Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

Voice Work

Posted: September 11, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
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speak up

My chest muscles twitched as I began speaking. I breathed first, then gently said, “John walked to the grocery store to buy eggs.” I eased one word into another, so that “John walked” felt more to me like “Johnnnwwwallllked.” I tried to listen to myself with someone else’s ears. I sounded slow to my own. Someone else would probably say I sounded fine.

My speech therapist said, “That’s good. This time, ease into the word John more, almost like zzzhhhohn.”

zzzhhhohnnnwalllkkkedtttootttthhhe….” I hissed as I drew out the g sound. “…grrooccerryyssttoorre…” I hissed again as I drew out the t sound. It sounded to me like ts. “…too…” Now the hard part. I tried not to close my eyes on the plosive b. Relax the lips. I could feel the flesh buzzing as the sound vibrated over them. To me it felt like I was making a bv humming sound. “…buuuyyysssommeeegggsss.”

“Out-standing!” Julie said. She held up her hand for a high five. I gave one to her, half-heartedly. She noticed. “How do you feel?” she asked.

“Good. Embarrassed.” I focused on breathing out and connecting good to embarrassed. “I hate having to concentrate on every word that I say.”

“Do you feel like you’re making progress?”

I knew where this was going. “Some. Slowly. I know that I’m getting better,” I stopped to take a gentle breath, “but I want to hurry with it.” This felt like separating sugar grains with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers. Normally I would try to say it all in one breath, and run out of air.

She grinned. “‘Some’? ‘Slowly’? Are you showing off or are you really frustrated?”

I had to smile, too. “A little of both.”

“You’ve made tremendous progress, Will. You know we’re just getting started. What we do here is going to lead to what we do next.”

“I know.”

“Are you ready for the next one?”

hhhllllLet me do some breathing exercises first.” I needed to calm down.

“Go ahead.”

I focused on breathing without being tense, which isn’t easy when you’re focusing on it. My body started to realize it was time to relax. I looked at the sheet of sentences I was reading for this exercise. John and his trip to the grocery store had been number three out of a dozen. A month ago that would have tensed me up and made me fumble the next sentence. Things felt better today.

Today’s post is a spin on today’s daily prompt, “Voice Work.” In answer to the prompt’s question, of course I would love for my blog to be narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, because he’s one bad ass mother f**ker.

Photo credit: “Speak up, make your voice heard” by Howard Lake at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

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Time to Get Help

Posted: January 28, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, The New Nurse
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Jonathan spoke to Caroline in the morning, and she came to the mansion for lunch. Allen was back in the wheelchair, rolling around on the path outside with the dogs. Jonathan and Caroline were walking nearby, to keep an eye on him.

Jonathan said, “Tomorrow he goes back on crutches. He’s supposed to test his weight on his knee, but only under my supervision, and no walking on it. We have an appointment with his PT next week for another X-ray. If things look good, we’ll go back to regular exercises.”

“I’m glad it wasn’t worse.”

The dogs barked as Allen threw a tennis ball. Zeus and Apollo chased it like puppies. Jonathan could see a small slice of what Allen wanted in this picture where they were all framed.

“I wanted to talk to you about that. I think he did it to himself.”

Caroline was silent, leaving the crashing waves and the dogs barking as the only sounds. Then she said, “Go on.”

He told her what he’d said to Dan about the injury, less Dan’s commentary. Jonathan added, “We were talking about the end of his treatment before it happened. I think he doesn’t want me to go.”

“I can see why. You’re polite. You cook. You put up with him. You’re a captive audience.”

Jonathan nodded, “And you’re here, and he feels safer going outside. Was he this active before his surgery?”

“No. Well… I really don’t know.” That spoke volumes. Jonathan was about to say something, but Caroline asked, “Can you stay another month? Wean him off having you around?”

Jonathan wanted to yell. He’d had a feeling she’d ask that. “I can stay longer, but it’s not about weaning him off me. It’s about giving him reasons not to need me.”

Caroline frowned. “Now you sound like a psychologist.”

“You won’t find a home care nurse who isn’t.” Jonathan stopped walking. He looked right at her. “Caroline, I need your help.”

“Name it. We can hire—”

“I need you to help me with his recovery. You and your siblings.”

