We all have defining moments in our lives, those experiences that divide our lives into "before" and "after". Know what I mean?
I've had a few of those moments. Becoming a mother, going through divorce, being diagnosed with an incurable disease. Until this Summer I was certain that the single greatest defining moment in my life would be developing that disease. There was my life before Rheumatoid Arthritis, and then there was my life after RA. Distinctly different lives. Before. After.
And then I went on safari to Kenya.
I've waited several weeks since my return from Kenya to write this post. I've struggled to find the words to express what this experience meant to me, to find a way to share how it's changed everything for me. I still haven't found the words, but I'll try.
What I thought was going to be a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation for three generations of Ruehles ended up being a journey home. I found my home. The place where my heart and soul are truly alive. I can't explain it, so I'm not going to try. All I can say is that I've found the place that is my true home, and when I left Kenya, I left a piece of my heart and soul there.
My life is now divided into "before Kenya" and "after Kenya". Defining. Life-changing.
Ok, so maybe I will try to explain it, just a little bit. It was MAGICAL. Have you ever had a moment that felt "perfect". Like everything in your life came together in that one moment to create a crystal clear, slow-motion, joy-filled, PERFECT moment? That was Kenya. A series of perfect moments, one leading into the next.
My mom joked that I never stopped grinning the whole time we were there. And she's right. I've never felt so full of joy, peace and contentment. Never felt so centered, so "right" with the world. The coolest thing is that my son, Cade, had the exact same experience. Perma-grin the whole way. He fell in love with Kenya and with safari. He's now planning to work in the safari industry after college. He begged me to find a way for us to not have to leave. I couldn't make that happen (our guide suggested that "losing" our passports would get us about two extra weeks, but we decided against it), but I did promise Cade we'd get back as soon as possible.
There's an interesting thing that I've noticed about my life's defining moments. Each one has led to a new opportunity in my business life. I hadn't realized this until I sat down to write this post, but there's been an important career development after each of my defining moments. The birth of my son led me to start my first business online, so that as a single mom I could be home with him. Developing RA convinced me to change the direction of my culinary career, to return to school to study nutrition and start A Well-Nourished Life. My divorce led me to accept an opportunity with a production company for my own TV show which is now in development. And now, this experience in Kenya has opened doors that I never expected- I'm partnering with a fantastic safari company to lead wellness retreat safaris and gluten-free safaris in Kenya.
You just never know where life is going to lead you, do you? A once-in-a-lifetime trip for three generations of Ruehles led to the discovery of my heart-home, a new business venture, and who knows what else.
So when you see me wearing my Kenyan beaded necklace in just about every photo and TV appearance these days, you'll understand, I'm just trying to hold it a little bit closer, to keep just a small part of Kenya near my heart, until I can return and find the magic again.