In the spring of ’82, the Charlotte Observer ran a short article on my mom – who, at 24, had just been elected to lead the Junior Committee of the Charlotte Symphony Women’s Association and had her first baby – me.
The story almost didn’t happen; I had brain surgery when I was a few weeks old, and we spent a lot of time at the hospital. But the paper’s society columnist, the late Grace Hamrick, insisted. After rescheduling several times, she finally arrived at my parents’ house in the suburbs one day in April with a notepad and a camera.The Symphony’s Junior Committee, of course, would be just the first of many leadership posts for Mom. And Grace Hamrick’s visit to our house that spring day in ’82 would not be my last story with the paper.
Tomorrow is my 30th birthday – a day I’ve dreaded for nine years. At 21, I dreaded 30 because 30 sounded old. At 25, I dreaded 30 because 30 sounded like the right age to start having kids, and I couldn’t imagine taking that next step. And lately, I’ve dreaded 30 because I haven’t made it through quite as many of the items on my list of childhood/young adult dreams as I would have liked. These past few nights, I’ve climbed into bed and thought about the trips I haven’t taken (New Zealand, Alaska), or the novel I never finished (the first 180 pages have hibernated on my hard drive and several CDs for the past eight years) or the art that dwindled from childhood dreams of drawing for Disney to occasionally doodling on scratch paper during a meeting here and there, or the athletic career that could have been something more if I’d had the self-confidence in high school or been injured less often in high school, college and the years to follow.
When I get down, I try to remind myself that my family got dealt a crushing blow two short years after I finished school – hardly enough time to accomplish all of my lofty goals. That we didn’t sit back and allow Batten disease to destroy us without a fight. That I co-founded a non-profit organization that has raised more than $300,000 for the cause. That while my body didn’t let me go as far as I wanted in soccer, I turned myself – a natural sprinter – into a distance runner and spent the latter half of my 20s racing in my little sister’s honor. That while I haven’t finished my book, I became a storyteller for children like my little sister on a global scale. I try to remind myself that all of that is worth something; that we cannot always choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose how we act on it.
And, if that isn’t enough, I remind myself that children with infantile Batten disease don’t live to celebrate their 30th birthdays. That I’m not the only one with big dreams. And that if I can somehow help rewrite the rest of the story for future Taylors, that will be my greatest achievement.