I did a public reading today. Might not seem like that big of a deal but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while ‘cept I’ve always put if off. Because of my speech.
I have a lisp. Well actually, I believe the term is “rhotacism” as it’s ‘r’ sounds I can’t pronounce. Though, I still refer to it as a lisp as I can’t pronounce ‘rhotacism’; I honestly think it’s just mean that the word to describe the inability to pronounce r sounds begins with a ‘r’ but whatever :P. Although saying I have an actual lisp wouldn’t be exactly wrong either since half the time I have trouble with ‘s’ sounds too.
Lately I feel I’ve been developing a new problem- I try to talk but no words come out. I’m not great at describing it but it’s like as if there’s a door shut in my head and I can’t get it open. Maybe that sounds crazy but it’s something that I’m trying to nip in the bud.
All my life, I’ve been so self conscious of my speech and it’s safe to say it was a source of my low confidence in school. I still remember my first day of national school- back then my speech was so bad I couldn’t even say my own name (and my name doesn’t even have any r or s in it). I felt so isolated- I couldn’t communicate with anyone because no one understood me. And it’s pretty hard to make friends when no one knows what you’re trying to say.
It was around that time I started speech therapy. My speech therapist was wonderful- truly one of the nicest people you could ever meet. She was always so patient with me and I’ll always be thankful to her. But after ten years of speech therapy, she asked me if I wanted to make any more appointments. In a way it came as a surprise because it was the first time in my life I had to make an adult decision (I was 14 at the time). A part of me didn’t want to stop appointments because my speech wasn’t perfect. But the other part of me was just tired. The other people in the waiting room were small kids and I was 14. I remember thinking: you’ve been going to this place for ten years and you’ve never once been able to pronounce the letter r. A few more appointments aren’t going to change that. And so I left.
Initially I felt free but there were a lot of times afterwards that I regretted leaving. Mostly these times occurred when people commented on my speech. People used to constantly make jokes like “I need a translator to understand you. Are you even speaking English?!” The ones that hurt most though were when my “best friends” deliberately used my speech to hurt me since they knew it was something I was sensitive about but it never stopped them from imitating me and saying “Least we can talk right!”
One day someone told me that the first day he met me he thought (and I quote) that “there was something wrong with you because of… you know the speech”. And I guess that’s why I’ve always felt the need to prove myself- in everything but especially academia.
As aforementioned, my speech was something I was very self conscious about. I hated it and I wanted to change and a lot of times I wanted to go back to therapy. But my family told me to accept myself as I was. Having a speech impediment didn’t change who I was as a person- it didn’t make me any worse a person. It was something that made me unique.
But nevertheless it took me a long time to accept myself. It was actually only last Christmas that I began to accept myself, when I happened to see a programme presented by Jonathan Ross. I’d often heard of the man, but I’d never watched him on television. And so it came as a surprise when I realised he has rhotacism. I looked him up on the internet and came across numerous threads started by people complaining about his speech. And I actually found that funny because despite these complaints and silly comments, he was still successful. I thought- if he doesn’t let his speech get in his way, why should I let mine?
And so I put my name down for the reading- something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in the past. I did it because I felt I needed to prove to myself that I could. And fair enough there were a few times I stumbled but I’ll be better next time. I’m through with letting my speech hold me back.
Everyone has something that they’re conscious of; everyone has insecurities. But if we can’t change it, we need to accept it. Because when we accept ourselves the way we are, it’s a big step in the road to happiness.
Thanks for reading