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My name is Ellis Contee. I was born in Washing D.C., but I’ve lived in Maryland all my life. I have a stutter that I've been dealing with ever since I was in the third grade, but don't think that's going to stop me from saying what's on my mind. I’m currently attending community college and am planning to transfer to University to major in English. I'm going to become a fantasy novelist, so look out for me in your local bookstores in the future!
You know how some people may struggle to find the right words? How they can't find the right thing to say? In my case, it's like that all the time, except it's not necessarily because I don't know what to say, because I have a stuttering impediment. Most of the time I can't even get out two or three sentences without getting stuck on a word while I'm in the middle of saying something. So naturally, I'm not much of a conversationalist. Instead, I'm really more of a book worm. I love to read and write. Every time I read a book, it gives me the chance to dive into a whole new exciting world. I love writing because it gives me a chance to create my very own world. Part of the reason why I love to read and write is because I've always been a stickler for words (ironic right?). Whenever I read, I'm always looking for a new word that I don't know. Not only does it help develop my vocabulary, it also gives me a chance to utilize that word in my writing. I am going to become a fantasy novelist. Although all of the reasons I stated are true, if I'm being honest, another reason why I like to read and write is because neither require much talking. As far as I can remember, my stuttering started around the 3rd grade. I started seeing a speech therapist (up until high school) to help me through. I remember around the time I first realized I stuttered, I asked if there was any way to cure it, like it was a disease. My therapist had to bring me to reality and tell me that that wasn't how stuttering worked. Although the sessions did help a little, they were never enough. Some have tried to tell me to not be ashamed of it because everyone stutters, and it is only natural. But seeing as no one else I knew ever stuttered and how foolish I sounded when I did, it was always hard to take it to heart. I've been asked if anything traumatic may have happened to me – since stuttering is sometimes associated with trauma – but nothing traumatic has ever happened. And no one else in my family that I know of has ever had a problem with stuttering. It was bad when it first started. At first I would stumble every time I was half way through a sentence. Sometimes I wouldn't even be able to talk. I would be stuck on a word and it would look like I was choking. Naturally, people took the chance to laugh or giggle whenever I slipped up. And if they weren't laughing, then they would give me this look. It was a look that always made me feel like they were pitying me, like I was sad, or that I was special. That upset me more than the laughing. I can't tell you how many times I used to ask a girl out in middle school only to fumble it and wind up feeling ashamed. For so long, my stuttering has made me feel like I couldn't do anything. It made me feel like I couldn't say what was really on my mind, so I stayed quiet. Stuttering has also gotten in the way of my aspirations as well. During my senior year of high school, my mind was set to join the Army, as I had been influenced by JROTC. It was going well until my recruiter called and told me that I couldn't join because they needed someone with “stronger communication skills.” That was the last time I ever thought about joining the military. But even with all the personal humiliations, it's not all bad. I found that whenever I listen to music and repeat the lyrics, I don't stutter much, if at all. This has increased my affection for music, particularly hip-hop, for even when there are lyrics that are fast paced, I can still repeat them perfectly as long as I remember them. This has even given me enough confidence to go on stage and perform a song back in high school during a talent show. If there are any other ways that I can think of that stuttering has benefitted me, it's that it taught me about patience. I've never really been the patient type, but given my position, I've had to learn to adjust. Trying to force something to come out will only make it worse, so if I'm really stuck, I'll pause, maybe take a breath, and then it will come out clear enough. It's frustrating, but I do appreciate the patience of some of the people I talk to. It also made me appreciate the value of patience, as the more I take my time, the clearer I am. I have always seen my stuttering as this huge wall in my path, and while it did intimidate me at first, now it serves as a motivation for me to overcome it. I've gotten much better since third grade, although it's still present when I speak and I still feel frustrated, I don't feel embarrassed or ashamed anymore. I'll still speak up if it's absolutely required of me to do so, and I won't shy away or make excuses as to why I can't speak. Of course, this doesn't mean that I don't mind that I stutter now, I still wish that it was gone. Regardless, I refuse to whine about not being able to speak up, and I'm not going to let it stand in my way. Just because it's harder for me to say the words I want to say doesn't mean I'm not going to say them at all.