Sunday, March 19

 
"Listen!" I'd Say

The Misfit

adrock2xander found a meaning in life through school bullies in his early teens. He not only drew strength and inspiration from his traumatic experience, but used it to overcome a physical disability. This is his story.

"There was one card game in which I always came second best. My siblings and friends took the spoils as I struggled to say "S-s-s-s-s-s-s...nap!"
- Alan Badmington

Readers will be hard pressed to believe this, but i am a silent sufferer of stammering and stuttering.

Believe it or not, i was an incredibly shy and introverted kid. Growing up, and right through high school, i was often picked on, teased, beaten up and ignored due to my speech impediment.

I was 8 years old when i discovered i had problems speaking. I had stood up on my teacher's request to answer a question she had written on the blackboard. I remembered standing there, with the ethos in my mind, but my mouth and tongue was unable to translate thoughts from my neurons into speech. Curiously, when i did manage to utter the answer, the sentence came out gibberish, as i repeated the same word 3 or 4 times over. And over.

The embarrassment, hurt, pain and the din of the wall-to-wall laughter of the class became part of my everyday life for the next 10 years.

Until several years ago my parents have lived in the dark about my condition and appalling social conditions in school. I absolutely hated and dreaded each passing day in school.

Classmates would ignore me, choosing not to sit with me, or on odd occassions where information was needed, gave me the third degree. Seniors in school would often bully me into submission. I was the scapegoat for many uniformed and sports clubs who had no one to pick on. My Scout leaders would speak to me in a dialect despite knowing i speak only Mandarin or English. Rumors were passed around in school about my 'arrogance' and 'know-it-all attitude' and i was beaten up or abused many times by my 'friends.' I was passed over in many social gatherings and nights out becaused i was 'uncool'.

I would have grown old and died single, friendless and penniless. Until i stumbled upon something within me i never thought about.

In Secondary 2, aged 14, i discovered i had an aptitude for the English language. Not only was i able to spell and write better than many of my peers, i had unknowingly developed a penchance for reading all kinds of crap. Science fiction. Thrillers. General knowledge. Politics. Sports. You get the picture.

The students in my high school were generally lower-middle class, and dialects and Mandarin were more commonly used in their homes. I decided to use English as my weapon of choice. Something to defend myself against my enemy. The enemy in me. As much as i was bitter and angry at my isolation in school, i knew it had everything to do with my disability. I have to learn to confront my inner demons before i take on my bullies. So i decided to take it out on myself. Forcibly and literally.

For months, i devoured every reading material i could get my hands onto. I forced myself to speak up in public. I tried with varying degree of success to be a wisecrack (mostly i failed). Shamelessly, i attempted to be the center of attention. I knew the only way to defeat my disability was to be everything i wasn't. Step out of my comfort zone. My security area. My safe haven. Tackling my shyness and inability to mingle with crowds was my Speech Potion No. 9.

Stuttering and stammering does have its lighter side. There're just as many patient folks out there who're sympathetic to your course as are ignorant, rash bullies. A phase i went through while trying to disguise my disability was attempting to speak quickly. Really quickly. So much so that i lose my train of thought and begin to stutter and stammer quickly. Really quickly. I've sparked off racucous rounds of laughter from complete strangers to close friends. Quite charming indeed. I'm not going back there though.

Putting youself out there for everyone to see and be talked about took a lot of guts on my part. There's something about finding humour in speech impediment and strength from uncompromising situations that i find really settling. Some of more famous personalities who previously suffered stuttering/stammering are Sylvestor Stallone and Bruce Willis. Interestingly, they're all action stars.

These days, i only smile at the tears i wept many years ago. There's barely any trace of my disability. I still stutter and stammer when i get nervous. In fact, i was stuttering over the weekend.

Overcoming life's daunting challenges, regardless of the effort needed, as it plays its cards out does have its redeeming effects. For every heckle, punch and middle finger i took, i became stronger, wiser and calmer.

You can hear me on radio every Thursday on Melbourne community radio Southern FM 88.3 from 5-6pm. The station broadcasts from Mentone to Brighton and back. Tune in for an hour of light-hearted banter and weekly highlights in Melbourne. Try to catch me stutter or stammer!

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