Caroline shook her head. “No.”

“It’s not as bad as you think. We need to find something he likes. Between socialization and physical activity, we can get the ball rolling.”

“I don’t have time, and none of us wants to. That’s why we hired a nurse.”

“And his recovery has taken twice as long as it should. If we don’t start changing his habits now, right now, this is just the beginning.”

Caroline laughed. “What? You think he’s going to jump off the cliffs?”

“Not today. But yesterday, he showed his willingness to hurt himself.” Jonathan let that sink in. Caroline shivered, even in the eighty degree heat. She watched her father, throwing the ball to his dogs again.

Looking Ahead to Independence

Posted: January 24, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, The New Nurse
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blueberry pancakesAllen didn’t get any easier. The more progress he made, the harder he became to work with. It was like fencing. Every procedure, every step, Allen badgered, whined, bitched, complained, and otherwise made a nuisance of himself. Then he would do whatever Jonathan had asked him to do, and he would make progress. Jonathan reflected that if he really was tougher than granite, then Allen was a granite statue in progress, made with crude tools by hand. Slowly, painfully, he was taking shape.

Jonathan was making breakfast on the morning at the end of their second week. He flipped a pancake in the frying pan. He heard the dogs barking in the main hall. They seemed to know when Allen came downstairs, as opposed to when Jonathan came down. Jonathan got a kick out of that.

Allen hobbled into the kitchen on his crutches. He was putting weight on his knee, and only used them for additional support. It had been a tough negotiation just to get him to stop sitting in the wheelchair. Allen sniffed the air. “Are those blueberries I smell?” he asked.

“That they are.”

“Do they have blueberries in Scotland?”

“Not as much as here. Raspberries are our national fruit. I read about blueberry pancakes on my flight over. I thought this would be a good treat.”

“Now I’ve seen everything.” Allen sat down. Jonathan flipped the pancake again. “You seem chipper. You didn’t get laid last night, so what are you so happy about?”

“You’ve been making good progress. So… we should start looking ahead to your independence.”

“My what?”

“Living independently. Completion of physical therapy.”

“Oh. Yes. Well… good. When will that be?”

“Soon. We’re going to run through your diagnostic test again today. If all goes well, and I think it will, we can set up a schedule for putting aside those crutches for good.” Allen didn’t say anything. Jonathan looked over his shoulder. “All right?”

“Yes. Of course. I’m just surprised, that’s all.”

Allen didn’t sound happy. What was going on? “It’ll be good to go walking outside again. I’ll bet the dogs would love that.”

Allen didn’t say anything. He opened the newspaper and started reading.

Jonathan served the pancakes. Allen had to crack a smile at those. His mother had taught Jonathan how to make them when he was little, and they were the one thing he knew how to cook the best.

Immovable as Granite

Posted: January 23, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, The New Nurse
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“I’m being straight with him, and I don’t rattle easily. He’s not the worst patient I ever had,” Jonathan said.

“Who was the worst?”

“My stepdad. Rheumatoid arthritis. I helped my mother take care of him for six years, all through secondary and university. He died after that.”

“I’m sorry.”

Jonathan sat down across from her. Caroline was dressed in a black pantsuit with a cream-colored top underneath. Her jewelry was simple. She radiated “edge.” Allen’s application said he had three children through two women he’d married, both divorced. Neither of them wanted anything to do with him. “Thank you,” Jonathan said, “and thank you for coming today. He needs support. Are either of your siblings local?”

“My brother’s in Maine, and my sister is in Connecticut. They won’t come, though.”

Jonathan felt a chill. The doors to the hall had been opened for cross ventilation, and the sea breeze felt warm and salty. “That’s a shame. It’ll make his recovery more difficult.”

“I know, but you’ve seen him. He’s impossible to please and impossible to work with. If he wasn’t a brilliant investor and a ruthless businessman he’d be a cranky lobster fisherman with a cirrhotic liver.”

Jonathan’s projection of the recovery, long-term, jumped by another month. “I can’t keep him practicing good habits all the time. If he stays lazy like this, without family support – friends, somebody – he’ll develop poor motion. He could reinjure himself.”

Caroline shook her head.

