I always used to wish that I could be a certain kind of person. The kind of person that was able to wake up naturally at around nine on a Saturday morning, roll out of bed and immediately start their weekend homework alone in their room. Content. Maybe even happy. I still wish I was this kind of person. But instead I am the kind of person who wakes up at 6 am on the dot. No alarms or anything, no matter the weekend or weekday, I wake up at the same time. I have woken up at that same time every day ever since I was born. Then, I immediately put in my airpods and begin listening to something. Music, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, a YouTube video, or the radio. I have to do this every morning. I then go about my daily routine while listening to whatever it is that day that I am listening to. To then be yelled at by my mom because she was calling me and I didn’t hear her because of “my damn airpods”. But I grew up around noise. I used to live in New Orleans, Louisiana before moving to Michigan. Down there, they don’t have time to wait for you-everything is fast paced. I loved it. Because both of my parents are from New Orleans, I was able to live by both sides of my family and see them all of the time. Growing up in houses where the only form of communication was yelling and screaming, moving up here was a big change. See what I didn’t know, was that both my parents hated Louisiana. I guess the fast paced lifestyle I longed for wasn’t for them. They’re suburban people. After my dad got a job teaching for U of M, we all packed up and moved. I then became the new kid.
When you grow up in a very tight knit community, everybody already knows you. You don’t have to introduce yourself to anyone, all you have to do is say your last name and people will know. Or in my case, because of my striking resemblance to my dad, I didn’t have to say anything at all. Moving here was a big change in that regard. I knew that people weren’t going to know my name in all, but there were a few things that I didn’t think I would have to explain. For example, my very strong speech impediment. This may come as a shock to some of you, and to others maybe not so much, but I have a stutter. You heard it here first. Lindsay Robert has a stutter. I liked to think that I mask it pretty well, only slipping up a couple of times in conversations that I was really passionate about, or when I was requested to read something aloud. Like right now. But all in all, I didn’t think it was very noticeable. Apparently the kids in my 1st grade class didn’t agree with me. They would ask me questions like “why do you sound so weird?”or “why do you talk like that?”. Granted, I was a 7 year old with a very heavy speech impediment mixed with a very strong New Orleans accent. I would have most likely asked myself the same question. So, after being asked these questions, I decided that I was never going to speak again. Dramatic I know, but I wanted to make a point. People didn’t want to hear me talk? Fine. They’d never hear me talk again. I would be the greatest non-talker they’d ever seen! This resorted to lots of silence when it came to school. I always hated silence. Now when I say silence, I mean the kind of silence that's uncomfortable. The silence you hear when everyone in a class stops talking and all you hear is the air conditioner. That painful silence as you pray for someone to cough or sneeze. The kind of silence that makes you feel like you need to be doing something. You look around you. Everyone else is content with the silence, they are all working and living in silence. And you wonder why you can’t function in silence. Silence makes you feel so alone. You are then being forced to think. Think about all of the things you have been trying to avoid. Like how much that tiny spot of expo marker still stuck on the board is bothering you. Or how you wish that that person would stop whipping their pen around their fingers. You begin to think more deeply, you think about how much you wish you wouldn’t have said that one super embarrassing thing when you were like 12, or how much you wish you could go back and change a situation from when you were 14. Your legs start shaking. You begin feeling a heavy weight on your chest. You can’t breathe. Your throat tightens as you pray that someone sniffs so that you can focus on something else. You close your eyes. Silence.
I didn’t realize until 5 years ago that those feelings are not normal. In 6th grade, I told a school counselor that sometimes I convince myself that certain foods are poisonous. She asked what I meant, I told her, “Well for example, when I was like 8, I told myself that ketchup was poisonous andI haven't eaten it since then.” She then sent a message to my mom and next thing I knew I was seeing a child psychologist. I told the psychologist about how sometimes I convince myself that I have certain diseases, I then spend hours googling them and researching them and trying to figure out as much information as I can and trying to cure myself of a disease that I don’t have. I told her about how I hadn’t eaten ketchup since I was 8. For the record, I still haven’t and I never will. I told her about how sometimes I can’t seem to get the thoughts I have out of my head no matter how hard I try. Very soon after this, I was diagnosed with OCD. Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Some of you may have seen that one coming after all of the stuff I was just describing, but I had no idea. I thought that people with OCD were people that had to have everything straight, and that their rooms were spotless, and that they had 100s in all of their classes. I was none of these things. So how did I have OCD? I refused to accept my diagnosis for a very long time.
At this point I was around 14, always wearing headphones, never speaking in class, and attempting to find any kind of distraction I could, to not have to feel like that hurtful silence. I just had to keep going. Keep pushing, keep moving, keep breathing and never stop. I mean, if I didn’t give myself enough time to think, I never would. I gave myself a very rigid schedule to follow everyday so that I was always doing something, learning something, and listening to something. But never feeling something. When I did speak, it was in extremely fast and short sentences, I would never go beyond surface level conversations. I didn’t have the time for that. Then, freshman year, I found out that I was going to have two weeks off school. And well we all know how that turned out. A year and a half inside my house. Forced to hear myself breathe, and think, and feel. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. It was always silent. Always silence in my house, and it was silent in my room. The only noise I heard was that weird doorbell noise at the beginning of zoom meetings. The only interactions I had were with my friends over FaceTime calls. And it was just me. Alone. Something that I had never experienced before. I had been pushing my way through life for so long. I realized I didn’t know myself. More like I never took the time to meet myself. I realized that the reason I didn’t like silence was because I was afraid of it. I never cared what other people thought of me, but I never thought about what I thought of me. What if I didn’t like who I was? I was continuously running away from having to figure that out. It's so much easier not to have to think about it. Silence. So, now that you all know me maybe a little too well, weirdly, you all probably know me better than I know myself. You're probably thinking, okay, what's the resolution here. The resolution is that there isn’t really a resolution. Maybe cliche but, it's true. I still don’t know myself very well, but I am getting to know myself. I still hate silence though, I hate feeling like I am supposed to be doing something, I hate feeling heavy chested, I hate the silence in a conversation when I cannot physically say the next word because of my stutter. I hate the way silence makes me feel. Uncomfortable. But, I’ve learned that feeling uncomfortable is maybe good sometimes. So hi, I’m Lindsay, and obviously I really hate silence, but I really enjoy swimming, talking to my friends, hugs, theatre, science, that feeling when you’re so excited that you can’t help but jump up and down, and shoes. I have been in speech therapy for 12 years and I have OCD. As I am writing this, I am sitting in a Starbucks listening to NPR while also listening to rain noises because I cannot function without some kind of background noise. Because, as I have said 22 times throughout this, I hate silence.