While our ethnicities, ideologies, and religious affiliations can all define us, our identities are always changing throughout our lives and we need to be able to change with them.

That was the main message from Friday’s 10th Anniversary Fall Impower luncheon sponsored by the non-profit that aims to support and inspire women professionally. (IMPOWER stands for Inspire, Motivate, Prepare and Organize Women to Engage and Reinvest.)

With 400 in attendance including Monterey Peninsula Home Team's Linda Dorris and Rachelle Razecca, Friday’s event was held at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach and featured former KSBW news anchor Dina Ruiz as its main speaker. It was emceed by KSBW’s Drea Blackwell.

Founded by D'Arrigo and Cathy Schlumbrecht in 2008, IMPOWER is a grassroots effort for unlocking the potential of women in the Salinas area. It's led by local women who have made an impact in their businesses and in the community.

The event's beneficiary was the Kinship Center, for which Ruiz has been involved with for the last couple of years. The California nonprofit agency creates and supports permanent families for children through adoption, relative caregiving or other guardianship.

“It's a wonderful way to kick-off our national adoption month of November,” said Doreen Luke, noting that the organization was honored to be the featured non- profit organization this year.  

The month is an initiative to increase national awareness and really bring attention to the need for permanent homes for children and youth

For her part, Ruiz focused on exploring one's identity, the identities that we put on ourselves and the ones that others put on us. She also shared those roles in life that we choose to keep and those we choose to shed. 

“There’s a little bit of discomfort (after a loss or a change) but you can live through it and it’s very worth it,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz herself has had her own share of identities and transformations, both publicly and personally. It’s a topic she explored on a deep level in the thesis for her master's degree in creative writing she recently completed at San Jose State University. She approached the project not as a memoir but as a more in-depth investigation of the phases and personas of her own life.

Besides her former role as news anchor, she is also the former wife of Clint Eastwood and has starred on E! Entertainment’s reality documentary TV series “Mrs. Eastwood & Company.”

Currently, Ruiz is a columnist and writer for Carmel Magazine and Coastal Canine Magazine. She has been married to her husband Scott Fisher since 2016. The two share daily life with their five dogs.

Ruiz spoke of the different transformations in her own life – from people pleaser and being conscious of her mixed ethnicity to news anchor, being the wife of one of the most famous people alive and then feeling like the rug had been pulled out from underneath her when that relationship ended. She also reminisced about becoming an empty nester when her daughter went off to college.

“You are a mixture of what you’ve strove to achieve …but mixed in are all those perceived hardships and those aspects of identity that have settled in now like cement into bricks that seem to show cracks as you get to a certain age,” she explained.

Yet throughout her life, she said she managed to keep a certain sense of herself and that’s what saved her.

I had done something smart along the way – I had kept my identity the whole time – I kept my friends, family, my politics. I was never offended I was called Clint’s wife because I knew I was me,” she said.

Ruiz stressed the value of continuing to learn, staying up on trends and doing things you haven’t tried before.

An avid yogini, it was while she was teaching yoga at the Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County, that she was asked to speak at the event.

“We wanted someone that had a big name for our final luncheon of the year and we love what she's doing with students at the Boys and Girls Club,” said IMPOWER founder Margaret D'Arrigo.

For her part, Ruiz said that teaching those 13-year old kids yoga is one of the things she’s most proud of doing.

She also said she now knows the hallmarks of what she wants her identity to be moving forward, which is authenticism, staying active physically and mentally and remaining a contributor to society.

Some of her pointers were “Don’t think ‘I can do it all’ because that is a lie - so take the great time you can have with your kids over the messy house.  Stoicism is fine but so is vulnerability. And if your identity is all sharp edges, why don’t you think of how you can curve some of those out a little bit?”

“Decide what still works for you and what makes you proud and figure out what roadblocks can be moved,” said Ruiz, who received a standing ovation when she was finished speaking. “Please think about modifying things that don’t serve you any more … … I promise you will be happier for it.”