Blog by James Hayden
April 20, 2020

Dear Dear Evan Hansen,

I first discovered you in early 2017, the same time you took the world by storm, when my friend introduced me to your song “Waving Through a Window.” I liked the song but didn’t give it a second thought and moved on with my life. A few months later I decided to give the song another listen. That’s when I realized your brilliance and became a fan. The more I listened to your soundtrack, the more I saw parts of myself in your music.

You see, I’m a person who stutters. Up until a few years ago, that was something I couldn’t admit to myself or others. Growing up, I heard few people that sounded like me in the media. When I did, it was typically in a negative light. Although I had seen portrayals of stuttering on television and on film, I had never heard music that put my thoughts, fears and insecurities that are rooted in stuttering into words. That changed when I listened to your soundtrack and saw parts of myself in the lyrics of “Waving Through a Window,” “Only Us” and “You Will Be Found.”

In “Waving Through a Window,” I found part of myself in the lyric: “Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?”

Growing up, I constantly wondered: Will I be more than my stutter? Can I be successful with my stutter? Will my stutter prohibit me from accomplishing my goals? Through time and self-reflection, I’ve learned that I was, am and always will be so much more than my stutter. My stutter has taught me life lessons that have made me successful in the way that I define success. Lastly, and a tad ironically, my stutter has given me several opportunities to accomplish goals my younger self did not know were possible.

The song “Only Us” perfectly expresses how I view relationships. Particularly, the first verses sung by Zoe and Evan.

Zoe opens the song by singing:

“I don't need you to sell me on reasons to want you
I don't need you to search for the proof that I should
You don't have to convince me
You don't have to be scared you're not enough
'Cause what we've got going is good

Evan responds:

I never thought there'd be someone like you who would want me
So I give you ten thousand reasons to not let me go
But if you really see me
If you like me for me and nothing else
Well, that's all that I've wanted for longer that you could possibly know

As someone who stutters, one of my biggest worries was, and honestly still is, how my stutter will impact romantic relationships. I know that the right girl will see past my stutter, but insecurity and doubt tell me otherwise. Zoe’s verse represents the right girl telling me that my stutter is nothing and I shouldn’t worry about it in our relationship. Evan’s verse represents me vocalizing how I feel about stuttering, its role in my future relationships and how being seen for me and not my stutter is exactly what I want. Words cannot better describe my view on stuttering, in the context of a relationship, than those lyrics.

In the act one finale, the company sings “You Will Be Found.” Part of the chorus perfectly describes what I wish younger me knew: “…You are not alone...”

For most of my life, I constantly wondered if I was the only person who stutters in the entire world. I felt alone in my journey because I didn’t have anyone in my life who sounded like me. As I got older, I realized I wasn’t alone in this journey. However, it took me 22 years to meet another person who stutters. In October 2015 I went to my first stuttering support group meeting. At this meeting, I became a part of a community that I call my stamily (stuttering family). I realized I was not alone and belonged to organization whose motto is fittingly “You are not alone.” This organization and their motto remind me on my good and bad days that I am not alone in this journey.  

Dear Evan Hansen, we finally met in New Orleans on November 6, 2019 and you surpassed my expectations. Thank you for your message. Thank you for putting my thoughts on stuttering into words.

Thank you for reminding me “You are you and that’s enough.”