After I left the JCC, I launched my business as a food educator at julienegrin.com (which now it lives at www.mykitchennutrition.com). The economy hadn't melted down yet.
I was still cancer-free.
I had a hearty nest egg and was ready to live on the west coast again. I moved out of my Brooklyn apartment and crashed with family in Seattle until I figured out my next move.
If only I'd gone traveling for a couple of months instead! It will be a regret I will always live with.
Instead, I dumped all my time and money into launching my business.
Most of my work contacts were back in NYC so I'd fly out, crash with friends, make a bunch of money and work on my website and book the rest of the time.
I was blissfully unaware that the economy was going down. Or, how hard it would be to write a cookbook by myself. Or, that the stress of doing so much without staff would take a toll on my body.
I was just riding the wave. The food world was blowing up. Kids and cooking was becoming the next *big* thing.
In a matter of months, my industry went from old-school culinary world to blogging 24/7, food photography and chefs trying to get on TV.
Meanwhile, I was working at my graduate school university teaching cooking and nutrition which was amazing. I was getting great gigs in New York that brought in revenue. Which helped funded my real passion: working in low-income communities.
I was living the dream.
But I was exhausted. I was terrible at social media. I didn't understand the art of blogging. I was (and still am) a terrible food photographer. I'd worked so hard to get to this point - my dream was to be like Mollie Katzen. To write cookbooks and for magazines, develop recipes, and have enough time to work with kids in marginalized communities.
One tiny, crucial realization started to emerge at this time.
I hate developing recipes.
I can do it. I'm not AMAZING at it. But I can do it.
I'm an intuitive cook, I prefer tossing ingredients into pans without thinking about what I'm doing.
Recipe development requires painstaking detailed notes and understanding food science - neither of which are my wheelhouse.
The dream I had concocted a decade earlier was created in a different world. When Kindles didn't exist. When blogging didn't exist. When free recipes on the Internet didn't exist.
I'd chased a dream only to find out that technology yanked it further out of my reach. And that I didn't even like what I set out to do.
I was also competing with the hordes of people entering the field that had a whole lot more money than I did to fund their ventures.
I think if it had been just financial loss or a few years of hardship or even going bankrupt, I could find my way to forgive myself for working myself to the bone. Money can be replaced.
Internal organs can not.
I'll be disabled forever. I don't have a great prognsosis (many are surprised I've lasted this long).
I try not to think about that. I try to focus on my luck and supremely privileged life. There are so many opportunities I would not have had if I hadn't struck out on my own. I learned more about business in these few years than I ever would have from a book or course.
The road I walked down is the one that may have left me disabled. But it doesn't take away the lifetime of experiences I had during those years.
I'm learning that forgiving others is far easier than forgiving oneself.
Forgiving others requires compassion, understanding, maturity and humility.
Forgiving oneself requires all of that plus a fundamental acceptance that we are not the sum of our bad decisions.
It means embracing our entire selves - flaws and all - and all our decisions - bad ones and good ones - and saying "you're a human being that makes mistakes every day and that's ok."
If I'd gone corporate, I'd always wonder: could I have done it? Would I have achieved something really cool with kids and food?
In the end, I did achieve something really cool. And because of my work, thousands of children across every demographic, are getting food education that I influenced and/or created in some way.
Families still tell me how my recipes/classes/curriculum have impacted their children's eating habits.
It's taking me writing this blog post to realize I need to stop beating myself up for taking a huge business risk.
That I could have easily ended up with the same diagnosis working for a corporate company.
That I could have easily ended up sicker or dead if I'd walked down that road.
Lamenting what I did, or didn't do, during a technology boom is fruitless.
It's quite possible that where I ended up is the best case scenario for someone with my cancer risk.
And what if all of the things I learned during those business years are now helping me advocate for medically fragile people?
What if the hard-earned lessons I've collected gives me insight on how to protect our healthcare system?
What if this is the path that will lead me to where I'm supposed to be? But I'm so busy kicking myself that I can't see it?
I've had such incredible experiences in my short life. And so much of them are due to the fact that I DO jump into the fray.
I see potatoes, I start peeling. I see kids in neighborhoods that aren't getting food education, I bring it to them. I see people about to lose their health insurance, I fight for them.
It's just who I am.
I can't NOT help. Even if it means losing my nest egg. Or, publishing a cookbook that I'm terrible at selling.
Even if it means losing four organs.
The path that led me here hasn't been an easy one. But it's certainly been interesting.
If my stories bring anyone a little bit of joy, or entertainment or, maybe even a little bit of comfort, then I'm ok with my life decisions. I'm more than ok with them. I'm going to be proud of them.
Because I'm learning through this writing project that it's the stories that mean the most to me. The people I've met, the experiences I've had, the communities I've helped - this what I want to leave behind whenever it's my time to go.
My stories. Of trying to do some good in the world. Even if I'm doing it wrong sometimes. At least I'm trying.
I love being a business owner. I love the opportunities that open up when I take a leap of faith.
Even if that leap of faith landed me in bed disabled, broke, and without any certainty that I can work again.
I have to make peace with the choices I've made.
In fact, I think I just did.
PHOTO #23. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth