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Photo: Lilly Dyer/Provided.


My name is Shelem. I am honored to be your Creators & Innovators newsletter series host for the month of May. I’m looking forward to sharing my music and my thoughts with you.

One thing you should know about me is that I like hats, so I wear many of them. Not literally, but figuratively. I do a few things. Most notably, I am a civil engineer by day and hip-hop artist – also by day. 

I design water and sewer collection and treatment systems for public utilities all over southern West Virginia, and I make beats and sing over them. Most of my hats fit within these two categories, so we’ll leave it there for simplicity. I love what I do because I get to contribute to the public's well being, both physically and spiritually. (Is that what music does? Or is it mentally? Emotionally? All of the above??) 

My creative endeavors tend to have traces of Appalachian influence sprinkled throughout because that’s the way my mind is wired. It’s where I grew up, and it's what I know. My social media handles are @Shelem304 because… why not? I’m Shelem from the 304. 

Hiking Long Point Trail on New Year's Eve 2021, featuring my electric blue Crocs I got for Christmas. Photo: Provided.

I just turned 26 on May 1 (woot!), and I’m a Marshall University alumnus. I recently played a concert at Marshall University centered around mental health awareness. As I am currently on a break from performing for the sake of my mental health, I figured that would be a good topic to start with. 

On any given day, I use my brain a lot. I spend my workday solving complex problems, then go home and try to create music and experiences for audiences presented in ways that haven't been done before. I perform frequently, and also have the opportunity to do cool stuff like public speaking (*ahem* go watch my TEDx talk if you haven’t already), make videos, design merchandise and more. 

Over the years, I’ve developed some solid practices to keep myself afloat mentally on a day-to-day basis, but I recently reached a point where I realized that’s not enough. Deep breathing only helps provide momentary relief. It doesn't do anything to treat the underlying issue. 

There’s only so much the mind can handle, and I reached that point a couple months ago. It seems like in today’s world we are all familiar with the dreaded B-word – “burnout.” I’m lucky enough to be in a position where my burnout is mostly self-inflicted and could be resolved if I were to just chill out and not do so much at once. So, that’s what I decided to do. 

Looking back on the past year, I can say I’ve spent way more time preparing for, driving to and performing at shows than probably all other “Shelem” activities combined. As such, I decided to block out my calendar and turn down all performance opportunities in May and June to allow myself to focus on other things. While I’m on this self imposed break, I’m going to spend more time doing things with minimal brain strain. One of my favorite relaxing activities is walking on nature trails.

Standing on the rock outcrop at Long Point Trail near Fayetteville, West Virginia, overlooking the New River Gorge Bridge. Photo: Provided. 

I used to find it annoying when people would point to exercise as a remedy for stress. However, I understand it now; whenever I’m feeling stressed out to the point where I feel physical strain in my chest or head, running can relieve that physical discomfort for me. 

That doesn’t count for what we’re talking about here. You can’t count physical exertion to reduce mental exertion. That doesn’t make sense. We need relaxation. For that, walking on a nature trail is the perfect option.

One of the awesome things about living in Appalachia is the beautiful scenery. Not only that, but the accessibility to nature. There is no shortage of parks and trails in virtually any city/town/village/two-lane-road-with-some-houses-on-it that you may live in. 

I developed a real love for walking on trails during The Great Stay-at-Home days of 2020. Walking alone or with a partner gives you the opportunity to passively appreciate the scenery around you without really focusing on anything in particular. Plus, most of the trails have a pretty cool looking destination that are typically cool rock formations and/or spots overlooking a valley. 

Who doesn’t love big rocks and mountain overlooks? And the best part about it? It’s free! Seriously, get out there. You’ll thank yourself.

That’s all the grand wisdom I have to share this week. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Until next week, go out and live your best life.




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