An Open Letter to Eye Contact
Blog by James Hayden
Jan. 28, 2019
Dear Eye Contact,
I don’t quite know how to describe our dynamic, but let’s go with interesting. Like the phone before you, and now currently drive thrus, you are on my list of things to conquer on my journey with stuttering. It’s nearly impossible for me to avoid you or give a million reasons why I can’t or won’t use you. The reason I cannot nor want to avoid you, has its roots in the way I was raised.
Growing up, my parents instilled in me that eye contact was a sign of respect I should give every person I talk to and to every person talking to me. I was taught that by having you as a part of the conversation, I am listening to the speaker and I want my audience to listen to me. I still firmly believe that. When I talk to someone, I have a personal rule that you are a part of the conversation; however, there are exceptions to every rule.
The exception to this rule is when I stutter. As soon as stuttering enters the conversation, you quickly disappear. When I stutter, I tend to look everywhere except for the person I’m talking to. I look at the ground as if it holds a treasure I’ve never seen before. I look at the heavens in hopes that the sky will contain the answer to the meaning of life. I look left and right as if I’m trying to cross the street to fluency. As soon as the eternal seconds of stuttering ends, you re-enter the conversation.
I don’t know why this happens, but I have my theories. Maybe I ask you to leave because I am still subconsciously embarrassed by the fact that I stutter. Maybe you leave because I want my message to be heard, but I don’t want the mechanics of my message to be seen. Whatever the reason is, I want to end it. I want to be able to look a person in the eye, regardless of my fluency. It’s a resolution of mine but, like most resolutions do, it quickly falls to the wayside.
Although maintaining you in all conversations is a resolution I constantly struggle to uphold, I will fulfill my resolution. As previously mentioned, you and stuttering have been in very few of my conversations; however, there are many conversations left to be had. It may not be today, it may not be next month, but one day you will be in every conversation that stuttering joins us. I can’t wait for the day when my message will be heard and the mechanics of my message will be seen by my audience. Then I will have finally fulfilled one of my long-standing resolutions and you will be an obstacle that I used to know.
I hope you're ready for it. I am.