By Kiran Cherukuri
The room grew silent. I stood up and walked briskly to the podium. As I looked around nervously, I saw what seemed like a thousand faces staring at me, waiting. I wiped my sweaty palms on the front of my slacks, picked up the paper, and began to speak.
All my life, one of my biggest fears has been public speaking. I have stuttered since I was four, and a lot of times it's frightening for me to engage in an everyday conversation. I was always afraid of getting stuck mid-sentence and people laughing at me, which happened a lot growing up. Going into high school, though, I was sick of being scared and timid. It was time to slay the beast, once and for all. To conquer my stuttering, I decided to run for student government and deliver a speech in front of my entire grade.
Now keep in mind, I was a kid who could hardly talk confidently in front of my friends; imagine the terror I felt at the thought of speaking to hundreds of strangers! Having never delivered a public address, I practiced my speech over and over, speaking in front of the mirror numerous times. However, I still lacked some of the gumption to actually deliver the speech to others. That extra confidence, I soon realized, came from my friends. Throughout the whole process, my friends and family were extremely supportive of me. They loved me, and helped me gain the confidence I needed to go up to the podium and conquer my fear of public speaking. Of course, practicing and rehearsing helped me, but it was my support group that put me over the top.
When Election Day arrived and I had to give my speech, I was still nervous. I thought about backing out at the last minute, but I knew I had worked way too hard to give up at that point. When I finally got up to the podium, I found my friends smiling and cheering me on. I got this, I thought. I gave a great speech that day, and got by with only a few stumbles and blocks. Even though I would end up losing the election, I hadn't failed in the end.
To all of you out there who stutter, don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Before my speech, I kept telling myself that I get one opportunity in life, and stuttering WILL NOT stand in the way. You have friends and family who love you, and just remember that they will support you unconditionally. People want you to succeed; they want to see you to rise above your stuttering. The most important thing I learned from my experience is that everyone has the power to destroy the beast inside; you just have to try. In the end, there will be a day when your stuttering will meet its maker.
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