Family, family, family.

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Family is an amazing concept, it seems so easy to describe your family when you look at it in a purely biological sense, but I want to point out that family, blood or not, is the most important thing we have in our lives, or at least mine.

Day to day life can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, there are days when we want nothing to do with what the world has to offer outside of our bedroom. Some days we wake up ready to take on incredible challenges and other days we’re lucky if we greet someone with as much as a smile. That being said, despite all the great days and the not-so-great days that I have experienced throughout my time here on this planet, I have always had one constant: family.

My crappy days tended to, more so in the past than now, revolve around my stutter and my anxiety of speaking in public. There were times that I felt incredibly defeated. I remember sitting in my room, or lying in bed at night, in tears because I knew that I would likely never be able to speak fluently in my life, and the burden of always having to face the challenge of having a stutter seemed like something I could never conquer. That seemingly impossible mountain I had to climb became a lot less daunting when I knew I had a supporting and loving family to help me out along the way. Sometimes I would need to go to my mother and tell her and explain to her all these difficult and deflating feelings I was experiencing and having her assure me that it would all be okay. Other times I would have these incredible heart-to-hearts with my sister about relationships or school and just focus on the more important things in life. Or sometimes all I would need to do is have a judgement-free conversation with my father or brother about sports or cars and just forget about my stutter and focus more on talking with someone who I know loves me and genuinely wants to have a conversation with me for what I have to say rather than how I say it. I have felt, in the more recent years, that my speech is actually less fluent when I am with my family, or even close friends, and I have a feeling that it has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t feel the need to present this well spoken, somewhat stutter-free, person, but rather I can be my true self: a guy with a stutter who has a lot of strong opinions.

In my later high school years (grade 12) I met my girlfriend Kelsey. Kelsey has been an incredibly key part of my growing as a stutterer. Kelsey was essentially one of the first girls I ever really had meaningful conversations with. Not long after we started dating we had serious conversations about life, I cried in front of her, I was honest with her, I began to understand myself better when I was with her. And I feel, rather I know, that my journey of better understanding myself, with her by my side throughout it all, is the reason we are still together today, 8 years later.

Kelsey’s family has become my own family, her parents have become people I can talk to about almost anything, they have taken incredible care of me and I respect them so much for what an amazing daughter they raised. Her brother has become one of my best friends and I talk with him as much as I do my own brother.

I moved away from my home in Ottawa in January of 2016. It was a big move, I basically went as far from my hometown as I could to be closer to my amazing girlfriend in Vancouver. But in doing this I also greatly separated myself from the family of which I rely so much on for support. It is a sacrifice I made, one in which I have zero regrets. Kelsey and I have spent a large part of our relationship in different cities and hundreds of kilometers apart, so trying to remain in the same city for once was kind of a no-brainer. As someone who has spent every moment of his life (until this recent January) living at home with his family it has definitely been an eye opening as well as a giant learning experience for me. But the two most evident outcomes thus far from my move that I have seen are: 1) I love my family, I miss them when I am not around them, and you really grow to appreciate what you have when you don’t have the ability to take it for granted. 2) Family will do anything to help you, no matter how far away you are – whether it be a simple phone call to talk about your rough week, helping you set up a new apartment, or still doing your annual taxes (yes, yes, I realize this one I should probably just learn myself), my family is still here for me and I love them all so much for it.

This post is really meant to bring your attention to the importance of family. My family, and my quickly established second family, is filled with people who love and support me and give me the courage to be who I am today. My stutter has always defined me and it has often held me back from doing the things I love, but it has also acted as a cornerstone in bringing me closer to people, especially my family. It isn’t always as simple as just talking about my speech with family but rather just feeling comfortable around them. Speaking to my family and never feeling judged or criticized enables me to speak more freely and raises my comfort level. I am so thankful for the feeling I get from my family and I have no idea what kind of person I would be today if I didn’t have them in my life. So thank you all for everything you have done, knowingly or not.

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