New & exciting doors open when you step out of that comfort zone

A woman holding up a glass in toast and looking at the camera

Filled with confidence after plucking up the courage to speak at a previous event, Phyllis Edwards tells us how she jumped at the chance to build on that success.

On noticing that the World Stuttering Network (WSN) was asking for expressions of interest for presenters at its online event 'StutterFest' earlier in the year (not to be confused with the STAMMAFest Global conference), I just knew I wanted and needed to take part. Having had such a learning experience at their previous event 'Communication Through Art', where I beat the nerves to read aloud one of my children's stories, featuring Dillis Duck, to the world, I was very eager to embrace this opportunity to do something more and build on my success. Cody Packer, someone who also spoke at the previous event and who's from New Zealand too, told me he was going to take part and suggested I apply and read another Dillis story. 

So with feelings of joy and excitement, I submitted my interest and one of the organisers, Trisha, emailed back with further details. I noticed that the time slots for each presenter were 20 minutes. I'd never spoken for that length of time to an audience before so I started to have second thoughts. But then I said to myself no, I'm going to embrace this. So I messaged her back and asked if I could speak about the joys of being an early childhood teacher with a stammer, followed by a reading of another of Dillis Duck's adventures. Tricia thought that was a good idea.

Over the next few days, positive thoughts and memories from my previous experience kept coming to mind. I also thought it would be cool if my amazing friend Alexis could share in this experience. As you may have read from my previous article, Alexis has been so supportive of me along the way. So at our next weekly skype meeting, where we support and encourage each other, I gently asked if maybe she would like to apply to be a presenter too. Alexis said, "Yes, I'd like to do that".

I began to feel such a sense of appreciation, pride and freedom at being able to share my thoughts and my writing out loud in such a supportive environment.

Then the day of the event arrived, and I sat listening to Alexis as she spoke before me. I felt so proud of her and I was so pleased we were getting to share this experience together. Then I heard the ever-encouraging Cody, who was on before me, say, "I will now hand over to Phyllis". Taking a deep breath I nervously began to read what I had planned. About 5 minutes after I started, I got a huge surprise as I began to feel such a sense of appreciation, pride and freedom at being able to share my thoughts and my writing out loud in such a supportive environment. The only way I can describe how it felt was like being set free, being able to fulfil your dreams and goals all in one go.

I say thank you to the organisers Tom and Tricia and their team at WSN for providing such amazing opportunities for growth and self-belief. It was so exciting and interesting to be able to listen to other participants and watch them grow from this awesome experience. Thank you also to the team at STAMMA for being so willing to document my and other peoples' experiences — they will remind us of how far we have come and the growth we have made.

I would never have been able to take part in these experiences without having been welcomed and supported into all these wonderful online stammering communities, including the Women Who Stammer support group on Facebook, and met so many inspiring people. So thank you all and I would like to encourage anybody to apply to take part in such events, or to submit your thoughts and feelings by writing an article for STAMMA. Give it a go if you want to, as you will find so much love and support, confidence and well-being. As Anita Blom, an active figure in the international stuttering community, taught me: 'Carrying it forward' is so healing and you learn so much. And by stepping outside of that comfort zone, new and exciting doors will open.

Would you like to share something you've done or an experience you've had? Positive, negative or just 'meh'? We want to hear your stories, views and opinions about anything stammering related. For more details, email or see Submit Something For The Site.

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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