All posts by Shelby Imes

One woman with the stomach capacity of two women.

Living in the Moment

Do you ever pay attention to detail? Do you ever look up and notice the pipes that line the ceiling? Do you ever look down and notice the stitches on your shoes? When your eyes are tired, when your body aches and your mind is filled with static, do you ever just pause and feel what it’s like to be alive?

The first time I ever meditated, I fell asleep. I was ten years old and at a performing arts sleepaway camp. One of my counselors didn’t like me. I was an annoying, repetitive child. Brilliant but brazen.  

She guided the campers in meditation every morning.  

“Look at the clouds,” she’d coo. “What do you see?”  

Blobs, I’d think.  

“What do you wish you’d see,” she’d ask.  


I took a deep breath. I let my chest expand and let the light peer through my half-closed eyelids. With arms crossed, I grabbed hold of my waist and squeezed rolls of skin until I felt something: the dull pinch of my own grip, materialized, hanging on. I thought about everything— what it was like to be breathing, what it would have been like to not– and soon enough my counselor’s droning voice faded, and I felt completely centered.  

I woke up to the sound of my own snoring. The other campers quietly giggled as morning meditation had been over for ten minutes.  

Since then, I’ve learned to meditate with my eyes open.  

Whenever I get anxious, I look at what’s in front of me, closely. Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s just a bare white wall. I study it. I breathe and feel what it’s like to be in one moment in time, in one place on this earth. I stop thinking and just feel– feel what it’s like to be alive, to have ended up wherever I am.

Where I am doesn’t always matter; what counts is that I’m alive to see it, to be here, to end up in this moment, in this place. Even though clouds are blobs, and walls are white, I’m here. Being alive gives me hope.

Lucky Socks

Everyone has their vices. For me, it’s coffee. It’s not so much of a habit as it is a full-blown addiction. Every morning, I pop a k-cup into my Keurig and let that sweet machine do its magic; the coffee isn’t in the mug long enough to cool before I’ve gulped that otherworldly elixir the heck down. If I don’t drink any before my day starts, I make sure to invest in a hefty cup, hot or iced, anywhere I can get it. (I could stop anytime I want, I swear.)

Last year when I stumbled upon a pair of ankle-high socks with cappuccinos patterned onto the bean-colored background, I knew those suckers were destined to be mine. From the moment they left the sock factory, those babies were headed straight for my size 6.5 feet.

On the way home from the gift shop, I resolved that my coffee socks weren’t going to be just another pair of socks, but my lucky socks. I had never owned anything “lucky” before, aside from pennies I had picked up on rainy days or that cereal with the Styrofoam “marshmallows” inside. But those bad boys, my adrenaline-infused foot warmers, were my new lucky thing.

I wore those puppies during every presentation, every performance, every busy day, and even every tough conversation. The brown color made them palatable enough for a casual outfit while the coffee cup pattern made them quirky enough to be unique– the pair as a whole gave me just enough of a confidence boost to power through rough days. As long as I was wearing those socks, there was nothing I couldn’t conquer. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but who even cares? When I was wearing my cappuccino socks, I was killing it and no one could tell me otherwise.

The socks had a good run until I misplaced them on the morning of a big interview. I rummaged through drawers, shook out my hamper, and turned over every leaf and stone but to no avail. There was no trace of them– but I had to run. I settled on some pink pineapple socks and sped away in my Oldsmobile, unsure of what the day might bring.

When walking into my interview, I felt naked. No lucky socks? And I expect to be seen as employable? I had to make a decision. Either swerve back around and and turn my apartment upside down until I find those socks, or just put my best lucky-sockless foot forward and face the day by myself.

The latter would save me gas, so I pressed on.

And you know what? I walked in, and crushed it. After nailing the interview (and landing the job!) I realized that I didn’t need the socks to make my life better. I just needed the confidence that they incited in me—which I knew deep down. But sometimes, we all lack the will to trust ourselves, and instead put our trust in lucky charms like socks or even coffee.

My cappuccino socks now lie at rest (wherever the heck I misplaced them) because I don’t need them anymore. I am the master of my own destiny now. I create my own luck.

I wonder what else I could give up. Coffee? Who am I kidding.

A Letter to the Sky

By Shelby Imes

It’s been a while since we’ve last seen each other.

Well, since I last saw you.  

I never look up anymore,  

I only look

down at my toes when I walk or

loathingly through a mirror  

swigging a potion of self-hatred and narcissism,  

And shrinking in on myself.  

I stopped looking at you, sky,  

Because you’re so much bigger than me

And small people just don’t understand.  

They don’t look forward and see that beneath you,  

Everyone is the same.  

They don’t look up and see how you are steadfast,

That you always watch  

Without contempt or judgement,  

And that you remain though we neglect you.  

That even without people you would still be there

To watch the soil beneath us.


Realizing now that I have nothing to lose,

Because if you, sky, can watch the world with loving eyes and softer touch

then so can I.

The Sassy Best Friend

The time: 11pm on a crisp fall evening in the late 00s. 

The place: A quirky studio apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan. 

