Sound of Silence

Guest Blogger Kyle Kiekintveld (with his fiancé Jessica Poel)

Guest Blogger Kyle Kiekintveld (with his fiancé Jessica Poel)

I never really had it that bad. I was fortunate that I was always surrounded by people who seemed to have it worse than me, people who had something identifiable going on. I never even really thought of it as a disability, but growing up it seemed like torture. At a young age I had a perforated eardrum, which adversely affected how I heard sounds and learned to speak.

The most often question I get asked as an adult by strangers is where I am from. Years of speech therapy have reduced a speech impediment to a strange sounding accent. I tend to speak slower and drop my R’s. If I am in a good mood I like to make up a story about where I am from, usually some country the average person has no experience with. When people bring it up and I am in a bad mood it is a cringe worthy topic. I escaped childhood with a deep seated irrational fear of hearing myself talk.

From kindergarten to seventh grade at least once a week I would get pulled out of class to learn to pay attention to how to talk. No kid wants to be pulled out of class, especially not on a weekly basis, it is simply embarrassing. Inevitably I fell behind on whatever subject my class was studying when I got pulled out of class. Kids tease, even the best kids will make comments in the right social situations, but for me the teasing wasn’t the worst.

The most difficult part of it for me was the fact that I always attributed the teasing, the looking foolish to myself, and not the teasing. I learned that everything is better when I didn’t talk.  When I was quiet no one would tease me. I was just the average kid until I started talking, so I clung to a small social circle whenever I was at school. When I was at home I quickly fell in love with the internet. In the pre-Myspace and Facebook era no one really cared who you ‘really’ were. I loved to talk online, writing just felt more comfortable to me and to this day I feel like a much more confident writer than speaker.

I had one memory that sums up my greatest insecurities when dealing with my speech. When I was in high school my mom switched jobs and we had to switch dentists. The woman cleaning my teeth was speaking to me in a very peculiar way. She was speaking very slowly, very loudly and very simply. It took me a long time to realize what exactly it was but in the end I realized she assumed I had something cognitively wrong. I never embarrassed her by correcting her; instead I was left with the lingering doubt, wondering if other people had that impression of me.

It was one fear that has for better or worse molded who I am as a person. I tend to be a fairly quiet person. I am a classic introvert. I try my hand at being a writer. I have a wonderful fiancé. I still have a lingering fear, occasionally at least, that I sound ridiculous when I open my mouth.