365 Days of (Hair) Growth
About a year ago, I buzzed my hair off.
Though it may seem silly, it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It was the literal shedding of something that had caused severe insecurity and frustration for the past 14 years of my life.
I see pictures of me as a kid, and I cannot believe that that was my hair. It was long, and shiny, and smooth, all of which became dry, brittle and untamable the moment my hormones decided to wreak havoc. From that moment on, I pledge my loyalty to my straightener, mousse, hair styling creams and any other product that would hide the true state of my hair. No song had better defined my hair situation than Katy Perry’s ‘Roar.’ And while it was all good fun to joke with that, deep down I longed to one day be able to step out of the shower, wet-hair and all, and walk straight out of my house unencumbered by the thought of how it would dry out.
Now, if you’re thinking at this point that this was such a superficial thing, is because it is. And yet, though I knew it, I felt it was a mentality I could not escape. Hairstyles have been considered signs of the times. One of the most striking things when looking at paintings and photographs of times past, is how people used their hair. We can’t escape it. Hairstyles have signified belonging to particular groups, have marked eras, have both reflected and perpetuated ideas of femininity and masculinity, and have even been a symbol of status and wealth. For whatever reason, we place a lot of emphasis on hair and at 15, I was ill-equipped to know better. I grew up in a generation in which with a simple change of hair, an average teenager in Malibu, California could become a revered pop sensation.
So at 25, finally kind of done with it all, and aided by the relative safety of stay-at-home orders, one sunny Sunday last spring I decided to visit my local pharmacy, buy a pair of clippers and shave it all off. Worst-case scenario, it was terrible and I would have to hide it under cute hats or scarves for Zoom meetings. Best case scenario, it was great and I would never want to go back.
The reality was somewhere in the middle. When I just did it, it felt incredibly strange and I couldn’t stop touching the foreign spikes that now adorned by nearly-naked scalp. But about two or three days after, not only had I grown to like my new look, it felt amazing. I felt badass and free. My floors were hair free for the first time in years, and my hair was no longer a consideration for my workout routine (girls, you know what I’m talking about). However, that delightful bliss only lasted for about 2 weeks before things started to get awkward.
Though I contemplated keeping it buzzed for some time, the reality is that I was eager to try so many hairstyles between a buzz and long hair, so I decided to start letting it grow. While I had read multiple online articles online advising how long this process would take, I admit I underestimated just how much patience I’d actually need.
A year in, my hair is definitely not where I’d thought it’d be by now, partly because I’ve kept messing around with it a bit. And while I’m generally happy with how it’s going, I admit there are times - particularly when I scroll on Instagram and see commercial-worthy long hair - when I get quite impatient. Looking back though, I can see how, quite unexpectedly, my hair growth process has taught me a few important lessons that have made me grow as a person.
These 365 days of hair growth have taught me:
- Patience: Hair grows approximately half an inch per month. So, as you can imagine, jumping from a buzzed cut to a low-back length will actually take a couple of years. Not weeks, not months… years. The fact that you can't do much about it but wait is sure kryptonite for someone who, like me, always errs on the side of control. However, while sometimes it does seem like it's taking "too long", there's a certain beauty to knowing I'm letting go and letting it do its thing. We're created so beautifully and perfectly, that the cells and follicles in my body know exactly what to do, and perhaps like many other things in life, it's best to let things be and simply wait.
- To enjoy the process: Though the ideal thing would have been for me to just leave it untouched and unfettered. Yet, I've decided to go for the occasional trim and try different styles. I recently got a faux-hawk and did not tell a single soul, and it was liberating and amazing. I figured, if it's bound to be quite the wait, I might as well enjoy it, right?
I've never been too good at waiting for things. Oftentimes, I wish I had the remote from 'Click' and just fast-forward. But, as the movie well showed, that would in fact be a terrible way to live. My two favourite chapters in the Bible are Matthew 6 and Ecclesiastes 3, both of which address the importance of rhythms, seasons, and living today. Unexpectedly, my hair growth process has been a tangible reminder of this every single day, because though imperceptible to the naked eye, I can feel its steady growth when I wash it.
- The importance of preparing for, and facing, the consequences of our decisions: So I knew before I cut my hair that not everyone was going to agree with my decision, and I was right. I heard of people questioning my sexual orientation and my mental health because of my decision. But, I knew (albeit really hoped to be wrong) that this was one of the things that was going to come with me deciding to cut my hair and make it public. And still, I went for it because only I knew the entire backstory for my decision. No one was up at 11pm straightening my hair after a nightly workout session, paying for my hair treatments, or helping me clean my floors. While its good, in general, to ask for advice on certain matters, the decision will ultimately rest in your hands - with the important caveat that you will need to be equipped to face the consequences of your actions, both the good and the bad.
Have there been annoying moments after or times when I wished I didn't do it? Of course! Especially when the salon bills started to add up because I had to get more regular trims, or when a particularly cold gust of wind hit my bare head. But these were all positive and negative consequences I had to own and face, because it was a decision I had made.
- The importance of well-rounded care of ourselves: So as it turns out, if I want my hair to grow long, and strong and healthy, I'm going to have to watch my overall health because my food, stress levels and sleep influence how it grows. We are interconnected three-part beings, and being chronically unbalanced in one of these areas (emotional/mental, spiritual, and physical) will negatively impact the others. And while we are not meant to idolize either of these (too much of a good thing can end up being bad), going to the other extreme of neglect can also be detrimental since this is part of our beautiful design and makeup. What we put in our bodies and in our minds and souls matters, even with seemingly small things like hair growth.
- In the grand scheme of things, very few temporal things actually matter: We live in the era of likes, and viral videos, and a constant stream of thoughts and opinions that quickly blow up. Perhaps because of this, it seems that everything carries with it paramount importance. Popular opinion has become the measuring stick for much of our decision-making. I was prey to this when, not only did I cut my hair, but then decided to post photos of it on my social media. That night, I received a stream of comments and opinions, but 24 hrs. later my hair was old news and everyone (myself included) were on to the “next big thing” on our feeds. On the one hand, there’s something important to be said about our increasing (and perhaps often, unconscious) fickleness. But on the other hand, experiences like this demonstrate that everything in this world - the good and the bad - quickly pass away. Therefore, as the Apostle Paul advised, we must set our eyes on the invisible, the eternal, “for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
A year later, I’m rocking a short pixie (or trying to, at least), and all those loud opinions, particularly the hurtful ones, were all for nothing really. Perhaps if the act in and of itself cutting my hair would have stayed in its place as something temporal and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, some would have abstained from making comments whose impact took more time to heal than growing out my hair did.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but if this experience has taught me something, it is to see what I have in front of me (a news article, a tweet, a post, a hurtful comment, etc.) and step back, put it in its proper place, and seek for wisdom and discernment as to what the most appropriate response is based on the actual impact. We are getting used to giving everything an unwarranted air of importance and urgency when some things don’t really matter that much.
So, I’m still on the journey of (hair) growth and I’m excited to keep learning what this waiting game will teach me - about both hair and life!