All or Nothing

I’ve always wanted to wear a pair of Converse All Star tennis shoes, but I’ve never been cool enough.

I’m a 5’11” white girl with size 11 feet. A writer. An English nerd with an alphabetized spice rack.

I tried on a pair of All Stars in a shoe store once. Red ones. The color of fire, of energy. The color of pizzazz.

I loved how they made me feel, like I was part of something vintage and cool, part of the history of our country — of basketball player Chuck Taylor bringing Converse back to life when sales were slow in the 1910s, of the different groups and movements that have claimed the shoes over the years. Athletes. Hip-hop types. Creative types. Kurt Cobain. Hunter S. Thompson. My dad.

I walked the shoe store aisle in those All Stars, feeling good, feeling alive.

Then I looked in the full-length mirror at the tall awkward white girl with boats on her feet, and promptly removed them, shoving them back into their box on the shelf.

I’d never be cool enough.


My friend Adam, a brilliant writer and musician who was definitely cool enough, owned two pairs of All Stars — black, and charcoal gray. He was wearing the black ones when he died in New York last month while my friend and I visited him (read more here). We were on our way to walk the Brooklyn Bridge when he died on the floor of a Rite Aid pharmacy.

Six weeks later, it still shocks me to type that sentence.

When sadness and fear paralyze me, I try to think about Adam when he was most alive. Of Adam wearing his All Stars. Of Adam crossing the Bridge on a bright day, leading us from his Brooklyn home into Manhattan where he worked and played.

New York City in June. Reunited friends. Converse All Stars. The Brooklyn Bridge. It’s too perfect.

It would have been too perfect.

I like to think, too, about all the places Adam’s All Stars visited. The dirt-floor Mexican restaurant that became his favorite while teaching in New Mexico. The karaoke bar he frequented in Marquette — twisting on his toes while belting “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”. The lawn at Bryant Park where he ate ice cream with his girlfriend. The writing studio he oversaw at FIT in Manhattan.

Where the man went, the shoes went, and that was everywhere.

He seized opportunity. He went all in.

He was the coolest.


I did it, you guys.

I bought them. The red ones I’ve always wanted. I’m wearing them now, and it’s exciting.

I’ll be wearing them out of the house for the first time today. I wish I could tell you I was going somewhere funky or exotic, but its Sunday, people. I’m going to church, and the grocery store, and probably for a walk and a boat ride. I might twist a little on my toes as I dance with my son in the kitchen.

I may not be doing anything for the cool image of All Stars, but All Stars are doing something for me. I can feel it. These shoes and I are going to have a lot of fun. They’ll be leading me on adventures near and far — to Marquette, Chicago, the Rockies.

One day, I hope, they’ll even lead me back to the Brooklyn Bridge.


July 26th is All or Nothing Day. What might you do today that you haven’t had the guts to do before?

Join others like Heather Von St. James in the All or Nothing Day movement. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006, just three months after giving birth to her baby girl. Doctors gave her 15 months to live, but she decided it was all of nothing against cancer, and is alive today, passionately telling her story and encouraging others to go all in!

For more information about mesothelioma, or to get in touch with Heather, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, read more personal essay here.

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17 thoughts on “All or Nothing

  1. really very touched to the story of a man named Adam who died in New York at rite aid pharmacy floor on the way to walk towards the brooklyn bridge …


  2. Love! If I hadn’t thrown out my 15+ year old trashed red ones, size 10, last week, I would post a pic for you. I totally get this. For a while, I thought I was cool enough to rock a pair of TUKS, very similar, in black with white and red trim, with black jolly rogers on the toe caps. I’m only 5’6″ with my boats! With fishnet and argyle miniskirts…after my second divorce, in my 30s at 280 lbs. That was quite a few years ago…”All or Nothing.” In NV I learned a saying, “Go big, or go home.” I was going big because home was where I made it. Yup. All in. “Too weird to live, too rare to die!”–Hunter S. Thompson.

    I am sorry for your loss, but glad that you have found a way to keep him walking with you, one step at a time, for the rest of your journey.


    1. Rebecca, I love your comment so much, and the Hunter S. Thompson quote!

      Thanks for reading and relating (wish I could see you in your TUKS!), and for the kind words about my friend. You’re right, he is walking with me on this journey.

      Best, Stacy


  3. This was such a nice little post! Loved it! 🙂
    Converse shoes are the best, no doubt. And long lasting too. I still have my first one, 8 years old & still going strong! 🙂


  4. Momma! You’re a model with those stats & super cool enough before you realized it! Happy for you! Enjoy the journey, one more item off the bucket list!!




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