That made Jonathan angry. He fell back on his training. “Nice” was far more effective than “ass-kicking,” though that time would come, too. “Well then. I appreciate your coming, and I’m sure Allen does, too. Even if he won’t admit it.”

“Money’s not the problem, Jonathan. You don’t have to worry about that. I just….” She gestured toward the elevator, where Allen had gone, and dropped her hand. “I lived with that for eighteen years. It was enough.”

“Can I ask… if you won’t help, why did you come here today?”

She smiled. “He called yesterday, and told me he had a new nurse who was immovable as granite. He sounded beside himself. Maybe it was cruel but I wanted to see it in person.”

That made Jonathan angrier. Disinterested relatives were bad. People getting a kick out of other people’s suffering was worse. “I hope you enjoyed the show.”

“Actually I was disappointed. You’re not granite. You’re just tougher than he is. I think it’s good for him. And you.” Caroline stood. “You’ll have to excuse me. I have to make a few calls before my father comes back.” She handed him a business card. Caroline was a lawyer – a partner in the firm, in fact. “You can call if you need anything. My private line is on the back. If it’s busy, tell my secretary who you are and she’ll put you through.”

They shook hands. “Don’t be a stranger,” Jonathan said.

She laughed. “You see? It’s that kind of persistence that drives him nuts.”

tea cup“I’ve had enough for one day.”

“Try one more step.”

“Forget it. I’m not trying one more.”

“Are you wobbly? Do you feel tired?”

“No.”

“Then one more step.”

“I said I’ve had enough.”

Jonathan folded his arms. “I can’t make you keep going, but I’m not going to give you permission to stop, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

Allen gave Jonathan an ugly, how-dare-you look. “Who do you think you are?”

“One more step. Then I’ll tell you.”

Allen took one more step. His lips were pursed together tight like a vise.

“I’m your nurse, and I’m here to help you get healthier. Sometimes that means knowing when my patients are bullshitting me.”

Allen swore under his breath, but he took one more step.

Allen’s daughter Caroline sat on the far side of the grand foyer, on the first floor. Zeus and Apollo, Allen’s German shepherds, sat by her side watching Allen’s third day of therapy. Caroline sipped a cup of Earl Grey tea in a china cup. The dogs wanted to eat Jonathan, but they stayed in place because Caroline told them to.

One more step. “All right! That’s twenty-five. One more than you did yesterday, and with less complaining.”

“You’re measuring the complaining?”

Allen showed him his notes. “It’s not formal, but I like to keep track. I had a personal trainer who told me half of my workouts were mind training.”

“You’re a merciless fucking son of a bitch.”

“And you walked one more step than yesterday. Well done.”

“Forget it, Jack. And remember to call maintenance for the sprinkler on the south lawn.” Allen sat down in his wheelchair. He clapped his hands twice. The dogs ran over. They took up flanking positions on either side of the wheelchair and growled lightly at Jonathan.

Jonathan said, “Oh, you guys love me. You’re just protecting your dad, aren’t you?” He looked at Allen. “I called maintenance during lunch. They’ll be here in the morning.”

“Remind them. They always forget.”

“Understood.”

“Caroline, I’ll see you after I finish showering.”

“That reminds me. This weekend I want to start working on standing in the shower as well.”

“You stay out of my shower or I’ll wrap a crutch around your neck, so help me God.”

“I would never go in without your permission.”

Allen wheeled away, both dogs trotting with him. Jonathan breathed easy for the first time all day.

“If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. You’ve gotten him swearing after only three days. It took the others two weeks at least,” Caroline said.

Checking Out the Patient

Posted: January 19, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, The New Nurse
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poached eggsThey went through the kitchen to an elevator upstairs. Mr. Keyhull showed Jonathan to his room, a suite which Keyhull said had been the room where the first son of the house had lived when the mansion had first been built. The furniture was all cutting edge contemporary, black mahogany with soft white cushions. Jonathan thought it would have looked stylish in a high roller’s room in Las Vegas. His bathroom was done up in black tile, with a heated floor, with a grand white bowl for a sink and an even bigger one for a tub. Breakfast would be at nine, and they could discuss their arrangement then.

Jonathan woke to brilliant light streaming in the doors to his balcony. He’d forgotten to close the blackout curtains last night. He opened them and was greeted to a spectacular view of the Atlantic. The sun was only an inch of two above the horizon. Jonathan ran back in and checked his phone: eight o’clock. Whew.

