
been the same since experiencing multiple panic attacks.

I look in the mirror and do not recognize myself. 
My cheeks are puffy, resembling a chipmunk,
reminding me of when I had my jaw surgery.
My eyes are strange, for my top lids are pulled back,
giving me an unwanted stare I don’t realize I have.
The puffy pockets underneath my eyes indicate
swelling that somewhat subsides by the time I say goodnight.

I look out onto the day and everything has changed.
My vision has been on the decline 
for the last two months and has suddenly
taken a nose dive into the great unknown.
I can’t see much beyond twelve feet,
it’s like looking into a fish bowl,
everything is fuzzy or blurry or double. 

I see double if I look up and tilt my chin down.
My reality shifts into two, pulling apart from one
another like something is breaking from being 
overstretched, people often look like their souls
are leaping out of their bodies like fading ghosts.
This has been occurring since October, it seems like
a lifetime ago and yet it’s still jarring every time
I watch something transform into perspectives
no one else can see. People often have four
eyes, which is always the most alarming.

I haven’t felt like myself in a long while. 
This temporary normal that’s constantly shifting
will never feel normal. I woke one morning
and everything had changed without a warning.
I’m still process everything that has happened,
it’s overwhelming and terrifying to have no
control over what is going on with your own body.

I just want to see again. More than anything,
I want to have my vision back. 
I want to be able to see things far away
without fuzziness or double preventing me
from appreciating the beauty around me.
I want to walk around without feeling
my depth perception being off.
I want to be less sensitive to bright lights.
I want to look up with my eyes 
instead of craning my poor neck. 
I want to not feel my eyes focusing.
I want to no longer feel eye strain.
I want to no longer feel like my eyes are buzzing.

I didn’t realize how much I took my eyes
for granted until things unexpectedly shifted.
Though my viewpoint tends to focus on
the negative since they’re more overwhelming,
there are a few shining spots in all this chaos.
My eyes are not budging out of their sockets.
Though my eyes are sitting in different places,
it can go unnoticed if you don’t know it.
They may look a little different and certainly I can tell,
it’s not my biggest problem by any means.

I have a prism on one of my lens that corrects
the double vision when I look forward.
I don’t know what I would do without it. 
The support I have from my family is unconditional,
they continue to help me through this process
as we figure out the best avenue to take 
to relieve the discomfort so I can move forward.
 

Hard Truths

Underneath the surface of your skin 
lies truths about yourself
that you refuse to acknowledge exist.
Character flaws, irrational fears,
bad habits, annoyances, troubles letting go,
many more I can think of
that make up who you are.
We all want to be the reliable
narrators of our own stories
but we're the worst narrators, 
especially it comes to ourselves.
We're biased and only want to
focus on the things that make us look good.
Instagram profiles and Facebook feeds
only highlight the best parts of our lives
because no one wants to share
what's really happening on
the other side of the screen.
Fake smiles are never genuine,
photographing to get likes
takes away from your actual life.
This trend has become an epidemic
in our society, everyone loves the
highlight reel and loathes stories
longer than six words or 280 characters.
Taking everything we see as we scroll
on social media with a large
grain of salt is a good first step.
Building awareness of your own story
by acknowledging the truths underneath
the surface of your skin is the first step
to changing your own biased of who you are.
You will never be a reliable narrator,
but you can be more accepting of who you
actually are instead of who you want to be.

A Letter to Myself at 15

Dear 15-year-old Kelly,

Ten years from now, you’ll be finishing up your bachelor’s degree in English after years of trying to figure out what you want to do. You will be a published writer. You don’t realize this now but writing will become one of the most important parts of your life. Writing will help you grapple with your stutter. Writing will help you stop running away from the parts of yourself that you don’t like and refuse to accept now. Writing will help you figure out feelings you’re currently pushing down.

You’re about to embark on a journey that will last until you’re 20. Its already begun but you don’t know how it will skyrocket when you choose not to encounter your authentic self, your stutter, your sexuality, and other things. You unknowingly decide to run away from yourself because your scared of being more different than you already feel you are. You’re already feeling anxiety linger beneath the surface of your skin. When you begin running away from yourself, your anxiety will increase to an overwhelming level. You will wake up every morning, terrified to face the day. Your heightened anxiety will stay with you for the remainder for your teenage years. You know you’re different but you choose to see yourself as normal in aspects that you’re now experiencing because of medication. You still stutter even though you’re fluent. Just because you decide to look the other way doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But it’s how you’re coping with all that has happened to you.

The stories you choose to tell yourself now will shift as you get older. It’s only when you begin to tell yourself stories with truth in them five years from now will you stop running away yourself. You will realize how tired you are jumping from one thing to another and running around in circles for so many years. You will also realize how much of your teenage years you were mentally absent because of fear and anxiety. Fear to embrace all the parts of yourself that aren’t considered normal by societal standards. But your normal always has been and always will be a little different from everyone else’s normal.

You will be okay. I promise.

Love,

25-year-old Kelly

AIS: Speak Freely Live Fearlessly

This week at the American Institute for Stuttering has been amazing. I went in with a few ideas of what I wanted to work on and I’m leaving having learned a lot about myself and my stutter with the tools to navigate this lifelong journey of stuttering. I learned little things I have known about myself but never acknowledged.  How I need to work on my eye contact when I speak with people. How I use filler words to make it easier for me to communicate. How my past dictates my present. How I have options to choose how I want to communicate.  How the anticipation leading up to something is always worse than the actual event. How being vulnerable isn’t as scary as I thought. How I can have control over my voice instead of it controlling me. How I have more to work through and willing to take on working on myself to become to best human I can be. This week, I met some incredible people who have been so supportive along the way. I’m so lucky to have experienced this program with all of them and I’m sure we will keep in contact as we apply what we have learned here in our daily lives. When you interact with fluent people on a daily basis, you can often feel like you’re the only one. It’s inspiring to be reminded that I’m not alone, that there other people out there who stutter too.