Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Slice of Life, #11

I'm taking part in a reading series called Big Words, where the audience chooses the theme for the following gathering. This month's theme is "All or Nothing," and here is my contribution. (Does this qualify as a "slice of life"?)

All or Nothing

When I was 15, I wanted to know everything there was to know in the universe.
If I couldn't know all of it, then I didn't want to know anything.
If I couldn't have all A's, just give me all F's.
If my hair couldn't be blonde and wavy, I’d rather be bald.
If my eyes couldn’t be blue, I’d rather be blind.
If I couldn't be the star of the junior play, I’d rather sit in the back of the audience.
If I couldn't be class president, I might as well leave town.
If I couldn't dance all night, I’d rather be deaf.
If I couldn't be queen of the prom, I might as well stay home.
If I couldn't play the piano like Dave Brubeck, I’d rather lose my fingers.
If I couldn't sing like Nina Simone, I’d rather be mute.
If I couldn't write like Virginia Woolf, I might as well lose my mind.

If I couldn't grow a prize-winning orchid, I’d rather plow under the garden.
If I couldn’t cook like Julia Child, I’d rather go hungry.
If I couldn't win the hundred-yard dash, I might as well lose my feet.
If I couldn't find a cure for cancer, I might as well die.

Then I got all C’s in college.
I dropped out, and had more fun.

Now I’m past 70.
I know I’ll never know everything there is to know in the universe.
And I know that no one else ever will either.
I can’t play the piano like Dave Brubeck, but I can play well enough for me.
I can’t write like Virginia Woolf, because I can only write like me.
I didn’t become an actress, but I can stand up here and read my own words.
I was never queen of the prom, but I can still dance all night.
My hair is now exactly the way I want it, and if I change my mind, I can change my hair.
I can cook like Julia Child when I follow her cookbook, or I can cook anything else I want.
I’ll never find a cure for cancer, but I have helped women activists in Eastern Europe,
My name is known in those circles.
Everything I have is all,
Until I die,
When it will be nothing.
There are hundreds more slices of life over at the Two Writing Teachers' blog. Check them out.


  1. Love the juxtaposition between the two ages. Wouldn't it be great to share this with high school students?

  2. We grow too soon old and too late smart (speaking for myself on this one)!

  3. You exactly captured the mindset of youth. Wow...isn't the power of finding yourself tremendous?! freeing....independence! It was nice to circle back to the beginning to the all or nothing theme (but I don't believe it will be'd be surprised how you have touched those that you know and a piece of you lives on forever in their hearts and minds)