Five minutes and twenty slides: Ignite Chicago and a hard lesson in patience

Originally published April 1, 2014

A few weeks ago, I talked about how doing things that scared me actually helped me to grow. I realize this is not a novel concept because everyone and their bestie has been talking about this for years. For me, though, this is brand new territory. I’m still not used to willingly putting myself in situations that make me want to puke, pass out or run. Oddly, those same moments give me great joy. Within that fear and anxiety is a growing sense of euphoria. I’m doing something that I never thought I’d be able to do. Fuck yeah.

Tomorrow, I’ll be giving a five-minute presentation at 1871 for Ignite Chicago. This will be my third speaking gig – the first one was to grad students in speech and language pathology and the second was at a stuttering conference. This one is different; I’m speaking to a room full of (presumably) non stutterers about stuttering and I have a time limit – five minutes and twenty slides that will change every 15 seconds.

Oh shit.

It doesn’t really get much harder than this, especially for a stutterer. Which is why I decided to make my presentation about patience – not stuttering. After I completed my slides and started to piece together exactly what I wanted to say, I thought more about that virtue. I’ve never considered myself a patient person. I want what I want when I want it (which is usually now) and I get pissed if I have to wait or am late for something important. Seriously. Unusual traffic fills me with both anxiety and anger. A late train? Unacceptable. But I digress…

As I was going over my presentation, I realized that I won’t be just talking to everyone else about the value of slowing down and really connecting with others by being just a bit more patient. I’ll be sharing my own journey with patience in regards to my speech. I would be lying if I said it’s not still a struggle every day, but I’ve come so far from where I was in terms of my gusto with my stuttering. I’m still afraid, it still makes me anxious. Gut the reason why I can speak in front of people and talk openly in new situations isn’t because I lack fear or anxiety; it’s because I’ve become more patient with myselfMy limitations. My specific voice. My ego.

Think about it this way – when was the last time someone did something to you that made you want to fly off the handle? Whether it be some jerk cutting you off on the expressway or your boss being a jerk about a small error you made? In those moments when you don’t lose your shit on someone else – especially when they deserve it – you’re exhibiting an extraordinary amount of patience with your own tolerance.

That’s what stuttering is like. When I’m in the process of talking and I come to a word that just flat-out will not escape my lips, I’ve had to check my ego at the door and breathe in a full breath of patience. No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to speak like other people. And you know what? That’s cool. But I do know that tomorrow, when I step on that stage with microphone in hand, I’m not going to allow my impatience overtake me – even if I do only have 15 seconds per slide and five minutes to spit everything out. ;)