Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Kiley Hagerty ’13 shares her journey of making it On Her Own


Trinity might just be one of the most magical places in the whole wide world. Everything from the sprawling views of scenic Frog’s Hollow, to the symphony of cars sans mufflers speeding down Allen Place, to the unpredictable rise and fall of those miraculous New England temperatures that always kept us (and our wardrobes) guessing, it is just the picture of collegiate perfection. Now if you think I’m being sarcastic here, shame on you. I was, and still am, a hardcore Bantam at heart and I loved every single aspect of life ‘neath the elms, even the occasional gun popping off in the distance. I loved it so much, in fact, that I had a minor (who am I kidding… major) panic attack when the calendar struck January 1, 2013, and I realized that my graduation that had once seemed like it would never come, was just around the corner.

When I was at Trinity, let’s face it… I was awesome. I was president of The IVY Society, was an honors-earning major in International Studies who got to spend a year writing a thesis on food (how cool is that?!) and I had made a group of friends that were incredible beyond my wildest hopes. Yeah, it’s hard to be humble when you’re from Trinity. But, as May 19 drew closer, my internal awesomeness meter felt like it was rapidly dropping. As an International Studies major in particular, I was feeling especially lost. Everyone else who majored in econonics and political science seemed like they had their paths much better laid out. They were going to go into either some facet of the finance world, go work for a politician, or join some rank and file in an official corporate setting. None of that appealed to me, and I did not have the professional background to compete. I had done internships, studied and shaped my whole life around what I was passionate about—food, cooking and nutrition, one of my largest projects being the penning of my own cookbook. But how on earth was I going to turn that into a living? I had tried to garner some interest in the cookbook on a part-time basis. I received positive reviews, but no bites. A cookbook without a deal did not make a lucrative career.

I wish I could tell you that things got easier and I had a big breakthrough before graduation and strolled right off that stage and into my bright future, but 1) that would be a boring story, and 2) that’s just not at all what happened. In fact, I strode off that graduation stage having found out during the ceremony that my grandmother, the woman who been like a second mother to me for most of my life, had died. (Curse you forever Facebook Mobile, and sorry Jimmy Jones, but yes, I was indeed playing with my phone during your speech). So, not only was I unsure about how I was going to turn my passion and academic skill set into a legitimate career, but I now had to do it without one of my biggest supporters.

I was at a major crossroads. I could have fallen into the pit that I think many postgrads, and even nervous pre-postgrads fall into, characterized by the loss of momentum, energy and a positive outlook on the future if you haven’t secured a job by graduation or soon thereafter. Or, I could take the advice that I constantly implore my friends to heed when we’re out at restaurants. Be adventurous! Nothing drives me crazier than when someone is so set in his or her ways and ideas about a food. People hold onto what they think they like so much that they won’t even give a new dish a try. You never know, you might like it!

So, in that same spirit, I decided to just grab a fork, if you will, and dig into the unknown plate in front of me. I packed up my bags and moved to that “other coast.” San Francisco is where I started my career in the food industry as an assistant to a celebrity chef. I then moved on to work in sales at an established publishing house. While both of these opportunities were relatively low-paying, not so glamorous positions, they allowed me to have a behind- the-scenes view into the restaurant industry and the publishing industry, both relevant to my path, all the while keeping an eye on that cookbook.

I read about how to get a book published, and I connected with anyone and everyone I could think in the publishing business. I wrote letters and proposals and finally was picked up by an agent who believed in my book and project as much as I did. And now? A mere nine months out of college, I am on my way to being a published author.

Once I got my contracts from Pelican Publishing Company, I decided it was time to break the mold and take a big chance on myself. I cashed in all my chips, packed up my bags yet again, and moved to LA with my illegally cute puppy to chase my dreams. I teamed up with the world’s greatest photographer, who has now become more of a manager, producer and all around kick-ass partner to have in this project, and I’m doing things that I never even dreamed were possible. I go to work each and every day to do what I love—cook—and I am writing pieces and filming clips on what I’m most passionate about—food, health, and how to live well with just a little bit of attitude.

Who knows whether I will be a success or not, but I can tell you that I am only excited now for what the future may hold, all because I took a chance on myself and conquered the fear of the path less traveled. Try something new that others think won’t be possible. Bet on yourself, and take risks. You never know, you might just like how that dish tastes.

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