Blog by James Hayden
Nov. 13, 2018

Dear Speech Therapy,

Whenever you come up in conversation I inevitably say something along the lines of, “Going back to speech therapy was one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Five years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think that sentence would cross my mind, much less come out of my mouth; however, that’s the beauty of time and retrospection. They allow your current self to see the beauty in things your past self could not or would not see. In order to understand how the two of us got to this point, let’s go back to the beginning.

We first began our friendship when I was 5 years old.  At the time, you were just this friend that allowed me to miss school a few hours each week and talk about whatever younger me wanted to discuss. Over the course of six years, my fluency increased, while my stuttering decreased, and all parties involved thought that I no longer needed you.  We mutually and amicably ended our friendship and I thought that would be the end of it. In my mind, you were just an elementary school friendship that didn’t survive the transition into high school.

Boy, was I wrong.

As we all know, my stutter returned my senior year of high school and I ignored that friend like I would ignore you for two years. In college, my parents would suggest I reach out to you, but at the time you were a friendship I refused to re-visit. I wanted to leave you in elementary school the way I left behind Scholastic Book Fairs, Book Soxs and Santa’s Secret Shoppe. After almost two years and many inquiries from my family, I finally reached out to you about the possibility of re-kindling our friendship. It would prove to be one of the best decisions I made during my time in college.

At first, I wanted our friendship to be hidden. You were the friend I would talk about in past tense and for awhile you were the friend I didn’t want to talk about in present tense. I was too prideful to say, “I am in speech therapy.” Out of pride (and if I’m honest with myself and you, embarrassment), I made sure no one saw me go to our weekly hangout spot. Pride made me not want to acknowledge you to myself. Embarrassment made me not want to acknowledge you to others. Over the next two years, the pride and embarrassment faded and a beautiful friendship developed. When I graduated our friendship ended and I have never looked back.

Although I was hesitant to re-initiate our friendship, I’m glad I reached out to an old friend. Our reestablished friendship allowed me to gain a confidence in myself and in my speech that I never thought possible. Due to our re-kindled friendship, I grew to accept my stutter. I thank you for that, but I am also thankful that I left our friendship behind when I graduated from college in 2015. I no longer plan to visit you because I’ve gotten all that I can out friendship. To paraphrase Neil Hilborn’s Future Tense, “You filled something in me that’s still full/ Even though you’re gone.” Our second round of friendship filled me in ways that silenced the self-doubt, self-consciousness, and insecurities in a way I never thought possible. Although our friendship is over, I’m glad it happened.