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Ever since I can remember, I have been dying my hair. When I say that, I promise that I'm not exaggerating or being dramatic. I really mean it. I can't remember a time in my life where I wasn't bleaching, burning, lapping pigment on or pulling it out of my hair. Over and over again, I've cycled through having very dark, jet black hair, to bleach blonde waves, and each time I put my hair through the cycle, it weakened, gradually burning to a crisp.
The first time I begged my mom to let me dye my hair was the summer before I started fifth grade. I was nine and already insecure about my appearance. In my own mind's eye, there was something not quite right about the way I looked and maybe just one blonde highlight or one strip of red or pink would make it better. It would make ME better.
As I aged, this dance through the various spectrum of hair colors only intensified, fueled by backstabbing friends or boys will ill intentions. Even though there were all the red flags and warning signs, I continued alternating the color on my hair even when it turned a drastic shade of traffic cone orange or a shade of black so dark it masked my hair like a curtain.
I went from shade to shade, and continued to burn and bleach my hair, hoping someday, something would be right enough for me to want to stop.
Unfortunately, that day never came where I found a color that I was satisfied with. Instead, the day came where my hair gave up on me instead.
This was the day that my hair was completely fried, dead all the way from the root, through the shaft, and into the ends. I didn't know what to do. I covered my dry and brittle blonde ends with a vibrant shade of purple and pink, trying my best to fool people into thinking my hair wasn't on its last leg of life.
Not only was I in the middle of a hair disaster, but my life felt as if it had become a series of evolving changes. I was getting ready to move to another state, starting university, and trying to take care of my family. I had been dealing with drama at work, all along with the overwhelming feeling that the only way to fix this was to continue changing my hair's color.
It was the one thing that I could control, but finally, all the years of change and adaptation had taken their toll. I was finally out of hair to change.
I had to take action but I'd always been so afraid of cutting it off. My hair had become a comforting source of my identity. I found solace in the idea that I could change my hair, and I could change my life. The problem was, my life wasn't changing each time I changed my hair. My issues with myself still existed very much no matter what color or length my hair was.
I was afraid I'd be labeled as unfeminine or too "wild." I'd always identified with the fact that my hair was a critical part of being a woman and feeling beautiful with luscious locks was the best way that I could identify with myself in that way. I was afraid of how other people would see me and I was afraid that without my mask of hair that I had changed like a chameleon for so long, they would see me in the frightening way that I saw myself.
Yet, what I soon learned was that no one would like me better or worse because of any kind of change in my hair. No one made efforts to make me feel better with new hair because it wasn't their job. The only one that could make me feel better, was me.
There's only one person to reassure you when you wake up and look in the mirror every day, and that's you.
So I cut it off. All of it. Eight inches in total fell to the floor of the hair salon, silent against the "oohs" and "ahhs" of the salon full of women watching me actually change my identity. I felt the cold air conditioning of the salon swoop over the back of my neck; an inviting cool that I haven't felt in a long time. I ran my fingers through it, feeling it fall against my face and head.
When my eyes finally met the mirror, I could only think one thing.
So now, for the first time in ten years, my hair is the same color it was when I was a little kid, confused about who I was and who I could become. I finally felt like I was now in a position where I could take charge of myself and how I felt, through my ability to keep my hair healthy and liberate the past from quite literally laying on my shoulders.
Take a chance on something that scares you. Give yourself the opportunity to liberate yourself from what's bothering you. Often, the answer isn't really making changes at all, rather it's in the process of being happy with who you are and who you think you can become through being happy with who you are.
For the first time in years, I finally felt like myself again and though it took a long time to find her again, it's good to have her back.