I never thought I'd freak out when meeting Kevin Costner. But there he was, walking toward me down the red carpet and all I could think about was that one scene in The Bodyguard where he leapt on stage in front of that bullet to protect Whitney Houston's character, Rachel. (You remember that scene, right?)
I jumped at the chance to interview the Hidden Figures cast last month at the movie's New York screening. I knew I could go, do great interviews and get great quotes, even with my stutter. So, there I was. I had stuttered my way through interviews with Octavia Spencer, Jim Parsons and Katherine Johnson's daughters. But Costner had me -- and my stutter -- especially star struck.
So, I gave myself one of my famous pep talks: Ahh! It's Kevin Costner! Okay, CiCi. You're a professional, grown-up adult person (sort of). You can do this. How many interviews have you done? Don't be a coward. You're gonna stutter, but it's going to be okay. Smile and be confident and get your quote, girl! You got this! Go!
And "Go!" I did. I greeted Costner with a wide smile and began asking my first question. I was anxious and nervous and excited and I ended up having trouble with my first question. I repeated words, said "um" about a million times, and struggled to slow down and breathe properly. But Costner was such a sweetheart.
He leaned in to better hear me, and began rubbing my back soothingly as he told me "It's okay, take your time." Guys. I almost fainted. Kevin Costner was standing close to me, rubbing my back and encouraging me. I almost passed out right there on the red carpet.
I did the interview and got a ton of great quotes for my article (which you may read here 😌 ) I was sure to use all of the techniques we learn in speech therapy: slow and steady speech, breathing properly, easing one word into another etc. All while maintaining an optimistic attitude. And by the end of the event, I was exhausted. Emotionally, mentally and physically, exhausted. I headed to a Christmas party afterward and only stayed for a few minutes because the event had tired me out so much. And that got me to thinking...
For a stutterer, talking is a tiring task (can I get an "amen?!") The emotional preparation it takes for me to cover the events that I do and conduct the interviews I do is exhausting. And I've spoken with many stutterers who have experienced that as well. Along with that, the talking itself is draining. Using those techniques consistently for hours is draining both mentally and physically. To put it plainly: being brave is exhausting.
I've realized I was exhausted a lot in 2016. To be honest, In December, I was so tired as a result of the year that I spent most of my time in my apartment, opting out of a lot of social events and gatherings. I just did not have the energy for talking or being brave. That was a scary place to be, though. I had exerted so much energy throughout the year, in regard to my stutter, that by the end of 2016 I was all-but burned out completely.
And with that, I realized that it is absolutely vital to my mental, emotional and physical well-being that I rest when I need to. As a stutterer, I've focused so much on being brave and not letting my speech keep me from "living life" that I allowed my efforts to drain me. And at the end of 2016 came a revelation: It's okay to opt out. It's okay to recognize that I'm exhausted.
So, in 2017, I resolve to say "no" a bit more. I understand that bravery in the face of my stutter does not always mean over-exerting myself. This year, Ill admit to myself when I'm exhausted; when I simply don't feel like talking, and I'll do what I need to do to properly care for myself.
And I hope my fellow stutterers will too. Our condition is enigmatic. It is one that many people don't know about let alone care about. We have to evaluate ourselves and do what is best for us in the name of self care -- even if that means skipping that party, or turning down that interview opportunity.
So, that's one of my resolutions for the new year. And I'd love to hear some of yours!
Happy New Year, everyone!