You should kick life in the crotch.
Since UGA has no use for my letter of intent, I figured I would post it here:
My name is Mark Babcock, and I am a severe stutterer. I don’t just repeat a word here and there, and I don’t just “have a little trouble when I’m nervous.” I struggle to put my thoughts into words. In my head, my thoughts are clear and concise, but they come out garbled and truncated. When I talk, I sometimes contort my face and run out of breath. My head often jerks uncontrollably. My listener usually breaks eye contact, and I follow suit out of shame. I feel like I make quite a spectacle.
I used to say “I don’t know” in school when a teacher would call upon me to answer a question. I did know. I always knew, but the knock to my pride was easier to deal with than the shame of stuttering in front of my peers.
I do not tell you this to gain your sympathy. I tell you this because my “affliction” has made me a natural sociologist. Let me explain.
When I talk to someone, I get two reactions. The first is the person’s response to what I say. For example, they might say “eleven fifteen” if I ask for the time. The second is the person’s response to my stuttering. Some people give a look of shock or confusion. Some laugh or make a joke. Some try to finish my sentence for me. Others give a sad, sympathetic smile.
As a child, I began to notice patterns in these responses. Men tended to be less sympathetic than women. Older people were more patient than younger people. As a teen, I found that the “popular” kids would make fun of me in a group but not in a one-on-one encounter.
In my head, I began to catalog people into types based upon the reaction that I expected from them. I used these types to avoid confrontation in my life. If I went to the grocery store and had the choice between a male cashier and a female cashier, I would always choose the female. If I encountered a pretty girl, I would not talk to her when she was around her friends. The list goes on and on.
Without realizing it, I was “doing sociology.” I developed an interest in why people from similar backgrounds or with similar character traits tend to do similar things. I never had a name for this interest, but it was always there. It was not until well into my college career that I found sociology.
I began college with high hopes. I was going to UGA where I would get a degree in math or chemistry, meet new friends, meet the girl of my dreams, and graduate in four years with my life planned out. The reality was different. My first year at UGA was difficult for me. I was going through an especially bad stuttering cycle, and I failed to meet friends. I endured a very public disappointment with the SpeechEasy device. [To make a long story short, I became the poster child for a device that was supposed to cure stuttering. I went on Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote this device. The device “cured” me for a few weeks, but then my stuttering came back.]
This series of events led me into a long depression. I began to work full time at a bar and nearly failed out of school. I just didn’t care. For the next few years, I bounced from major to major making B’s and C’s when I was capable of A’s. I began to manage a bar and toyed with the idea of dropping out of college. I loved learning, but I felt that my stuttering would keep me from doing anything useful with a college degree. Somewhere in my head, I knew that I was settling for less than I was capable of, but like I said, I just didn’t care.
After two years of this, I met Sarah, the woman that I would eventually marry. She helped me see that I was more than just a stutterer. She helped me get my college career back on track and urged me to look into psychology or sociology. When I took my first sociology class, a light bulb went off in my head. This was what I had been doing my entire life! As I sat in that crowded auditorium listening to Dr. Beck explain the basic tenets of sociological thinking, I felt like I knew what he was going to say before he said it. I went home that evening with a sense of purpose.
There is much more to me than stuttering. I am a semi-professional cyclist, I love music (I play the string bass and the guitar), and I have a soft spot for animals (especially dogs). I am a dedicated husband, a devoted son, and a reliable brother. I only focus on stuttering for this letter because I feel that it is the best way to convey to you why I am a good candidate in “1-2 pages.”
Thank you very much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.