My birthday has always been my favorite ‘holiday’.

Honestly, whose isn’t? It’s a day entirely dedicated to celebrating the fact that you were born.

Congrats on making your way into physical existence! You successfully rotated around the sun X number of times!

Here’s a cake!

What could be better?

For some reason, this birthday was different. Don’t worry, this isn’t a quarter-life crisis entry *SNOOZE*, it’s more personal than that. While 25 is a somewhat striking age in contrast to, say, my 21st when I was dancing atop tables at Hip Hop Sunday, it wasn’t my age that made this year different.

It was how I felt in response to all the celebrating that made it feel so new. 

Cade was in control of the jubilations. If you don’t know him, he is very ~chill~ so when he wasn’t freaking out or asking hundreds of reaffirming questions about my whereabouts for the weekend, I honestly didn’t expect what was to come. Unlike me, Caden is cool under pressure. He is gentle, kind, and a wildly good surpriser, surprisingly!! *SWOON*

Anyway, he took me out to dinner the night prior to my birthday – opened every door, stayed off his phone, and let me choose what I wanted to do the rest of the night. (Lucky girl I am, that’s not all that different from any other night, ha!) The following morning he sent me off to ~yogalates~. Thankful for getting my AM sweat in, I was ready for anything he had planned. Still, I had no idea what was to come. He had me call him when I was almost home, then made me walk the long way to our house, all to avoid prematurely seeing the *PADDLEBOARDS* that were atop his jeep! “Rinse off, get in a bathing suit, enjoy this amazing homemade breakfast, and then we’re off!” Yes, I not only came home to a day on the water awaiting me, but also a Chef Caden classic – Epic. Breakfast. Tacos. NOM.

In between breakfast and paddleboarding, I was summoned into our garage, which Cade and his dad totally re-did! It had been somewhat of a storage unit for months, so the clean-up was a gift in itself; but on top of that, inside was a massive pile of presents! I was gushing. There were doughnuts – SO many doughnuts, beautiful cards (my favorite), and piles upon piles of presents waiting to be opened. My mom got me the Mizuba matcha set I’d been wanting, Cade printed out photos of our trip to San Francisco, I was given a moon catcher, books, candles, I could keep going. It was all so much. It was all too much. 

It was that very moment, being showered with gifts and letters from everyone I love, that I felt rushed by an immense wave of unworthiness. What was all this? For me? But why… 

– – –

I was recently reflecting on the year I’ve had, and to be honest, I wasn’t proud of what I was looking back on. I even told Cade about a month ago that I’ve ruined this year. He dutifully tried to persuade me otherwise. Career-wise, things were fine. But me-wise, things could have been astronomically better. I spent a majority of the year, if not the entirety of it, confused and hurt by things that should have been left in the past. I spent valuable time talking down to myself about my inability to let it all go. On the rare days where I did choose to be and do better, it wasn’t long before I then, again, instead chose to wallow in what felt like a neverending pool of inescapable thoughts about why it took so much energy to do so. Seriously, the list of ways I was self-sabotaging could go on. Bottom line is, I was not taking care of myself. My negative thoughts were becoming so palpable, so cellular, that it was baffling to me that anyone would go out of their way, much less pay special attention to, making me feel loved during a time where I was feeling so unlovable.

This striking wave of unworthiness put me on my ass. It was certainly a new birthday feeling and it really had me shook. It was so unexpected that I felt myself tearing up as I was staring at all the gifts in front of me. Instead of letting myself yet again return to a place of doubt, I squeezed Cade tight and told him how thankful I was. 

We went about our day – had a perfect sun-soaked time paddleboarding; enjoying every moment we had together before my 300-Hour Yoga Teacher Graduation. Oh yeah, on top of everything else, that happened. Seriously, I mean it when I say I was gushing from the day’s itinerary. 

– – –

At graduation, we sat in a circle around a homemade sun dial (thank you, Jenny) and were told to throw the rock closest to us into the center of it. As we threw it, we were allowed to choose one burden, one hardship, that we just couldn’t hold onto anymore. It was an offering, a request to Mother Earth to bear the weight for us. It was in that moment that I suddently felt like I knew what to do with this seeming unworthiness. 

Feeling doubtful and undeserving maybe was not a burden, rather it was presenting me with an opportunity – an opportunity to practice my yoga.

So, here is what practicing my yoga looks like:

Practicing my yoga looks like facing doubt head-on and doing my best, regardless of where my mind wants to take me. Practicing my yoga is Ishvara Pranidhana – devotion. This Niyama, part of the second limb of the Eightfold Path, is about surrendering. Ishvara Pranidhana is about letting go of constantly identifying with ourselves on an egocentric level, and about connecting, surrendering, to our higher power – whatever that may be. Practicing my yoga is Santosha – contentment. Santosha is contentment of things as they are, truly accepting that everything I need (mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.) is everything I already have. What a relief.

In the face of an overwhelming amount of love and celebration, I choose to be better. That can look like patience, gratitude, compassion, kindness, selflessness, softness, water. Instead of unworthiness, I choose to strive, every day, to be me: the Shelby worth celebrating. The me that on my very worst day, is still worthy of generosity and care and love. Just like you.

So, now what? I’ve had the revelation, I’ve eaten my damn cake. What are my next steps? Well, that’s the beauty of yoga. There are no next steps, there are only the steps we choose to take right now, in each moment we’re given. Yoga is a practice, it’s a ritual. How lucky – a ritual that will not only better myself, but the world around me. My immediate world, as well as the world I’ve yet to explore. Yoga – all aspects of it – is my daily ritual, my daily steps. So the what now is, I keep practicing. Thank you, rotation 25. I am whole.

Om shanti shanti shanti. <3

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