About the presenter: Maartje Borghuis (29) is from the Netherlands and has been involved with national stuttering activities for the last 10 years. In the meantime, she has become a dentist and although that is a very satisfying job to have, she still wants to do more for people who have the same problem as she has. She has been on the board of the International Stuttering Association since May 2011 and she will chair the next World Congress for PWS in June 2013. This will be the 10th edition and it will be memorable!

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2012.

Things to do before you're 30

by Maartje Borghuis
from Netherlands

Things To Do Before You're 30 The big three-zero. No longer in your twenties. Grownup. Sensible. Wise. Responsible. Mature. Or, to put it another way. . . old. When you Google the title, you get about 1.01 billion hits. It's quite the topic. Thirty seems to be a magic number. They even made a movie about it (coincidentally based on a Dutch movie). What do people have to do before they turn thirty? The deadline for my contribution to this online conference was 1 September. The same day as my birthday. The day I turn thirty. The day I will no longer be seen as a young chick, but an old hen! For many women, this day can be a serious issue, a potent combination of a belated quarter-life crisis and a self-imposed deadline, because by the time a woman reaches thirty, she should be: thin; a graduate; engaged or married; a homeowner (or married to one); a parent or trying; progressing in her career; traveling the world; enjoying an active social life. . . basically, everything that makes her completely and utterly blissfully happy.

Well, I'm screwed, and hopelessly behind schedule. In fact, I don't think I even set a deadline for myself. Most likely I just didn't dare, because nothing in my life was ever 'according to schedule'. And looking back (turning thirty can make you nostalgic), my stutter had a lot to do with that. It was, and continues to be, a massive influence on my life. It's a strange problem: most of the time you hate it, but sometimes it can bring something good into your life. When I turned twenty, I never thought that I'd be where I am today, doing what I'm doing right now. A lot can change in ten years. . .

Sometimes I wonder if my life would've been different if I hadn't stuttered, if I would've been different. But then I know that I would have to have been a totally different person to begin with. I'm convinced that my personality was a magical breeding ground for stuttering to develop. And in my case, some genetic factors were also in place. Thanks Dad. . . :)

I come from a pretty entitled generation. We think we should have everything we want in life, without working too hard, and the people who don't have it must be losers or failures. I learned at a very young age that you have to work hard in many ways to get somewhere. My parents were born right after the Second World War and were brought up in a world where the washing machine was still being developed. A car? Wow! A television? Unbelievable!! My parents realize how special it is to have everything that we have today and that nothing comes for free. If you want to succeed in life, be the best you can be, work hard, be kind to the people you love and treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

I consider myself very lucky to have had my parents as my parents when I was growing up, or I might not have ended up where I am today. My father has stuttered his whole life, as did my brother when he was young. The three of us are a lot alike in many ways: stubborn, know-it-all, pig-headed perfectionists, in the best sense of the words. As for myself, I was also a shy, sensitive, aware, smart, eager to learn Benjamin with two big brothers to live up to. For me, it makes perfect sense that I started to stutter and never stopped.

When I was younger, in the late Eighties, stuttering therapy wasn't very developed, and my parents did what they thought was best. My father knew the struggles that go with this speech disorder, and one of the things he wanted most was for us to have a normal way of speaking. My brother overcame it before he went to high school, but for me, it stuck like glue. I began speech therapy at the age of six and was done with it about fifteen years later.

Luckily, although I've had my fair share of stuttering-trouble, I never really had a big problem with it when I was young. My parents always supported me in every way they could, and it was the same in school with my teachers, so I felt different, but not stupid. They all knew that what was in my head was way more than what came out of my mouth, and during my education, I was never marked as being less than others.

The most difficult thing for me was to meet new people, make friends, and talk to strangers; this has always been my biggest problem. I believe that stuttering has held me back socially, and it has taken me quite some time to overcome this. Many people who get to know me now can't believe how different I was a few years ago.

In thirty years, you make a lot of memories, and for many people, there are a lot of firsts: your first birthday party; your first school; your first pet; your first bike; your first date; your first kiss; your first boyfriend or girlfriend; your first break-up; your first time being drunk; your first hangover; I could go on . . . but I can also remember a lot of other firsts that very few people will have experienced.

I remember:

I have other memories of course; despite my stutter, I had a wonderful childhood. But I am always surprised to find that these memories are still so vivid. I can still feel how I felt at the time: angry; sad; ashamed; frustrated; disappointed; different; less than someone else; small; alone. And right alongside those feelings, were the ones of wanting to fight, to show 'them', to win, to be better, to learn, to improve, to succeed. And I did.

Looking back (still nostalgic), I couldn't have done anything different or sooner. Everyone needs to fight this battle in their own time, and if you're one of the people who still stutters in high school, you're bound to face these difficulties at some point in your life. I faced them around the time I was twenty. I couldn't continue with my college education, and I was completely stuck. I couldn't function, and my stutter was the problem. So I took a job that year and went back into therapy.

I learned a lot, from working and from therapy. It showed me I was the one making my life difficult, and because of that, my stutter became more severe. Once I figured out that I could live with my stutter, that I didn't need to make the choice between being silent and speaking fluent, I slowly began to recover. As long as I knew it was okay to stutter, my stutter became less and less severe (and less irritating for myself).

The following fall, I went back to college and graduated in 2007 as a dentist. The final presentation was a small thing for my fellow students, but for me it was a big victory because I did it on my own. I remember my brother coming to watch, and I was so happy after that. Ultimately, I think that my stutter has made me a better dentist: I am an excellent listener, and I know how important it is to take someone's fear seriously. I hear from many of my patients that they're happy that I'm their dentist, and it confirms that I had always made the right career choice originally. I just wasn't ready at the time for some of the problems along the way.

And that brings me back to the start. What do people have to do before they turn thirty? I'd say this: live your life the best way your know how. I think you shouldn't hold yourself to a certain age limit, life just happens. I have learned so much in the last ten years. At twenty, I joined my national stuttering association. Without them, without my parents, without my brothers and friends, without my own will to fight, life would have been much harder. Now, life is good.

At twenty, I wouldn't have dreamed that I was going to be the chair of the 10th World Congress for PWS. I was scared of The Stutter. Now I can see it can be managed or overcome, and that you can help others as well. If I may be so bold as to throw down the gauntlet, I think that anyone can do something to either help themselves or help someone else with this speech disorder. Because as long as we don't have a full proof prevention plan, we will always have people who need help with this problem. And I'm so glad that I can help.

A week from as I am writing this, I will be thirty. I'm happy, healthy, with a job that I love, my own place to live, a great family and wonderful friends, organizing a beautiful World Congress . . . I think I did okay. And I still stutter. Ha!

Please visit our World Congress website: www.stuttering2013.com

Hope to see you all in 2013. We're working very hard to make it a good one!

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2012.

SUBMITTED: August 28, 2012
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