An unfolding of truth — the story of me

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I often think up stories for the benefit of others, but I’ve never considered telling my own. When I first started podcasting, people would encourage me to share more of myself. Years later, and I’m finally feeling the nudge to do just that.

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. The doctor told me the best way to manage the pain is to lead a healthy lifestyle with minimal stress. Arguably at 19, entering my second year of college, that was a hard concept to grasp.

My life had generally been filled with some sort of stress, so to consider changing things up was overwhelming. I tried nonetheless.

I started with changing my diet and getting more exercise — cool. But, mental and emotional stress still took a toll on me in some way. These would eventually plunge me deeper into physical pain.

Still, I kept myself busy with work, school, social life, and service work. I did commit at least a few minutes each day to sit in silence — I knew meditation was good for me. But, I still managed to neglect parts of myself.

Years go by and I finish my graduate degree. I’m ambitious here, navigating new networks of people and places. I eventually moved to Philadelphia where I learned of a new hustle — the one that comes when you can’t pay your bills.

You’d think after putting in years of study my first job would’ve paid more. But, I didn’t know better than to maybe forgo the nonprofit life if money was what I was after. In the midst of this survival-like stress, the entrepreneur in me appeared.

She’d always been there, just lodged under all the other stuff I believed in or felt took precedent over the years. Yet, there she was, guiding me each step of the way. Before I knew it, I was able to pay my bills and save some. I even managed to begin investing in the stock market.

Still, though, I didn’t take this part of myself all too seriously; I solely saw it as a supplement to working a 9–5 job and taking part in the constant hustle of city life.

Over time, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I was utterly depressed. I did everything I was told to do: got a higher paying job, hustled, kept my life organized, traveled when I could — completely independent. Something was missing though, and deep down all I could ever hear was “we want freedom.”

Freedom from what though? In time I learned it was a freedom to be myself. It took some heartache and suicide attempts to figure that out. Yet, it all happened for a reason — at least that’s what I see now.

At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic started, I made a goal to save as much money as possible from my new job for 6 months. And on that 6th month, I was going to quit, travel to Colombia to take part in a 4-month Spanish immersion program.

My mind was made up, but of course, Covid had other plans. I still kept true to my savings plan (granted covid made that easy) and decided that I was going to go to Puerto Rico instead. Yes, I still quit my job — as much as it taught me, I learned that the lifestyle I was living was not serving me; it was sucking me dry.

The moment I left was the moment I felt immense liberation. My time was finally mine. What a concept I honestly never felt before. I could go where I wanted, see who I wanted, and be who I wanted — to a degree (at first).

I left for Puerto Rico to have a truly transformative experience — my perspective on life changed. What I wanted in and from life changed. And how I wanted to live my life changed.

At first, I suffered from imposter syndrome: “who am I to have this opportunity to slow my life down and figure myself out when everyone I know can’t?” It hurt like hell to be okay with receiving such a blessing that I never knew I needed.

It was also this time when I learned that nature beckoned for me louder than ever before. The way my entire being felt constantly drawn to the forest like a mystical fairytale felt unreal.

Then the ocean, sheesh. She constantly took my breath away — day or night. She whispered her name to me at the crack of dawn and cradled me in her bosom. It was there I had to learn to face my fears of drowning (derived from death in a past life).

She sat with me, and I with her. It was there that my relationship with water and nature began to shift…expand.

Months go by and I’m the healthiest and most confident I’ve ever been. But, like all great things, my time was coming to an end. The reality of money began to settle in, and I realized I needed to go home to get focused.

In the willingness to make that decision, I was pissed about it. I didn’t want to leave and return to a reality that I felt like I finally got away from. The mindsets, the judgments, the expectations of life before Puerto Rico all drained me. Island life seemed way more my speed. It was there I felt like myself, more mindful, and more purposeful.

Landing back in BWI chilled me to my bones. I had to face my reality. But in the same realization, I knew that I didn’t have to lose myself again just because I was back on old soil. The opposite in fact was true — I could continue to grow.

Emphasis on could here because for months after my return, I was depressed.

I worked how I could, remotely by God’s grace, but I was doing the bare minimum. I didn’t realize how sad I was having to shelter in place (given this is still Covid times) until the end of summer came and it hit me like a freight truck.

I fell in love with life in Puerto Rico. And just like that, I seemingly fell out of love the moment I came back. I shamed myself for not doing enough; I created new work only to archive them. But, the moment I began to plan a trip again, I came alive.

“Am I a nomad at heart?” Honestly, yes.

It’s not about the constant movement for me that enlivens me. It is instead the gradual exploration of space, culture, and myself in these different locations that brighten my soul. It is this sense of adventure, I soon realized, that inspired my work.

A few trips and lots of cries later, I realized that I had to take my power back.

The entire experience over the last 27 years of my life wasn't about me giving my power and time away to people or places or ideals in order to feel alive and accepted. It was, instead, about learning to be myself authentically, to do what feels right (even when I’m judged for it), to live differently, and to create my own life consciously.

The beliefs I once carried — imbued with imposter syndrome and fear of judgment — were hoaxes this entire time. I learned that I gave those beliefs too much of me.

For, in truth, the power I thought I lacked was always within, just waiting for me to see it again (just like the hustle-spirit that awaited its debut).

My story doesn't end here, of course. There’s more to add, more to show, and more to be. I’m not perfect nor do I have it all figured out yet. But I am more than happy to finally feel like me and to finally live for me.

It is now that I allow myself to unfold like a 1000 petal lotus that has been waiting for its well-timed debut.

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Founder of the Meditation Matters Podcast & EcoWell Co. platform. Writer, environmentalist, and self-healing proponent. Explore: https://linktr.ee/ecowellco

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Nayo Shell

Nayo Shell

Founder of the Meditation Matters Podcast & EcoWell Co. platform. Writer, environmentalist, and self-healing proponent. Explore: https://linktr.ee/ecowellco

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