About the Author:
Randy Panzarino is a person who stutters from Melbourne Beach, Florida. He is a graduate student at the University of Central Florida studying to become a speech-language pathologist. Randy is currently completing his final student clinical placement in the area of subacute and post-acute rehabilitation services. He has been engaged in research since his time as an undergraduate student, where his interests include the psychosocial impacts of stuttering. Randy deeply values his involvement with stuttering support organizations such as the National Stuttering Association and the Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY). In his free time, he enjoys surfing, mountain biking, traveling and spending time with friends and family.
This poem was originally written during my time as a bunk counselor at Camp SAY in 2019. Since then, the poem has been altered and expanded upon, but its core message has stayed the same. During my time at camp, surrounded by kindness and acceptance, the ideas within the poem speak to the empowering self-discovery I was experiencing at the time. Often, people who stutter, and people who do not stutter, stray away from seeking out their true selves in pursuit of appeasing others and avoiding social judgement. The poem is not only about saying what you want to say. It’s about feeling how you want to feel and being who you want to be. In alignment with the 2021 ISAD conference theme, “Speak the change you wish to see.”, the poem envisions a world in which we allow ourselves, and one another, the time and space to be who we truly are. For it is here which purpose and meaning is found.
Fear, avoidance, shame, rejection
Kindness, patience, love, connection
Heart racing, palms sweating, eyes wide, impending doom
I am me, it’s how I speak, it’s who I am, it’s what I do
The life I want involves expression
Not one in which I cower to this continual obsession
Of bending to the world, leaving false impressions
This is not freedom, this is oppression
Living life with a stormy rain cloud on your shoulder
Means worry and anxiety of which you are the beholder
Can’t I be sunny? Cool, calm and collected?
Must I always be so nervous to be judged or rejected?
Can I cry if I want? Laugh when I feel?
Can I agree, disagree, interject or appeal?
If I open my mouth will you listen to the words?
If they don’t come out smoothly, will it change what you heard?
Is my message received or ruined by means of which I conveyed?
Did I lose your attention, trust, or my credibility at “o-o-o-o-oookay?”
I know you’re uncomfortable, I see it in your face
An uneasiness grows as I struggle in pace
Show simple compassion, we’re both running a race
Compassion is time
Time equals grace
Respect I deserve, I give it to you
Let benevolence guide us in all that we do
I’m broken and withered and behaviorally conditioned
Stigmatized, looked at funny, put in awkward positions
But no, this negativity will not come to fruition
For inclement weather fosters resilient disposition
To some it may seem like it’s not a big deal
But it’s often hard to express how I feel
Less important the vehicle of communicative transportation
More relevant the substance, one’s intentional declarations
The goal not fluency, the goal to be me
Unfiltered oration, my desire, my plea
My voice is unique, my message is clear
Say what you feel for all ears to hear
Deep down in valleys, high up on mountain tops
Unwavering an innateness, a yearning to talk
To be myself, unapologetic, non-adhering
To those trying to discredit me, I am persevering
On a path to be triumphant, non-conforming, no explaining
Where vulnerability is strength, not something to be ashamed of
One’s willingness to be open acts to catalyze the flames
That conjure the emotions, encourage healing and positive change
Here up will rise the deep inner souls of our being
Wherein lies one’s purpose and flows a spring of true meaning
In the midst of self-discovery is our chance at redeeming
Our legacy revealed, a path forged we’ve been dreaming
Like a joyous child who is haphazardly screaming
When we open ourselves, insecurities begin fleeting
Pure self-expression, our hearts superseding
The grip of fear broken, an end to the bleeding
This our calling
What we’ve been seeking
Light floods the darkness, hope for those in despair
Something to hold on to, worthiness we bear
Strength through our sorrows, rejoice in our victories
Not ashamed of who we are, for it’s no longer a mystery
Love thyself so we can love one another
Love others unconditionally, treat them as sisters and brothers
Your gift to the world is your giving of grace
Allow others the time, the patience, and space
To be who they are, for this is the key
As all that unites us is our longing to be
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