I never really thought much about the effects of my speech impairment in my earlier years. I was the best (or top three) in my class throughout primary through to high school and still survived the subtle giggles from friends. I had an angel of a mother who made me feel safe even when I was at my most vulnerable, until she passed in 2012 – just four months after joining Standard Chartered.
I got to university and decided I wanted to contest for a student leadership position in my second year. My first attempt at campaigning in a senior class went horribly wrong. I choked in my throat and practically ran out of the class without delivering one full sentence.
My worst experience was when I had the opportunity to get into bank management trainee programmes. I went through the first hurdle, the aptitude test and then was called for an assessment centre. I was nominated by my team to do our first presentation and right there in front of everyone, I began to stammer terribly. The words did not come out, the facilitators were stunned, and I just walked back to my seat. At the interview session that followed, the panel told me to build confidence before looking for any of such roles. I told myself I would not miss that opportunity ever again.
"When the opportunity to join Standard Chartered came, I fought through the stutter and made sure nothing hindered the words. "
When the opportunity to join Standard Chartered came, I fought through the stutter and made sure nothing hindered the words. Yes, I stammered at the various interviews, but I made sure I gave my best and I got the job.
Since then I have aced every interview and seen myself grow and better my speech. I joined Toastmasters International, decided to take MC-ing jobs, poetry and other speaking engagements.
I have seen people laugh. I have a beautiful wife and a lovely son, and anytime I look at him, I pray he takes after the flawless speech of his mother. The world I grew up in has not been kind to people who speak like me and I have decided to use my voice and pen. I wrote a poem titled ‘Speechless’ which summarises what it feels like to be in my shoes:
“I choose silence in every situation
Not because I am unintelligent
Not that I want to mind my own business
It rather makes sense to mind my own business
Because no matter what I think about
They are better kept as thoughts
My views are voiceless
My ideas are silent
Even synonyms evade my counsel
And the words choke deep in my throat
I want to speak without hesitation
But I know they will laugh and giggle
And make jokes about my situation
I won’t be perturbed by their insensitivity
Cowardice cannot be by best friend
I will begin slowly
One word a minute is a good start
The world can run as fast as they will
My speech will wait for me
Until my thoughts become words”
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