Some of my coworkers stayed late at the office tonight for their annual fantasy football league draft. When the email went out a couple of weeks ago, I considered joining in. I thought it’d be fun to show some of the guys this girl knows a thing or two about NFL football.
But I decided I couldn’t add one more thing to my plate, opting instead to live vicariously through my husband, who plays in two leagues (this past Sunday night, I shared my draft pick recommendations between working on a book manuscript and hammering out travel details for upcoming races).
The truth is that I’ve been “too busy” for a lot of things for most of my adult life. Fresh out of college, I moonlighted as a sportswriter in addition to working a full-time job in marketing and public relations, coaching a traveling soccer team and planning a wedding. The young adult novel I’d started writing my senior year languished on my hard drive, and I figured I’d finish it as soon as I got married.
A month after my wedding, Batten disease happened.
Suffice it to say, I never finished the young adult novel. At first, I blamed it on the plot line (one of the main characters is dying of brain cancer). Then, I blamed it on all of the other things that clamored for my time. I was just 24, with a good job, a new husband and a “five-year plan.” But suddenly, I’d joined my mom and a small team of volunteers on an inspiring but terrifying mission to build an organization from the ground up and challenge a fatal disease with no cure head on. I was the girl who said she’d never join the Junior League, but before I knew it, my calendar was filled with committee meetings and fundraisers. I was a lifelong introvert, but a few months after Taylor’s Tale was founded in my sister’s honor, I was speaking to crowds.
The struggle for balance is never-ending. I used to worry that if I shut down my laptop too early on a weeknight or gave myself the day off, I was shorting my sister a chance at survival. I don’t do that anymore, but I do think about how much we can do as a society to build a better future for the millions like Taylor and how much we’re NOT doing. I think about how I can be the very best advocate for the rare disease community and the very best big sister to Taylor. I do worry that at times, I’ve been a better advocate than a sister. I know that while I “gave up” a lot of my 20s and early 30s, I made that decision on my own – and I’ve still managed to have a pretty great life, though I’d like to get more sleep occasionally.
These past eight-plus years haven’t been easy, and I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons, the toughest of which may be this:
I’m not the one who lost out, because I’m not the one who got Batten disease. My sister did, and she’ll never have many of the opportunities or experiences I’ve been blessed with. But she’s taught me more about life than I could ever hope to teach her.