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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Balancing fatherhood and college

Published: April 3, 2009
Section: Features

Balance is a part of daily life for students at Brandeis. We all stress about having enough time to do all the reading and papers for class, making it to practice, being a member of a ton of clubs and still trying to have a social life on the weekends. This already might seem like a lot to deal with, but for Taylor Bracken ’10, this is only the beginning of his work. On top of all the normal parts of life at Brandeis, Taylor has something even more important he has to make room for: his daughter Adelaide.

When he first found out about the pregnancy last spring, he wasn’t exactly thrilled.

“I met [the baby’s mother] Annie through a friend and we started hanging out. I couldn’t believe it when she told me [she was pregnant]. I was in shock,” he said. “I couldn’t even begin to think how much stuff was about to change. Even after she told me she was keeping it, I just didn’t want to deal with it.”

Bracken tried to keep up appearances of a normal life during the pregnancy. The Brandeis soccer player spent time with friends and attended team practices, all the while keeping quiet about what was going on. It wasn’t until the summer when reality truly began to sink in.

“I got really depressed. I didn’t want to see friends and I just hung out on the couch. My mom knew there was something wrong. A few times she asked me if there was a problem or what was going on with me, but I played it off,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell them… I was scared.”

The depression continued when Bracken returned to Brandeis last fall. Many of his friends were concerned about him including his suitemate Suzy Bernier ‘10 .

“He wouldn’t get off the couch some days,” Suzy said. “I’d make him Mac & Cheese so he’d have something to eat.”

With everything going on in his life Bracken wasn’t even able to find joy in his true passion: soccer. For him it had always been something he loved, and even one of the reasons he came to Brandeis.

“I was recruited to play at a bunch of different schools, but none of them came close to Brandeis academically,” he said.

During his first two years at Brandeis, Bracken worked hard and improved his game. His freshman year he played 22 games with six shutouts and a save percentage of .733 while the team as a whole scored 55 goals. His sophomore year he played fewer games – only 18 – but still put up five shutouts and a .768 save percentage behind a team that had less than half the offensive strength as the year before, only putting up 26 goals.

Unfortunately his third season on the team was cut short when he was told he would no longer be starting. Shortly after he got the news, Bracken left the team for “personal reasons,” choosing not to tell the coach or the team about the pregnancy.

“Of course I was upset about not starting,” Bracken said. “But soccer just became a huge stress on top of everything. In the past it [had] always been great, but after losing my starting spot and everything else going on I just couldn’t do it.”

At this point the majority of people in his life were still in the dark, even his parents, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Annie and Bracken were fighting a lot at that point, especially over the issue of telling his parents what was happening. Ultimately she decided to take matters into her own hands and sent his parents an invitation to the baby shower. That sparked even more questions from Bracken’s parents, and he finally came clean.

“They weren’t as mad as I thought they’d be,” he said. “They were just aggressive, you know? They felt like they’d missed out on a lot and they wanted to be filled in quickly.”

After filling his parents in, things started looking up for Bracken. Once he realized they weren’t as upset as he thought they’d be, he was finally able to think about the steps they needed to take as a family. It wasn’t long before Nov. 3, 2008 came and his life was changed forever by the birth of his daughter.

A smile couldn’t help but creep onto Bracken’s face as he recalled this day. “I think it hit me, like really hit me, when I held her for the first time,” he said. “I never wanted to put her down; I just loved her.”

Since then Bracken has been slowly figuring out how all the other pieces of his life fit together. It hasn’t been easy and it sometimes instigates fights with Annie, but Bracken says he’s working towards something too important to let it go to waste.

“I’ve come too far to drop out,” he said. “When I’m done here I’ll have a degree that will help me get a great job and let me support my Addie, so for now school is my job.”

Between getting his work done during the week and trying to spend most weekends with his daughter, Bracken admits he doesn’t have a lot of free time left over. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that he feels like something is missing from his life – soccer.

“I know it’ll be hard to make time for everything, but it’s always been such a big part of my life… I miss that feeling I got on the field, it was a great release,” he said.

“I can totally see Addie coming to my games,” he added. “She might be young, but she picks up on emotions and she knows when I’m happy.”

Bracken spent a good part of the winter months starting to figure out how he would balance everything if he rejoined the soccer team. He participated in captain’s practices and talked with the assistant coach, Gabe Margolis, about the possibility of returning to the team.

All that remained was for Bracken to talk with head coach Michael Coven who was concerned about Bracken’s decision to leave the team.

“We cleared up everything,” Bracken said. “He didn’t know what happened in the fall and just assumed I quit ‘cause I wasn’t starting. He understands now and is cool with it.”

Bracken knows the next months and years will be filled with new challenges, but he remains optimistic that he will be able to tackle them.

“Having Addie in my life changed a lot of things. I had always dreamed of trying to go pro[fissional] for soccer and I’ll have to give up that dream,” he said. “I don’t know what I’ll do, but she’s got to be my focus now.”

Considering Brandeis’ rigorous academic standards, Coach Coven said Bracken’s doing a good job staying determined in the face of adversity: “Brandeis is a difficult [enough] place to do the work and combine that with fatherhood–-it’s an admirable thing he’s doing.”