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Hi, I'm Shelby.
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There I was, lying surrounded by darkness, with the faint glow of the stove clock from the kitchen. “What time is it?”

3:05 am.

I felt as awake as if I’d just run a marathon. In some ways, I guess I had been running a marathon—my mind processing a stream of thoughts connected to various points on the map of my memory. Starting slowly with one thought and picking up the pace until I’d run miles around ideas, familiar feelings accompanying every interaction. This mental marathon took me on a journey, looking back on versions of myself. I reflected on how I carry pieces of people, moments, and experiences in the fabric of who I am. I closed my eyes and found myself back at distinct moments of my emotional growth.

I saw Shelby on June 3, 2013, carrying a tarnished suitcase into a 40-story building in NYC as a summer intern. She wore her hopes and aspirations on her shoulders like a cape of promise for a life she dreamed of living, listening to “Empire State of Mind” on repeat every day walking through Wall Street. She just wanted to feel seen for the passion and talent she believed she could bring to the table.

I saw Shelby on August 26, 2017, surrounded by plastic garbage bags engulfing all her belongings on an apartment floor. Her tear-stained cheeks waited for friends to pick up her entire life and put it in the back of a truck. The weight of heartbreak pressed out the final ounces of hope she had for love. She just wanted to feel a sense of control in her life.

Then there was Shelby on April 5, 2018, where the fluorescent lights of a sterile hospital room were numbing. I could only hear the sound of beeping machines as I held my grandmother’s hand and sat for an hour until we watched her take her last breath. That Shelby just wanted time back more than anything.

Through those few hours, I paced through a myriad of memories in the years of space between then and now: living in NYC, the pandemic, accomplishments, failures, new life, death, relationships, breakups, transitions, change. I noticed a pattern. In so many ways, I’ve always been chasing something—security, support, acceptance, contentment, love. There’s always something desired to fill in the blank. I’m always chasing a feeling, and why? Why do I feel the need to chase? Is it because I’m scared it won’t come to me? Is it because I’m insecure or afraid? Is it because, at times when I mistakenly thought I had something, I actually didn’t? A million moments, both large and small, form the mosaic that makes me who I am. Yet somehow, I continuously find myself trying to plaster on an exterior of strength.

Honestly, there is no “thrill” in the chase anymore.

We always regurgitate motivational quotes about being enough. But when do we really start to believe it? When do we actually start living as if we’re enough? Chasing is the gateway to forcing. What is the end result of chasing situations, people, and opportunities that make it clear we are not it? What is the purpose of losing our integrity trying to make people see or choose us? How long do we do that? How much life do we miss out on trying to make ourselves fit into pictures?

That night, as I lay doomscrolling, analyzing, and overthinking, something shifted. If we weren’t enough for a certain situation, it doesn’t mean we’re not enough overall. It used to be my innate reaction to want to prove to people who I am. Now, I simply know who I am. I know the imperfections I carry, as well as the positive attributes rooted in my core. I can never change my past choices. I can never rewrite my journey. Nor do I want to anymore. I can say in every job, role, friendship, relationship, and experience throughout my life, I’ve loved so deeply with my heart. I didn’t always do it flawlessly or right. I can take accountability for that, but at the root of my heart, I always come from such a real place. Knowing this is why tonight I crossed the finish line.

No more mental marathons wishing I could change the past. No more trying to be like other women in hopes of a chance. No more beating myself up for not sticking to societal timelines. No more shrinking from a sense of unfair shame. No more forcing.

The race is done. The chase is over.

I trust that despite not knowing what comes next, I can make it through.

Like when I stood as a hopeful NYC intern, when I threw the last trash bag into the bed of my friend’s truck, or when I watched nurses roll powerless monitors out of my grandmother’s hospital room, I will continue to live and believe with a genuine heart that what is meant for me will come.

Just as it always has.

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