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What a Difference a Decade Makes

Skiing in the Dolomites. I was pretty glam, no?

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.

the dolomites


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Betsy

    Absolutely fantastic! You are a wonderful example of what can happen when you choose happiness over everything else. Best of luck for wonderful adventures the next 10 years!

  2. Jennie Votel

    Love this story! The jump you took led you to such an exciting (maybe not to you somedays) and fulfillinglife!A big scary leap just for you! It takes bravery and faith to try to find your thing! So happy for you, lady!

  3. Monica Bhide

    Super fantastic! I am sending you loads of congratulations and best wishes for an amazing year and a fantastic decade ahead!

  4. Debbie Koenig

    Thanks, everyone! I’m kind of amazed that it’s been ten years already. My mom always talked about how fast time flew and I thought she was wacko, but now I understand.

  5. Cathy

    What an inspiring path, Debbie. Sometimes we just put one foot in front of the other for awhile, and then look up surprised to see where we’ve gotten. I want to trail behind you for awhile!!! Bon chance with the book. I just know it will be a success.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thanks, Cathy! You’re not doing too shabbily yourself 😉

  6. Sarah Olson

    How funny that we find happiness in the least expected ways. Congrats on the last 10 years!

  7. sarah henry

    Love this insight into the “old” you, Debbie. Never would have pegged you for a gal in $300 heels. Ah, what a difference a decade makes indeed.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Oh Sarah, what a glamourpuss I was. I always thought I’d be one of those moms everyone hates because they’re so hot & fashionable. Eh, not so much.

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