Younger self

Hi, my name is Courtney Jackson and my question is if you could tell your younger self anything, what would that one thing be? Thank you!

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Younger self — 3 Comments

  1. I have a very special answer to this question, and will reproduce here a published article that I wrote back in 2004. This is the advice I would have given to my younger self if I had the chance:

    Dear Paul,

    I send you greetings today from the future on the occasion of your 16th birthday. Don’t ask me to explain, but you might call this a type of “Twilight Zone” letter. I am in fact you, writing to you from 34 years in the future. You’re a teenager and high school sophomore; I am your future self, now 50 years old.

    Paul, being you, I vividly remember exactly the way you feel these days. Facing the daily challenges of very severe stuttering can be often frustrating and agonizing. I remember that you often feel very discouraged about your prospects for a happy and successful life, since it is more difficult for you than others to express yourself in conversations. Adding to your burden is the hard cold awareness of having tried a number of different therapies for stuttering, none of which have seemed to help.

    But Paul, I am writing to you today to tell you that you have a bright future ahead, and you can look forwards with confidence and high spirits to the adventures of the coming years. There will of course be some rocky periods to endure and obstacles that will seem difficult to overcome. But as the years go by, you will be able to live your dreams, and a happy and successful life is yours for the taking.

    I know what you’re now thinking, having heard these words from your future self. You’re excitedly asking, “Does this mean that my stuttering is going to be cured?”

    In your world, man first reached the moon nine months ago, and many people of your time are expressing boundless enthusiasm for the idea that if man can do something like that, then surely anything is possible. Well, Paul, I’m writing these words far in your future, in the year 2004. There is (as of yet) no “cure” for stuttering, and none seems to be on the near horizon. But our understanding of stuttering has come a long way since your time, and neuroscientists researching the problem have made many significant discoveries. New therapy techniques will be developed in your future, some of which will prove to be of great help to you. In fact one particular therapy technique will enable you to enjoy many fluent conversations (something that you have not yet experienced). There will also be new inventions in the coming decades specifically to help stuttering, and some of these will be very useful to you. These future techniques and inventions, though not “cures” by any means, will be contributing in a small but important way to the happiness and success that you seek.

    I say “small”, Paul, because the larger share of the solution you seek already lies within you – and this has nothing to do with new techniques or inventions. It has taken me years to realize this fact, but after a half-century of life, I have come to see that the degree of speech fluency exhibited to others when we converse bears little importance in the grand scheme of things. For as human beings, we all have our strengths, skills, and talents. We also all have our “weaknesses” – those areas in which we may not excel to the extent that others do. I put the word “weaknesses” here in quotation marks, since from what we commonly regard as “weaknesses”, we also derive our courage to face and accept our personal challenges head on. This courage can provide us with the motivation to strengthen our “weaker” areas, if that is what we desire; but it can also mean a courage of acceptance. A courage of acceptance also strengthens us for it gives us a sense of balanced perspective. If we are not as skilled as others in fluent speech, it need not hold us back – neither in communicating our ideas to others, nor in our life’s activities, nor in achieving our personal goals of happiness and success. To always have fluent speech is not what life is all about. The way we live our lives, and what we do as people and for people is what life is all about – and this has very little to do with the degree of fluency that we happen to have in our speech.

    Paul, now at the age of 50 (which I know to you seems quite old!), I still stutter – though not as severely as before. It’s true that I still don’t have the same degree of fluent speech as many others do, but I want you to know that I feel happy and successful as a person. I can easily communicate all the ideas I want to express. And I also feel a profound sense of satisfaction in life, which you will of course also come to have. These are some of the living dreams that you can look forwards to in your future years.

    I know you have lots of questions for me, your future self. I will partly answer some of them for you now (but will leave many others for your own self-discovery as the years go by). For example: You often wonder, because you happen to stutter, if you will ever find someone who will marry you. Well, Paul, you will find someone to marry you – or to be more accurate, someone will find you to marry you. And in this case, she will find you not in spite of the fact that you stutter, but because you happen to stutter! I won’t tell you the details now, but believe it or not, the very fact that you stutter will play a role in achieving the happiness that you seek. And a new technology that you cannot now imagine will enable her to find you.

    I also know you feel lonely these days as a high school student; you feel a lack of a social life because, with your stuttering, you find it difficult to meet people. Paul, you’ll be happy to know that this particular problem will be history before too long. You will soon be meeting many people as soon as you realize that stuttering is no reason to hold back. Indeed someone who would reject you because you stutter (and believe me, very few people would) is not someone worthy of your friendship. Today, Paul, there are many many people who I would count as my friends – so many, in fact, that I have the opposite problem – I don’t have the time to keep up with everyone as much as I would like!

    I know that you (and many others) often like to speculate on what the world will be like in the year 2000, which is now 30 years into your future. I can tell you, Paul, that the year 2000 will be for you a great personal milestone. Among other positive life-changing events, you will in that year be moving to a distant country, a move which will be related to your marriage. If you try to guess which country (and I know you may have a few possibilities in mind right now), you will undoubtedly be wrong – since this is a country that you have hardly ever thought about or read about.

    Paul, just like today in your time is a special day for you (your 16th birthday), today in my time is a special day also. I chose to write to you today, September 22, because it is my wedding anniversary (as it will eventually be yours).

    A wedding, many friends, a move to a new country, new technologies that will have a great positive impact on your life, and improved fluency. Paul, there are so many wonderful surprises in store for you in the coming years and decades. So get out there, my friend and former self, even if you do stutter – meet those people, begin to live your dreams, and – most of all – ENJOY YOUR LIFE!

    Love, Paul

  2. Only one thing? 😉 Your stutter doesn’t define you, so show who you are, love and accept yourself, and follow your dreams, no matter what.

    Stay safe and keep them talking


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