For the last four years, Phillip Cole's stammering-based New Year's resolutions haven't lasted very long (until the end of January, usually). What has he resolved to do for 2020?
'New Year New Me' echoes with a hollow resonation, as the festive revellers descend upon their third house party of the night and frolic with the looming acceptance that the first day of the new year is likely to be spent in the foetal position, full of regret. I am speaking from experience of course, but there is an undeniably hopeful and whimsical feel about the festive period where for some, gainful employment has facilitated generous bonuses and the promise of achieving those long-forsaken goals.
I have always felt that New Year’s resolutions express an intrinsic duality. There tends to be the concept that the radical or even gradual changes which have frustratingly beleaguered us, simply must be done in the new year. However, these decisions are likely to be the start of a journey that was equally as valuable to embark on in November. As it is, once the clock strikes midnight, the fireworks illuminate the sky and our well-thumbed calendars become obsolete.
Despite this fairly callous perspective on the whole affair, I genuinely subscribe to the notion of a fresh start. When I was younger, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of the pep, vigour and relentless optimism of youth, New Year’s resolutions were the perfect excuse to reset and plan for the future. Be that my 9-year-old self dedicating absolute devotion to getting that much coveted acceptance letter from Hogwarts upon reading the first Harry Potter book, or my more realistic teenage mind wanting to perfect my basketball jump shot, each new year represented unbridled possibility and endless potential for growth.
For 4 years in a row my New Year’s resolution has involved some aspect of my stammer and inevitably, as consistent as the gradual decline of gym-goers once January has drawn to a close, I have usually regressed back to old habits.
As I got older, once my cheap Argos toy wand had symbolically broken and I was resigned to the fact that my NBA dreams were as likely as my wizarding career, I started setting goals which were more entrenched in reality. For 4 years in a row now, my New Year’s resolution has involved some aspect of my stammer and inevitably, as consistent as the gradual decline of gym-goers once January has drawn to a close, I have usually regressed back to old habits.
However, by far my greatest success story was my speech therapy in 2018 at City Lit, which offered an invaluable platform for establishing lifelong relationships in a forum of individuals with shared experiences and where I plan to go back imminently to provide the mentoring I was so readily afforded by others. Each new year has wrought new challenges as I moved from the comfort of school as a big fish in a small pond to a university fresher often too drunk to swim at all, then a young man thrust into the working world and keen to learn, converse and impress.
The mantra of 'New Year New Me' has never held as much weight as its latest iteration and despite me being guilty of all the aforementioned philosophical inconsistencies associated with this mindset, there is a genuine promise which the new decade brings. The recent social push towards eliciting the most progressive versions of ourselves has ushered in a new generation of thinking, where the voiceless and marginalised have been given autonomy and a platform to express themselves, be it either their woes or their delights.
I am a firm believer that for all those who stammer, we can and should make it our greatest strength.
For me, 2020 represents an opportunity to encompass exactly this sentiment and my New Year’s resolution is to devote as much of my time as possible to spreading the topic of stammering awareness to all facets of our community. Exposure and understanding of what ails a person that stammers and what can be done to alleviate their stresses is the strongest way to encourage their voice to be heard. This allows for such a large group of people to have the confidence to let their passions and ideas resonate; where verbal constraints may have kept them suppressed. I am a firm believer that for all those who stammer, we can and should make it our greatest strength and channel the persistence, empathy and determination — which often comes from dealing with considerable struggles — into a vehicle for affecting the world with our voice and contributing to the societal zeitgeist of compassion and acceptance.
This is the message that I felt was important to express. I hope others, whether you have been affected by stammering in some capacity in your life or not, will join me in fulfilling my New Year’s resolution of spreading stammering awareness as much as possible, and endeavouring to exercise patience and consideration when interacting with those who have a speech impediment.
So, whether you were warbling out a deafening, atonal and raucous rendition of Auld Lang Syne this past New Year’s Eve, or sat at home reciting "Expelliarmus!" with a hopeful grin, I hope for you this new decade will be filled with optimism, joy and magic.
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