I have a byline, some days.
It’s like a virtual name tag that pops up on your computer screen, or, for those who still read hardcopies, a 10-point Times New Roman stamp on grey newsprint.
As a writer, the byline comes with the territory.
But I am not a byline.
In fact, it wouldn’t bother me one bit if people didn’t notice my name underneath the article headline.
You see, I’ve never quite identified with the words reporter or journalist. I don’t think those titles fully get to the heart of what I feel God has allowed me to be at this time in my life.
I could be a janitor or a banker or a fashion designer, but my job title could never be who I am.
I remember when my first article was published in my university’s newspaper. I rushed to the stands to grab a copy, flipping through the pages with lightning speed.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t pause to read the other stories. I didn’t even care to read through the story I wrote to see if the editors had made any changes.
What I was looking for was my name. I was looking for nothing more than my itty-bitty name.
When I found it I smiled.
But then, as if the wind was knocked out of me, my stomach became queasy, my mouth bitter.
Why did I care so much about seeing my name?
Asking myself this question, I knew the answer would point to something ugly, like a zit under a layer of skin-colored foundation. The thing about zits is that even with all the makeup, you can still see the bulging protrusion.
Seeing my name in print was a moment of intoxication, my 15 seconds of fame. I thought my byline was proof that what I was doing was good, that my writing had been worthy of printing in a paper. Somehow, my byline equaled success.
I set down the paper, lowering my head as I sank in my stinking humanness.
The truth was that the most important words on that page were the words of the person whose story I had the privilege of sharing.
The words this person had shared with me were shared in confidence.
They had given me these words trusting that I would remember them, hold them, and share them with their neighbors in a truthful way.
They had not given me their words so that I could have a byline; they gave them to me because they believed that I cared about them.
And trust me, I did. Or, I had.
For a fleeting moment, I had forgotten all of that, forgotten all of the beauty of storytelling in the heat of seeing my name made known to the world, well, made known to those on campus.
God started off my newspaper writing days with a dose of humble pie.
I make a conscious effort to remember that flavor.
From that day forward, I made the decision that I would never write so that my name would be in print. I vowed that any time I opened a newspaper or magazine knowing that my work would be in it, I would not look at my name first. Instead, I would circle the name of the person in the story to remind myself that this is about my brothers and sisters. This work that I get to do, this blessing, is about them.
It’s their story. It’s their God-given story.
Maybe my byline can be a symbol of the trust that people give me when they share their story, but that symbol is not me.
My clips are not me. My resume is not me. My title, my byline, they’re not me either.
I’m Taylor and I’m a listener and a storyteller.
I am a young woman who walks with people along part of their journey, observing, questioning, receiving.
I hope that in what I do, I am an encourager. I hope that I am trustworthy and that I come before those I interview with arms open, holding out respect to each and every person who shares their moments with me.
Whether I write for a readership of thousands or just for one, I hope that the way I help share someone’s story speaks louder than a byline ever could.