What were you doing exactly ten years ago? At 7:29PM on January 8, 2002, I was drunk. Not on alcohol (though there was wine, lots of wine). On possibility. Ten years ago today I left one life and started another.
9/11 was barely four months past; most New Yorkers still walked around in a daze. The economy had already tanked, and with it the book publishing industry where I’d worked for almost 15 years. But even before world events intervened, I was ready to go. Those 15 years had made me successful, a Vice President with a Barney’s credit card, Hamptons shares and ski trips to Italy, and a standing appointment with a masseur—which I desperately needed to untie the stress knots yanking my shoulders up to my ears. I’d become a walking, talking Sex and the City character.
For years, I’d fantasized about working in food. I wanted to feed people, to see their enjoyment first-hand—an element that’s sorely lacking in book marketing, where the action takes place behind the scenes. Ina Garten was a house author, and her story—of working in the Nixon White House, and buying The Barefoot Contessa almost on a whim—set off fireworks in my head. By the end of 2001, when the muckety-mucks asked us department heads to make cuts, I was knee-deep in a business plan for a shop of my own.
Honestly, I’m not sure I ever would’ve left if I hadn’t been asked to trim overhead, but I recognized a giant, blinking sign when I saw one. Rather than lay off a 22-year-old designer with college loans, I kissed security goodbye and traded my pencil skirt for an apron. I laid myself off.
My plan didn’t quite work out. I never opened that gourmet shop. But I did learn the business from the inside, where I discovered I wasn’t cut out for that life either. Instead, I wound up a food writer. If you asked me how it happened, I’m not sure I could explain it. This is where life has taken me—really, all I’ve done is follow the signs.
So here we are, ten years later. I’m married to the man I was meant to end up with all along—a fact I’m not sure I would’ve recognized from atop my $300 heels—with a five-year-old son. I work from home, and sometimes I don’t get dressed until 2:30PM, when it’s time to pick him up from school. The bulk of my shoe wardrobe bears the name Merrell. I have about one-tenth the disposable income I had a decade ago, but in its place I have ten times the happiness.
And in just six weeks, my first book goes on sale.
All in all, it’s been a spectacular decade. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.