He came back to the window. Waves crashed below at the bottom of the cliffs, shooting spray up the thirty-foot faces of beaten, crumbled rock. He was definitely glad he hadn’t taken the wrong way around the house. He would have wound up with beaten, crumbled legs.

Jonathan took a deep breath of the salt air. He imagined the merchants who had first settled here, vying with each other to stake out the best view. The original owners of this house had won.

Time to get ready.

Jonathan meant to get to the kitchen ahead of Mr. Keyhull and impress him with his preparedness, but he was greeted with the sizzle and meaty smell of bacon cooking as he got off the elevator. Mr. Keyhull leaned on crutches as he made eggs. “Ah, good morning. Have a seat. I’m making us eggs.”

“Thank you very much! May I have two over easy, then?”

Mr. Keyhull looked over his shoulder. “Some other time. I prefer poached.”

Ugh. “Poached would be delicious. Can I help?”

“No, I’ve got it.”

Jonathan studied him as he moved about the kitchen. Mr. Keyhull had good dexterity and good awareness of his surroundings. He also practiced safety with the stove, keeping the pots and pans on it to a minimum. If he could get him to work as diligently with his physical therapy, he should be walking again in no time. He refused to put weight on his knee at all. It was understandable, but he was at the stage when he should be testing his weight.

I liked the characters from yesterday’s post so much that I want to keep it going into a larger story. We’ll see where this relationship goes.

The story came from another roll of Rory’s Story Cubes. Usually I would break them up into chunks that represented beginning, middle and end, but I really felt like I was suffocating yesterday. Instead I took the whole roll — all nine cubes — as source material and started picking them up one at a time as a I felt inspired. I called it doodling. Oh, it felt so much better.

The rolls were Plane (Jonathan’s from abroad), Alien (ditto), Castle (there’s a mansion), House (he’s living there), Lock with Keyhole (his client’s name), Key (ditto), Flower (he walks through the garden). As usual, I had a hard time finding a use for the Abacus. I’m thinking that Mr. Keyhull is a retired investment banker, so maybe that’ll count for him 🙂

A friend of mine once said that therapy was like peeling back an onion: you do it layer by layer. I remember not liking it. Peeling anything reminded me of peeling skin, which made me think of pain. I wanted to avoid that.

Some people would say it’s unavoidable. I certainly pushed myself over some awful emotional bridges in my day. The best advice I ever got from my therapist was not to tackle anything I wasn’t ready for. Sure, I could rattle off every problem I was wrestling with, plus all the ones I wasn’t dealing with at the time but that I knew were out there. I could also build a house with my own bare hands, right here, right now, if I had all the supplies in front of me and enough time to do it. I wouldn’t want to live in that house. Just because I could didn’t mean I was ready to.

I trusted her, so I started dealing with one thin layer at a time. Some problems would come back around. That’s normal. As opposed to driving myself to be perfect, now, I accepted myself and worked on growing in a direction I wanted to. I also accepted that these things, like most averages, are made up of ups and downs. Years later, I have to admit the onion metaphor’s a pretty good one. You start where you are, working on your life on the outside.

The strangest thing lately has been the time traveling. Choices become actions, become habits, become our lives. As I started to undo old bad habits and create new ones, I would remember bad habits that I picked up from longer and longer ago. Not just the habit, but when it happened and the choice that I made. Last week I had to concentrate on something to get work done. I originally learned to concentrate by kicking myself in the ass at age six. The moment that it happened, the very first time, blinked into my head. I could remember how the room looked, how I felt – a lot smaller – and it was like being able to make a different choice. Instead of focusing through anger and frustration, I breathed, focused, and flexed the concentration muscles because I wanted to. It’s a subtle difference.

If I’ve peeled back the layers to age six, what happens next? Soon I’ll be going so far back that I don’t remember why I started doing what I did, only that I want to change it now. What happens after that? Past lives? Some of my friends would say yes. All I know is that we live our lives moving forward, with the occasional time jump. I’ve undone a lot of bad habits. There are good new ones to build.

Om...

Om...

…but it’s pretty cool, too.

