My Happy Place


One of the many things have made my life something of a challenge is that unless you know me well it can be hard to understand what I’m saying. I’m not entirely why that is. When I was a child I had a speech impediment and went to speech therapy for many years but it goes beyond that. 

I mumble. When the A.V Club started podcasting, I learned from commenters that because I tend to talk very loud and then talk very softly, I can be difficult to hear or understand. I also learned that my voice and way of communicating were terrible, and something I should be ashamed of. Finally, I learned from the A.V Club that I should stop reading comments because they’re a Pandora’s Box unleashing all manner of ugliness, ill will and debilitating self-doubt. 

The fact that strangers and even friends and family members often can’t understand me when I talk has made me even more self-conscious and self-aware, and being self-conscious and self-aware about being incomprehensible when I communicate has in turn only made me more self-conscious and more self-aware and consequently even less understandable. 

It’s a devastating cycle, really and thanks to the freelance lifestyle and my own hermit-like tendencies, I talk to fewer and fewer people these days, which puts additional pressure on each conversation with someone outside my family and exceedingly small circle of friends. 


I feel self-conscious and self-aware talking to other people with the prominent exception of my family, particularly my son Declan. When I talk to Declan I never feel self-conscious or self-aware. I don’t worry about whether I’m being understood or if my stammering dearth of eloquence is making the person I’m trying to communicate with uncomfortable. 

That is particularly true when I read to my son every night, my most beloved and cherished ritual. I love nightly story time with Declan so much that at least once a week I’ll buy books from Ebay, primarily used Sesame Street and Muppet books from decades past so that we never run out of new things to read. I’m building a formidable library of children’s books that I’ll be able to read to my five-month-old son Harris in a few years when the time comes. 

When I’m reading to Declan every night I no longer feel self-conscious about my voice and my cadences. I love them. I feel confident. I feel at peace with the world and my place in it. I feel like a storyteller, a performer, an entertainer, a yarn-spinner, not an unusually neurotic depressive who has to struggle to be understood in a distressingly wide variety of contexts. 


When I’m holding Declan with one arm and reading to him with the other I feel like everything in the universe is as it should be. I feel at home. I feel liberated from the prison of self-consciousness, of self-awareness, of worrying, with reason, that on the most literal possible sense, I cannot be understood and who among us does not want to be understood, to feel seen and heard and listened to? 

Story time with Declan is my Happy Place. It’s when I feel most myself. It connects me to the happiest moments of my often traumatic and painful childhood, when my favorite part of each day was when my dad would read to me. 


My wife has a magnificent voice and extensive experience reading to children. She’s a teacher so it comes with the job but she’s also an exceedingly natural and compelling reader. But story time is my time. It belongs to the guy with the weird voice who worries about being understood, literally and metaphorically, because when I’m reading to Declan I’m not worrying about anything. Instead I’m living in the moment, feeling absolutely free. 

Declan loves story time. He needs it, but not quite as much as I do. 

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