Valerie Jarrett Was Right

At Imaginarium with authors Elaine Munsch and Lynda Rees

Valerie Jarrett, a close confidante and senior advisor to President Obama, once said in a commencement address, “You can have it all, but not all at once.”

Recently, those words resonated with me when the director of the public speaking program at a local university where I’d taught part-time reached out to me. Would I be interested in returning to teach a class or two?

My initial response was enthusiastic. I loved teaching public speaking, and I really missed working with college students. Besides, my beloved grandson was a rising sophomore on campus, and I immediately fantasized weekly coffee and lunch dates with him.

Meantime, I got the lovely news that not only had my novel, DEADLY SETUP, been nominated for a Silver Falchion Award, but my work-in-progress, MISSING MOM, had been named a Claymore Finalist as a promising unpublished manuscript. More than ever, I wanted to finish the novel—and go on to the next writing project, and the next after that.

As I looked at my other commitments for the fall, which include singing with a community chorus, mentoring a teen creative writer, and serving on the board of Louisville Literary Arts, I realized I had a choice. I could go back to teaching at my local university, which would leave me with very little time to write, or I could withdraw my name from consideration for teaching public speaking.

That’s when I thought about Valerie Jarrett’s statement: “You can have it all, but not all at once.” This is especially true as I’ve gotten older and the days of pulling all-nighters “to get everything done” are no longer realistic.

I’ve been blessed to have taught hundreds and hundreds of classes in my years as an educator, first in dance and later in English Composition and Public Speaking. I will always be a teacher at heart, but now I want and need to write. And so, I won’t be back on campus this fall.

Instead, I’ll be at home writing, and feeling grateful that I’m still able to do work that I find meaningful and rewarding. Being a writer sometimes means we have to say “no” to other pursuits, even ones we love.

And that’s okay.

Leave a Comment