I’ve been taking a course on yoga, and today we had a lesson on the four types brain waves, and how they relate to the four levels of mind described in the Mandukya Upanishad. Brain waves are beta, alpha, theta, and delta, which correspond to conscious brain activity, subconscious activity, dreaming, and deep dreamless sleep. The Upanishad discusses the sound “Aum” and the states of waking, dreaming, sleeping, and the state of illumination or enlightenment.

As part of the lesson, our teacher, Wes, wanted to hook one of us up to a device called a Mind Mirror, which is basically an electroencephalograph tailored to analyze brain waves in the four levels I described. Since I’m the biggest ham in the group, I’ll try anything, and I have the shortest hair, I volunteered. The short hair was important because there are five electrodes that he had to connect to my head. The good news is there was no fire at the yoga studio tonight…

Wes started guiding me into a standard meditation. “Imagine that you’re outdoors, in a calm, peaceful place… explore this place and experience it…” Through most of this part my beta waves were high. I was excited and laughing at being the center of attention. Focus on breathing. Relax the face, and take deep breaths from the belly. That’s it. For the outdoor place, I tried a forest, a beach, and a tropical rain forest on for size. I settled on the forest. I saw a creek that I went for a swim in. I saw a wolf that was familiar to me. I tried to talk to it but it dove into the water and stayed away from me.

“Now imagine that you find a spiral staircase. Follow it down. It curves down, and around, deep underground, into darkness.”

I don’t know about you, but I was scared of the dark as a kid. I liked the idea of the spiral staircase, and going deep into the mind, but a spiral staircase going into the dark? No way. I imagined torches on the walls, and pretended that the big, marble, spiral staircase in the middle of the woods was a familiar place, even though I’d never been there before.

“We’ve starting to see some good alpha and theta brainwave activity here.” My breathing was deep and I was relaxed. My imagination was starting to move. I remembered the beta waves, and how I felt then. That was what it was like to be at work, when the pressure was on and I had to be alert. This was how it felt to be relaxed and loosen up, to let ideas flow. I breathed deeply and sank into the feeling.

You come to a hallway filled with doors

You come to a hallway filled with doors...

“You come to a hallway filled with doors. You walk down this hallway, passing door after door. These are places in your subconscious mind.”

SHIT! Nobody told me that I have this sneaky fear that there’s stuff in my subconscious mind that’s going to reach out and bite me.

“You turn to one of the doors. It’s familiar to you, and you recognize the color, or a word on the door.” Pause. “That’s a big jump in beta waves there.”

Yeah, no kidding! The fight or flight response was going ape in me. Breathe. Relax. This is a safe place. Whatever is behind this door, I can deal with.

“Open the door, and go inside.”

On the other side of the door is a science lab, a mad scientist’s science lab. There’s an examination bed in the middle of the room and a million different things that I can be poked, prodded, or otherwise examined and dissected with in all kinds ways. With the recognition that happens in dreams, I know this is a place where something bad happened to me. No one is here now, except me, and the lab hasn’t been used in decades.

“Explore the room, and make any changes that you wish to.”

All this crap has to go. I started moving things into the hallway to get rid of them. The examination table, the spotlights, the millions of tiny metal probes and instruments. Everything goes. The movers will haul it away to the dump tomorrow. I put a couch against the wall and hung up pictures of my family and friends.

You come to another door. It’s also familiar to you…

You come to another door. It’s also familiar to you…

“Leave the room, and walk back down the hallway…”

I felt better, and started playing with imagination mush.

“You come to another door. It’s also familiar to you…”

Yes. This is a safe place. It really is safe, unlike the lab.

“You recognize its color, and a sign or word on the door.”

The door flashes blue, then turns back to wood. Carved into a plaque on the door is a Chinese character. With the wordless understanding that comes in dreams, I know what it means. More on this later.

“Open the door, and go inside.”

I’m smiling. I know this is a safe place, this is where I should be right now, and something good will happen here. I open the door and see a reddish, living cloud inside the room. I think, warm, and go inside.

“Explore the room, and make any changes that you wish to.”

