“Survivor” is my favorite TV show. This should come as no surprise to anyone who pays a modicum of attention to any of my social media profiles. I’ve been watching since I was 12 years old, have seen over 50 unique seasons of the show, and know way more about the show than I should (feel free to judge as you see fit).
In “Survivor: Pearl Islands” (season 7), one of the most hated twists was introduced: the Outcasts twists in which two previously eliminated players would have a chance to reenter the game. When the twist was introduced Jeff Probst (the host) told the two tribes, “Morgan. Drake. Your past has come back to haunt you.” To the shock of the contestants still in the game, the six previously eliminated players, known as the Outcast Tribe, were brought back to compete in a challenge against the remaining players. The Outcasts won the challenge and two players, Lillian “Big Lill” Morris and Burton Roberts, reentered the game. They ultimately finished second and fifth, respectively. A variation of this twist was introduced in the 22nd season that makes fans cringe and brings back terrible memories from the “Survivor Dark Ages: Redemption Island (RI).” In this variation, two previously eliminated contestants would enter the arena and compete in a duel in order to remain in the game. The winner would live to see another day and the loser was permanently eliminated from the game.
What Probst said when the Outcast twist was introduced 16 years ago is fitting to how I view some stuttering situations. My Outcast Tribe consists of: speaking on the phone, drive-thrus, microphones, and public speaking. Nearly everyday I compete in some sort of duel against at least one member of my Outcast Tribe. In some of these duels, I have an audience watching my every move. While other times, it’s just me and the situation competing with no audience. In other duels, a large audience is present and I’m competing against multiple members my Outcast Tribe (Yes, I know a duel is only for two people, but RI consisted of multiple duels with more than two people so go with it).
For years, I would not even enter the arena and forfeit the challenge out of fear of how my stutter would present itself. It was my past with each member of my Outcast Tribe that caused me to forfeit. I would choose to yell and strain my voice over using a microphone because then my audience wouldn’t be able to hear the intimate details of my stutter. Every time I would make a phone call, I would go in room by myself, do many relaxation techniques, and create a script for the way I imagined the conversation would go. Before every public speaking presentation, I would sit in a room by myself and use relaxation techniques. I simply avoided drive-thrus because every time I used them, I had a bad experience.
When I did decide to enter the arena, I used every tool in my bag of tricks to defeat my Outcasts and win the duel. Yet, even though I “won” it didn’t feel like a win because I used many tricks and I wasn’t me. Over the past a couple of years, I’ve gone from avoiding RI arena to entering it only with my bag of tricks, to now entering the arena with only a great mindset. I go into each situation and look at the member of the tribe I’m about to face, smile, and say, “You ready?” I’ve learned that the only a trick I needed from my bag of tricks was a positive mindset. Participating in the challenge, regardless of how fluent I am or am not, is a win and allows me to see another day on RI. The only way members of my Outcast Tribe defeat me in our duel is when I don’t enter the arena and face the challenge because of my history with them. In those rare cases, I forgive myself and remember that tomorrow is another day.
One day I’ll fully defeat every member of my Outcast Tribe, leave Redemption Island, and get myself back in the game; that will happen when I no longer see the members of my Outcast Tribe has things to defeat, but rather has regular parts of my life. I’m not there yet, but I will be soon.