When I applied to college in Fall 2019, I had to find the “perfect” topic to write about for my Common App essay — a topic that was unique and important to who I am as a person. After trying out multiple topics, my final choice was to write about my superpower: my stutter.
To be clear, I’m not immune to all the more difficult experiences of stuttering. I still deal with the weird looks (although that’s been a bit different during the pandemic era!) and the confusion from others. I still get frustrated sometimes when my fluency suddenly worsens or when I am exhausted from having to educate others about my stutter.
My stutter, however, has given me courage that has helped me get through tough times, helped me be myself, and make new friends.
My stutter became my superpower when I switched school districts entering middle school. While, at the time, I was nervous about others’ perceptions of my stutter and wasn’t proud of this part of my identity, my stutter had already given me a gift. While I was teased for my stutter in elementary school, and was as a result a very quiet kid, I still talked in elementary school to my friends, my teachers, and classmates. I had to, at least partially, conquer the fear of stuttering in order to mutter any words from my mouth. The fear of stuttering in front of others was massive for me, so even a partial conquering of it was still significant in giving me courage.
I was able to use this courageousness and bravery in 6th grade. My middle school was an intimidating joint middle-high school in a new part of town, and I had to make new friends completely from scratch. I rose to the occasion using my bravery and was able to acclimate to the new environment quickly and make many new friends. Within the next few years, I became more daring. I spoke up a lot in class, and became quirky and confident. My environment in elementary school caused me to be shy and quiet against my true personality; my stutter allowed me to break free from this shell.
Nowadays, I think one of main qualities that could be used to describe myself is brave, because I’m a PWS (person who stutters). I have to use my speech, which sometimes stutters, to share my voice even in front of judgmental strangers. I have to constantly risk a negative reaction or other judgement, and sometimes expel extra effort just to finish a sentence. I use this bravery to help me do other brave things like lead student clubs, volunteer at local non-profits, and jump head first into other scary situations. I know that if I didn’t stutter, I probably would not be as brave, and wouldn’t be as happy as a result.
This has just been my personal experience, and of course every PWS has a different experience with stuttering. Despite individual differences, I hope that my story might have resonated with you in some way, or helped inspire you to think about how stuttering can be your superpower, whatever that means for you.
Author Clara is a student at Pomona College planning on majoring in Chinese language with interests in international relations, law, and philanthropy. Outside of class, she works at Pomona’s radio station KSPC and serves on the Judicial Council. She started stuttering when she was eight and attributes her stuttering as the primary identity that helped her become more confident and brave. Clara has primarily known the NSA in the pandemic virtual era, and is excited to attend her first live conference!
This piece is part of an ongoing series, written by our NSA Teens.