Rus VanWestervelt had spent most of his life, if not all of it, trying to understand the origins of happiness. Unfortunately, every attempt was met with frustration as others around him struggled. How could all these adults, he thought, be so unhappy, when they have everything they had ever wanted?
It wasn’t until he was a little older, on a rainy, hot evening in July of 1988, when his own life seemed so overwhelming. Money was virtually non-existent, and he was breaking away from his family as he established himself in a teaching job in Southern Maryland. It had happened to him, too. He was having a life crisis like the rest of the grown ups he had observed when he was a child.
What did he want out of life? Why did everything seem so impossible now that he was finally on his own? Isn’t this what he had always wanted?
It’s funny how we long for independence and freedom, he thought, yet our first taste of it sends us back to our childhood, seeking out a simpler time when life was not so hard.
On that rainy night in July, his housemate had just returned from a 3-day Christian revival event, and he beamed energy, light, happiness, and love. He was, in all aspects of the phrase, one with his God. Rus saw and understood, for the first time, that the source of our happiness does not come from things or even from other people; it comes from returning to the source of our creation, and doing our best to hold on to that happiness and love in all that we do.
A year later, his father died, and he embraced the oft-used motto, Carpe Diem. He has not stopped living fully since, forever embracing the light at the source of his creation, and doing his best to share that happiness with others.
Rus is an avid photographer and writer of both fiction and creative nonfiction. He is also the founder of three organizations, all of which he believes in strongly:
- Maryland Voices, a publication established in 2001 and now in its eighth volume. Maryland Voices publishes creative nonfiction written by Maryland’s high school writers.
- Ravenwater, a small press that works with local and regional authors who are interested in making a difference with their writing. Ravenwater also carries a small line of stationery, featuring Rus’ photography and the works of other local artists.
- Lines of Love, a non-profit foundation established to help teens struggling with depression and anxiety. Lines serves as a bridge between those teens and the services currently available. Each academic year, Lines of love holds local and regional events at high schools, colleges, and universities in cooperation with mental-health organizations.
Now, Rus is the co-founder of Cool Blue Souls with his writing, photography, and spiritual colleague, Cara Moulds.
Rus brings to Cool Blue Souls a culmination of decades of research and writing in spirituality and living life fully. “I’ve seen and experienced enough to know that the answers are not around us in things,” he said recently. “It’s within each of us — that power and ability to tap into the origin of our creation, a place where happiness and love are boundless, untainted by all of the stuff around us that we’ve made in some kind of desperation to generate a happy life. We need to stop searching, take a deep breath, and look within. Once you do, and once you see and feel it, your world will be forever changed.”
Rus is available for speaking engagements and workshops in writing, photography, publishing, inspired living, and helping teens struggling with depression. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 443-834-9489. His personal writing, philosophies, and photography can be found at his website, rusvw.net.