We recently connected with Macarena Calzado, a student at Miami University in Ohio, and author of From The Girl With A Stutter. Macarena was gracious enough to answer some questions for us about her experiences as a person who stutters and how stuttering affects her new life in college. Check out her piece at Odyssey and her answers below:
National Stuttering Association: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live, and what are you focusing on in school?
Macarena: My name is Macarena Calzado and I live in a suburb of Cleveland called Shaker Heights. In the fall, I will be a sophomore at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I am currently majoring in Biology and Kinesiology with the hopes of becoming a pediatric physical therapist in the near future! On campus, I am part of the sorority Alpha Omicron Pi and am a member of various other clubs and organizations.
NSA: What is your experience with stuttering?
Macarena: I began to develop a stutter when I was younger but outgrew it as I got older. But it came back in middle school and has been a major part of my life ever since. I have gone to many different speech therapists until I finally found the perfect one for me. I met with her throughout almost all of high school and have continued to do speech therapy through Miami University’s amazing speech pathology program. For me, my stuttering has been a part of every moment of my life. Unlike most people who have fluent speech, I think extra hard before I say anything and everything. Even the easiest thing for most people, like saying my name, my major, my school, or even ordering at a restaurant, can be so hard for me. But it has also formed me into the person that I am today and gives me my own special character. Do I wish I didn’t have a stutter? Oh, every day. But has it helped to shape me into the person who I am today? Absolutely.
NSA: We loved your piece in Odyssey. What inspired you to write it?
Macarena: I have always wanted to write about stuttering and bring awareness to it, but I never knew how. Once I joined the Odyssey creator team at Miami, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to write about stuttering. After a year away at college, I learned quickly that many people don’t know how to react when they encounter a person who stutters. Many people tried to finish sentences for me, lost eye contact with me, or laughed for me thinking that by laughing I would feel better about the fact that I can’t get the word I want to say out. I felt that this article could be perfect for my friends and family, as well as people I don’t know, to read in order to be educated on what it is like to have a stutter and how people who stutter want to be treated. People aren’t trying to be mean when they don’t know how to react to a stutter, but it is important for them to be educated as well.
NSA: How has stuttering affected your life in college?
Macarena: Stuttering has been a large part of my life in college. For me, it is the added anxiety that is one of the hardest parts for me. Before every single presentation I have to give, I run the situation over and over in my head thinking about every possible moment that I might get stuck and not be able to get the word out. Or I will practice over and over again but as soon as I get up to present the anxiety of stuttering takes over and all my practice goes for nothing. But this is something that my therapists and I work on every week, and it is so life changing having someone like that in my life. It has also been a little more difficult to meet new people as I tend to get stuck on my name and that is such a great first impression, right? But I have found amazing friends who support me and love me for who I am, and that is the most important thing. Oh and making phone calls to schedule appointments at the health center? Forget it; that is one of the hardest things about being away at school and not having my mom around to make my phone calls for me. But again, it is something I constantly push myself to do and work on!
NSA: What is one thing you wish that people who do not stutter knew about stuttering?
Macarena: One thing that I wish that people who do not stutter knew about stuttering is that there is nothing “wrong” with us; we are just as smart as anyone else. We don’t need you to finish our sentences for us because we know exactly what we need to say, it just may take us a little longer to get it out! Finishing sentences for us or laughing for us when we get stuck is more hurtful than helpful. Throughout my life I have come to the realization that there is nothing wrong with the way I speak; it is just different and not something people are used to. I wish more people would come to this realization as well and simply embrace all us who stutter for who we are.
NSA: What advice could you give to others who stutter?
Macarena: Some advice that I would give to people who stutter is to find a friend that you trust and talk to him or her about your stutter and be open. For me, this friend is Lauren, a girl who I met my first semester of freshman year. Whenever I need to talk to someone who is not my family about the anxiety that comes with having a stutter, about a negative encounter with someone about my stutter, or about anything really, I know that I can go to her. I think it is important for everyone who stutters to find a friend like her because stuttering is not a journey that is easy to embark on alone. It is the support and love of friends and family that makes it a little bit easier. Lighten your burden by surrounding yourself with loving and understanding friends who will have your back no matter what!