Tonight I did something I had never done before: I called into a live show to tell a story on the air. 

The show was the Chris Gethard Show, one of the funniest, weirdest, and most wonderful things happening on TV. It’s a cult hit public access show declaring that “loser is the new nerd.” Each show has a theme; callers, panelists, and guests all participate. In one episode, The Night of Zero Laughs, everyone in the public access studio is forbidden from laughing. In another, an NYC dominatrix tortures Chris Gethard.  

This week’s topic was firsts— all first-time callers, telling stories about their first time doing something, while the panelists performed actual firsts on stage. One panelist performed her first card trick; another proposed to his girlfriend. 

I called in to talk about my first time going through a fast food drive-through: a minor anecdote that was most definitely overshadowed by all the other hilarious and insane stories during the episode. But it was exhilarating for me. 

The drive-through first happened two weeks ago and was one of the many things that I had never done because of the anxiety I felt about my stutter. Driving across town to feed a friend’s cat one evening, I noticed a McDonalds and decided to stop, just to prove to myself that I could. It wasn’t that I even particularly wanted the food: I just wanted to have the experience under my belt. I wasn’t afraid of the situation anymore and I felt light as air as I ordered with no particular nervousness, knocking down another first that would have felt impossible a couple of years ago. 

When I heard about tonight’s topic for the Chris Gethard Show I immediately thought of my random drive-through first. I thought it would be awesome to talk about stuttering to such a huge audience. Right away, I got anxious at the thought of calling. But as soon as I had this reaction I knew I had to do it. Here was a chance to really do something for the first time— something that scared me. 

It took me a long time to realize this about stuttering: if you don’t do the things that make you uncomfortable, you will probably never be ready to do them. The comfort comes after you do it uncomfortably several times. 

I had always avoided phone calls, speaking in class, and job interviews, thinking I wasn’t ready: that I could somehow get ready first, and then do it. But months would go by and I still wouldn’t be ready to make that phone call, speak in that class, or try for that job.

Sometimes years would go by and I would still tell myself no. I need more time to prepare.

I sat on the phone for almost an hour waiting to go on. At first, I was shaking with nervousness: really shaking, arms, legs, and hands, in a way that surprised me. After a while, I started talking to myself. I talked to myself about what would happen if I couldn’t say “McDonalds.” About how, if I felt myself starting to stutter, I could let it happen rather than fighting. About how good I would feel when I hung up, when I had pushed a little more of that fear out of my life. And, slowly, I stopped shaking and started to feel excited and happy. And then I went on the air.

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