Who knew that domestic violence could ignite new beginnings; and death…new life?
Born and raised in Kenya, I turn 62 in August this year. I boast of three wonderful children, daughter 37, and two Sons 34 and 30, all born and raised in Kenya. My four adorable grandchildren who were born here (USA), complete my nuclear family.
Our lives in Kenya were never rosy and in 2003, we applied for the DV- lottery (Green Card) to come to the USA and won! My marriage was unhealthy and my husband-then, was not into the colossal idea of uprooting his family, to the unknown. After much persuasion (mostly arguments), he reluctantly agreed for us to migrate to the US. While in the midst of the preparation for our departure which was due by 31st January 2004 (DV has rigorous rules), my marriage became toxic and unbearable.
My 1st Refresh, happened October 19, 2003 when I made a bold decision to book a one -way flight ticket to the USA, without my family. I had never flown internationally, let alone beyond our Kenyan boarders. I was therefore delirious and cannot remember much of what happened during the exhausting journey. The next couple of months in the U.S. were a total blur as I plunged myself into a culture, unlike any I had known. Luckily, I had two brothers here who were kind enough to host me, until I got on my feet.
Fast-forward; my husband and children finally followed me to the USA in January 2004. After much deliberation with him, we decided to make an attempt at fixing our relationship but failed. Even with 20 years as a paralegal in family law, I had little knowledge or rather none at all, about the fact that I had been undergoing domestic violence, perpetuated by my husband at its core; for a good 23 years! For a long time, Africa’s traditions and culture had society believe that domestic-violence was a normal practice especially by men, hence perpetrators went unpunished for their heinous violence against women. Therefore, like millions of other women worldwide experiencing domestic violence, I was a prisoner in my own home, with no freedom of expression or choices.
June 2005, I hit my 2nd Refresh button and broke free. I walked out of our home with nothing; and never looked back. In the last 47 years of my life, I finally experienced a first-time sigh of relief and the freedom that I had never thought possible: the freedom to make my own decisions, the freedom to do all my daily activities and the total independence that comes with breaking loose. You guessed it! In 2007, I filed for divorce and was as free as an eagle; ready to fly.
Unfortunately, as much as I had free rein, it became crystal clear that networking with people around me was challenging and strange. During our marriage my ex-husband had deliberately estranged me from family, friends and fellow Kenyans in Austin; where I had now lived for five years. I realized that as much as I loved people, I had been cut off from the outside world and hence become an extroverted introvert. The latter transformed me to a workaholic, as I worked seven days a week for the next two years, trying to rediscover my new self and my purpose in life. At the age of 50; I was finally able to buy a house and a showroom car in my own name.
My 3rd Refresh came in 2010 as “my purpose in life,” I went back to school and became a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I created a Facebook page ATX health and fitness tribe #GetUrSwagBack, where I strive to empower my clients, especially women, on three human- being health components: a healthy mind, a healthy body and a healthy soul. I also teach them how to be the best versions of themselves by maintaining their wellness through proper nutrition, physical activity, health retreats, rejuvenation, renewal and recharge. You can find some of my work at www.howtogeturswagback.com. My elder brother’s death on June 17, 2018 (Father’s Day), after a long battle with Parkinson’s decease, made me bold and intentional with my life, his life was cruelly cut off at his prime age of 58, but motivated me to live a fulfilling life even after surviving the brutality of domestic violence.
Last year I experienced my 4th Refresh. I was finally able to come out of my cocoon and travel alone, something I had been scared of doing due to fear of criticism. I did my first solo travel to London, Liverpool, Paris, Dubai and Canada. This trip was full of adventure and I outrightly operated out of my comfort zone. I had bought the London Pass, which contained many guided tours the likes of Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. With the City Cruise; I saw all the famous landmarks on the River Thames, and Florence Nightingale Museum, which I looked forward to seeing, since I work in healthcare.
Most of my clients can’t pronounce my last name, so I tell them my name is Florence Nightingale, some of them actually believe me (lol), anyway, that’s another days’ tale. I also had an overnight package guided tour to Paris by train. The package included tours to the Eiffel Tower, La Louvre, a two-hour sightseeing cruise on River Seine, and I saw all the iconic landmarks. The following day I hopped on a city bus for a tour of Paris. That evening I took the train back to London and onto Liverpool, where I had four days of peace and quiet.
The 5th and hopefully not my last Refresh, happened in March this year. I traveled back home to Nairobi Kenya to visit my mother, when my worst nightmare happened; my mami who had been terminally ill passed away peacefully in my arms. Right then, I realized just how short life can be. “Life is the only thing that can fall apart spectacularly, and yet still carry on undisturbed,” therefore, my take at life is to live it to the fullest; on your own terms.
I know there are many people who succumb to domestic violence daily, but I am blessed and grateful to have survived it. This is my now; and as I continue to lavish in my new found freedom, I have a message for the world;
It’s never too late to Hit Refresh
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh community. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen. There is no one way to live a life, just your way.