"So, what do you like about journalism?"
I've been asked this question several times since I took up the profession during my sophomore year of college. But this particular time, and I'm not sure why, I took a more introspective approach when answering. My editor and I went to lunch to chat and ended up talking about everything from the so-called death of print to traveling.
I told her why I love journalism: I love gathering information and telling stories in a way that both inform and evoke emotion. Having people trust me to tell their stories is one of my greatest honors.
However, I found myself rambling.
"Also, for me," I began. "Because I stutter, interviewing and doing the journalistic reporting is not simple for me. So, every time I conduct an interview or even make a simple phone call, it's empowering for me. To know that I can do that."
With special circumstances come special victories. For me, this means that having a stutter opens the door for particular opportunities for accomplishment -- some fluent speakers could likely never understand. For example, only those with speech impediments will understand the sense of empowerment that exists after making a phone call, ordering at a restaurant or even introducing ourselves to people.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, since I spoke with my editor. It's interesting how differences in ability affect our experiences in such a way that our definition of accomplishment changes. For fluent speakers, I'd assume accomplishments include getting a good job, winning an award or something. And those things would obviously be accomplishments for differently-abled folks, but for us even smaller actions impact us and, due to our disabilities, our eyes are open to a wider range of what may be viewed as successes.
Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed internet sensation Quinta Brunson. She's one of my absolute favorite social media stars and I was beyond nervous to speak with her. For anyone, it would be considered an accomplishment to speak with a media personality that they admire, and it was for me -- but there was more to my success than that.
I marched in to one of the office's focus rooms and eagerly called Quinta. I spoke horribly. I stuttered on nearly every word during the 30-minute interview and I was just waiting for Quinta and her assistant to hang up on me and go ghost. However, they were very patient and very kind and paid close attention as I struggled to say every word. When I finished, I sat in the focus room for about 5 minutes with my head in my hands.
I was feeling pretty disappointed as a result of the way I spoke, and I struggled with not feeling defeated. However, more fulfilling than simply interviewing Quinta was getting through it with my speech and getting all of the information I needed for my article. I asked all of the questions I needed to ask and, although it was difficult to do, I got the job done. I did my job.
I found accomplishment in the most basic component of the interview: simply getting through it. And though it may be tough, there is joy in little successes. Whether it be holding a three-minute conversation or speaking in front of a room of people, I think it's wonderful to have so many opportunities for accomplishment -- all because of my stutter.
My answer was likely not what my editor was expecting to hear. And it was likely one she hadn't ever heard before. It is true, nonetheless. My stutter has birthed in me a sense of gratitude for things able-bodied people would likely overlook. And that's a beautiful thing.