I fly around in the cloud. It shifts back and forth from cloud to jello, and I shift freely from flying to swimming. Breathing is easy. I see flashes of a walls of a cave. I’m exploring, and this is good, but there’s something here for me to learn. I need to see it.

golden lightIn class, we once did an exercise to help us feel life energy between our fingers — a ch’i ball. I imagined the same golden light that I did then, in crystal balls that I started hanging around the room. Other lights floated off my hands and hung in the air.

“Whoa! Look at that jump in theta waves!”

I hung up more lamps around the room. In a few moments, Wes brought me back out. This time I flew gently up the spiral staircase. He brought me back to the forest and had me sit down to meditate there, before coming all the way back up to reality.

I saw the wolf again

I saw the wolf again

I saw the wolf again. I smiled — it did too — and I decided to play with this image. I became a man-wolf, covered in fur and with a wolf’s head. I floated between being having a wolf’s head, and my own body, and my own head, and… it was still my own body, but for some reason it felt more wolfish. Maybe it was; I don’t remember.

“There’s another jump in theta! Did everybody see that one?”

We peeled the electrodes off my head, and I told everybody what happened during the meditation. It was a great class.

About the Chinese character: in reality I doubt I’ve ever seen it before. Thinking about it now, it looked kind of like a bridge, with a bar across the top, legs on the sides that poked over the bar, and a little waggle thing under the bar like that thing hanging down in the back of your throat, the uvula. With the bridging going on between my unconscious and conscious mind, now I’m not surprised. Voice, and the bridging of the heart and mind, are a big part of what I’m getting out of yoga, too.

As far as the wolf/man merge goes, on PBS, I saw a special once that talked about the sphinx. One thing that makes the sphinx unique is that, unlike most human-animal images of the time, the sphinx has a human head with an animal body, compared to the human body, animal head of previous images. It could symbolize the mind having benevolent rulership over our animal nature, or as I like to think of it, union with it. I thought it was very cool, which is why I went there with the image.

Note to self… age 16.

Posted: January 3, 2011 by writingsprint in Memories, postaday2011, postaweek2011
Tags: , , , ,

I was inspired to write this after reading a blog post by Rebecca Cantrell, author of A Trace of Smoke and A Night of Long Knives. If you could write a letter to yourself at age 16, from the present day, what would it look like? After five tries, I had to come at it in a different way: if you could write a letter to someone age 16, today, who is just like you were then, what would you say to them? The reason why I had to pitch the original version is that I wouldn’t change anything that I did back then. I was headed in the wrong direction: I was going to be a mechanical engineering major and turned into a writer instead, and there were deeper things that came to the surface too. I learned a lot in the years that followed, and those experiences, that learning, shaped me in ways that still echo today.

That said, if I knew someone else who was about to live through the same things I did, there’s no way I could just stand here and let him walk into a brick wall like I did.

Hey dude,

I wanted to offer a few words of advice as you go forward in high school. First, listen to that little voice inside you, the one that’s thinking about taking psychology and drawing class, instead of AP bio and AP chem. That voice is you learning to think for yourself. High school is when you want to try things out and see what they feel like, and see if they’re different directions you want to grow in. Your brain is a 3-lb organ in a 150-lb body. You can be a good scientist, and be a well-rounded one, too. Believe me when I tell you that learning to trust that little voice and follow it has been the source of more right decisions in my life than anything else.

So take a look at them. Maybe you can split the difference and take one of the AP courses, and one of the others. Give it some thought and see what you want to do. Oh, and yearbook, school newspaper, learning a musical instrument… those are cool ideas too. Hell, musicians invented the word ‘cool.’

Next, take it easy on yourself. I know it isn’t easy, but you have to learn to take care of yourself, and at the rate you’re going, as hard as you’re working, you’re going to kill yourself before you’re 30. It would mean losing a few A’s and getting B’s instead. You’ll be happier, and you’ll learn to set up a balance between work and your life that you’ll need to later.

Finally, it does get better. A lot better. Being yourself and proud of it, and the hell with everyone else, is cooler than “being cool” will ever be. If you want to make changes, fine, but smile at the guy in the mirror. He’s doing the best he can. Believe it or not, there are people out there who think you’re cool already. Girls will like you; some already do. You can overcome your stuttering; it took me three years of speech therapy to do it, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.

You have a lot to look forward to, in ways you can’t even imagine. Enjoy the ride. Good luck!

Matt