Life shifts constantly, even as we seem to be standing still. When we're young, our dreams are many with countless years ahead. Someday is our mantra. Someday I'll be a dancer, firefighter, singer, doctor, artist; the list is endless.
Maybe we see those dreams fulfilled or life shifts and they become distant. We train ourselves with voice, art or dance lessons; watch people we hope to be like such as our teachers and parents; we study and get into the best colleges.
Through training, we have learned integrity, grit, skills, grace, appreciation for people who serve the public and for the arts, the need for a healthy lifestyle and no studies are a waste of time. Maybe we don't do anything we dreamed of but life experience is our teacher and as it shifts, we are guided in another direction.
The last thing I wanted to be was a secretary but I grudgingly took typing. I excelled in it and did become a secretary. My goals of being a music teacher were sidelined. Time would show that my hearing loss would have frustrated that plan. But my years of typing and computer work would make a new goal of being a writer possible. The shift in my life held fulfilling surprises.
Linda Sturm, 56 of Gahanna, was a master steno typist. She attended court reporting school right out of high school. At one time, steno typing at a speed of 260 words per minute, she was in the Guinness Book of World Records. She didn't take that too seriously because, as she said, that book also boasts the person who could spit a cricket furthest.
But she knew the skill of flying fingers was marketable.
In 1980, she started a business, Professional Reporters Inc. Her company was the first in Ohio to do captioning on a full-time basis. Their goal is clear: "Our focus is REALTIME voice-to-text translation. This is what we do best. Our focus does not stray. We focus on the benefits that real-time reporting provides to our legal clients. Since 1990 we have also utilized our real-time reporting to provide services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. That is what we do -- real-time."
For 20 years, they have provided a volunteer for Hearing Loss Association of America meetings. People attending are able to read on a screen word-for-word (real-time) what is being said. I was one recipient of this kindness for several years. It is blessed relief for those struggling to understand words.
But I didn't know Linda until last month when a mutual friend introduced us. He thought we had a lot in common. I trust this friend so he took me there with a plan for lunch. Since I can't walk too far, I asked, "Should I bring my walker?" or "Will you drop me off?" the logistics I needed to know. Not to worry was his answer. Linda is limited, too, and would have her wheelchair.
After meeting this woman with the infectious smile, we chatted but then cut to the chase. People with special needs do that. Linda learned a few years ago she has Multiple System Atrophy. I asked her to explain and listened. I didn't like the answers as I learned the prognosis but I'm glad we didn't put off the meeting.
I asked what message she would want a column about her to give. "Life is too short. Don't waste it."
"The most important lessons I've learned is that, you wish you would have appreciated the things you could do. I catch myself in regret. There's so much we shoulda, woulda, coulda done had we known this was coming."
She said she was one of those people who felt she had arrived, did it on her own and didn't need God to help her. Another gift of her disease is her personal search for God in her life. "There's nothing like a terminal illness that will do that for you. The problem is, I often want 10 years of knowledge and I only have two."
Comfort comes knowing we are so alike in this quest. When time is cut short, it's emphasized.
"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair -- every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." -- Proverbs 2:9-11
Life shifts, often without notice, and it's wise to keep our eyes on a worthy goal.
Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.