The situation: It’s been three days and the bland but beautiful bachelorette whose name is “Jess” or “Hannah” or “Sarah” or something hasn’t heard back from Bradley, a rich hunk she met at the bar last week.   

 “Is it me?” bland girl asks, clutching her pillow while writhing on her couch in desperation.  

 “Well, he was wearing a ring…” She ponders.  

 Suddenly, a hand appears and smacks some sense into the generic woman.  

 “He’s married, dumbass! Now get showered and put on that sparkly red thing in the closet. We’re going out tonight, and both of us are going to get hit on by large men with defined jaw lines and no attachments.” 

 Who does this iron hand and crude tongue belong to?  

 I’ll give you a hint: she’s been played by legends: Zooey Deschanel, Lisa Kudrow, Christina Applegate, and, of course, Judy Greer.  

 She’s usually clad in some sort of ostentatious blouse, and always ready to party. She’s fiercely loyal to fashion and friendship. She has an inappropriate past which produces fitting anecdotes for the precise times when you need advice. You spilled wine on your dress? No problem. This girl’s spilled blood on her dress when she was enlisted in the IDF; she’s a stain-removal pro.  

 The teaser trailers are where she truly shines; her comedic timing and unrivaled wit break apart the whiny protagonist’s ramblings. Yet despite her memorability, she’s always conveniently left off of the promo poster, but, you always remember her.  

 You guessed it: she’s the sassy best friend 

 I know enough about myself to say that I check all of the boxes: I’m quirky, stylish, judgmental, and dang iconic. It doesn’t matter what story I’m in because I’m always the one kicking ass and taking names. Some call it conceit; I call it taking care of business.  

 If you’re ever in need of a sassy best friend, just shout your most pressing issue into the void and I’ll be right there to give you a backhand and a ride to the club.  


The day my parents dropped me off, I didn’t even let them stay for more than an hour. I rushed them out of Harrisonburg. I walked them down three floors and told them, “This doesn’t have to be a sad moment.” I hugged my mom and dad. They drove four hours back home. I went upstairs and cried alone in this new room that didn’t feel like my room quite yet. I wiped my face and walked across the street and bought a sub and ate by myself in a Jimmy John’s booth. Growing up was a lot harder than I thought.

I was still 17 that day– my 18th birthday would be the first Wednesday of class, but I still had to get through orientation.

I wasn’t sad about being alone until I realized that JMU was not the best fit for me. It took me about one day after moving in until I came to this conclusion– when the girls in my hall were still acting like girls and not women, when I wasn’t a part of the “cool” crowd, when I realized that people stay the same except for their bodies, and, depending on the body, it’s their bodies that allow them to stay the same.

Fit, nubile and playful, my hallmates were impatient to be used as currency by men in jerseys who would stare at them hungrily. I was, too– or at least I wanted to be ready for this. The tour of greek row, vodka in water bottles, hiding from the RA: these things were rites of passage for college women. I guess I never got there because instead of hitting the frat houses, I watched an open mic night with my new friends Cheryl and Tatum on Thursday of orientation week.

I remember seeing something in them that was so much like what I was feeling; they expected something much different from higher education, they wanted to become more of themselves. We didn’t hate the women in our hall– we just didn’t understand them yet, nor they us.

Instead of roaming dark, foreign streets pining for free Keystone and desirous glances we sat on couches and admired people with acoustic guitars who wanted what we wanted, who felt what we felt, this visceral desire for self-completion, self-actualization. After hours of sitting in a circle, singing and ripping grass out of Godwin field as we giggled and put on our own talent show, we sunk into our beds and I remember wondering how long it would be until I didn’t feel lonely anymore.

I don’t remember the first time I spoke to either of them; I guess you don’t often remember the moments you meet people– you just remember the moments when they made an impact on you.

After four endless days of orientation, school began and I sat alone every day to eat lunch, which was something I’d never done before. I would get pizza because it was self-serve and sit quietly in D-hall. The days all melted together and suddenly, I was 18. Oh yeah, it’s my birthday, the first Wednesday of classes. Yet, not much felt different. I was still just going to class, eating alone, missing home. Nothing automatically changed. I guessed this is what adulthood is, eating alone and sleeping alone and sitting in class alone, not saying hello to the people who live in my same building and screwing my earbuds so far into my ears that they wouldn’t come out, not even for sleep.

I climb the stairs lethargically to my bed after a day of long-winded thought in between classes, but I see Tatum and Cheryl, who usher me into Tatum’s room.

They bought me a cake. In the middle was a candle that we didn’t light. I was presented a red paper crown that I wore proudly during my little birthday celebration with Tatum, Cheryl, and two boys we had just met. The cake was chocolate and rich, and of course we had leftovers– it was only a few of us.

When I went to bed that night I felt something different. I still felt lonely, but something was changing– or, I knew it was going to change. The moment I walked into Tatum’s room and looked at the birthday cake, bought by strangers to celebrate my loneliest holiday yet, I began to think things were going to be okay. When we cut the cake and I wore the crown and we stood in a circle and talked about our new classes and new lives, I knew things were, eventually, going to be okay.

I’m thankful for my two sweet friends for giving me that moment.

Toseph from Gym Class

Many memories from my childhood, after deep retrospection and reevaluation, turn out to be complete and utter lies. I was a gullible sprout; I believed every story, scary or fantastic, regardless of probability. But sometimes, my naiveté worked both for and against me in mysterious ways, like in sixth grade when a boy from gym class—we’ll call him Toseph– complimented me on my silver Asics.

Toseph didn’t say anything that could have been memorable to anyone but me on that September day in the gymnasium. I was merely minding my own business when the class clown and sixth grade heartthrob Toseph walked up to me and blurted “Hey Shelby, nice Asics.” He immediately darted back to his hairless and giggling 11-year-old friends. I wasn’t particularly into Toseph per se, but he was a popular boy. A popular boy who liked my Asics.

For the entirety of the bus ride home that day, the prepubescent ring of Toseph’s voice droned musically in my mind. Floating around in grey matter was Toseph’s utterance, repeating:

“Hey, Shelby…”
“Nice Asics…” 
“I love your Asics…” 
“I also love… you, Shelby.”
“Will you marry me?”

Yes, TosephI thought. What if… this is just the beginning of something… beautiful? 

Months passed and nothing but indifferent exchanges occurred between Toseph and me, but I made damn sure that I wore those silver Asics every single day. I wore them with all of the hottest trends of 2007: Asics with bell bottom jeans, Asics with ruffle skirts, Asics with those ratty basketball shorts that every middle school girl insisted on wearing with the t-shirt tied up like a rat tail in the back. I wore them in gym class, in English class, and on the way to dance class after school. Toseph wouldn’t have seen them anywhere other than P.E., but I wore them proudly, for they were Toseph™ approved.

The shoes eventually wore out, as nothing gold (or silver) can stay. Paint-splattered and hole-punched, the Asics were on their last leg (or foot). I retired them with much anguish, but took solace in the fact that I could– and would– build upon the fashion empire that I had created. Asics this year– flats the next. Who knows where that silly thing called life was going to take me if even my most daring fashion choices were landing me reverence from the elites?

It couldn’t have been less than six years later that I realized Toseph’s “compliment” was completely ironic. Should I have known? Absolutely. If not by the sardonic tone of his F-Sharp voice, then by the fact that he and his friends were laughing hysterically from the other side of the gym at my flattered and foolish reaction.

Asics were not cool as casual shoes at the time, and would never be cool within any 50 mile radius of Corporate Landing Middle School during the paradoxically short and eternal 3-year span of my time there.

How could I have been so blind? I thought, a 17 year old, still clinging onto the nearly half-life long lie that I made Asics cool in the sixth grade. 

I was a trend-setter, wasn’t I? How could this be? All this time Toseph was… lying to me? 

The Asics were a matte silver with purple stripes on the side. They were skinny and with that classic Asics netting on top of the toe. That year, I was very insecure about my shoes since what I really wanted was a pair of skinny Pumas. When my parents and I scoured the nearest Payless, the Pumas were 90 dollars– and Asics it would be for me that year.

Maybe Toseph gave me something good that year, I began to think.

As much as the current feminist in me dreads to say it, Toseph gave me a little bit of confidence to keep going– whether he intended to or not. And while Toseph did make me believe something quite scary (that Asics are a fashion statement), he made me believe something beautiful as well: that I was a darn cool 11-year-old regardless of my shoes.

And for that, Toseph, I thank you.

In N.C.

 Fall only happens in Corolla. It’s when I smell sea salt; it comes to me in gusts of wind and kisses my hair. I go there when I’m cooking, when I smell stuffing and when the leaves turn brown and embrace the ground from where they grew. Sea salt means autumn, which means Ocean Arch in Corolla. 

 It’s a different kind of beach there, one with lighthouses and rowboats, with duck-hunting marshes and humble folks. The sky is grey and bursts with storm– the water putters and smacks and sinks into the sand. Fall is a muddy beach.  

 It’s where my grandma sips dry champagne by the window and deals blue playing cards. It’s where my father pours me watered down Merlot and where my mother brushes strands of hair from my face, hardened with sea salt.  

 I learned to drive on the two lane roads in the pouring rain, squeezing the wheel as I accelerate to 45. Fall is an empty road in Corolla.  

 Corolla has always been the perfect place to run and hide– the seafoam piles up and up until the beach is a cloud and everyone is floating and enveloped in its moisture.  

 It’s where my cousin and I curled up on a couch as children to watch “A Haunting.” Corolla is the place where, in soggy salt and sand, we grew up.  

 I can smell the briny air on bridges and highways– seeing water for the first time in months, breathing in the sun’s tinge as it sets on the bay, the minutes withering away between me and Corolla, everything I know and have ever known waiting for me past the pastel stilted houses and brush.  

 Four years, 240 miles, and no swimsuit. The mountains shrink in the Appalachia when I drive to Corolla. The mountains shrink in the fall.