When you are in possession of something for the majority of your life, there is a tendency to protect it from disposal because your emotional attachment to it has cemented after years of routine. The famous sweater in your closet that, season after season, remains untouched and hanging with the thought that one day it will be worn again. Or the stuffed creature tucked away in storage that sits clear of the trash because it provokes nostalgia and the familiar smell of your childhood home. These items of your life that you store hold no value to anyone else, though everybody has something equivalent they refuse to release.
For me, it was my hair.
I had locks past my shoulders for longer than I can remember, but no matter how much heat I avoided or products I used to retain vitality, it would never reach past my breasts. I set a goal when I was 13 to grow it out until it fell just above my butt so that I could have the option to copy Sailor Moon’s famous up-do, obviously. I figured that this was attainable, because around that time I also planned on marrying Pete Wentz and life would be the best thing that ever happened to me. Unforeseeable to me, both of these aspirations fell through. The realization that my hair would remain the same length was hard to arrive at. The knowledge that the poster boy of emo-rock would never know my existence crushed my pubescent heart, but it wasn’t as important to me as fulfilling my idea of beautiful.
In first year university, I flirted with chopping my hair when I shaved a patch on the right side of my head to mimic Ellie Goulding after Halcyon Days’ release. It was a silent act of rebellion against the circumstantial turmoil I faced that year, a visual sign that I had surpassed my limit. By doing this, I resorted to letting go of a former self in order to regrow, and funnily enough, I think Ellie and I were on the same page of life when that album came out. I don’t believe in coincidences.
Though this behaviour was spontaneous, it was an direct retaliation to the internal festering I had planted in myself over years of self-doubt and low self-esteem. A plague that I know I don’t face alone, but one that is often overlooked. When you struggle with your appearance in ways you can’t justify, it is challenging to separate what is truth from what you are lead to believe. It starts out barely visible, yet it mutates into a shadow that looms with you so long, it resembles a friend you confided in. I didn’t know it back then, but my unhappiness was the result of dedicating my life to the approval of others. I made choices that I knew would be praised by the people in my life because I thought it would bring myself the to same level of acceptance. It never did, but to my surprise, I’m thankful for that.
The decision to chop my hair was never about refreshing my appearance. In honesty, I did it because I knew it was the first step to cracking the mould I was settling in. Just because you may fit, doesn’t mean you belong…and I think that was what struck me after years of putting myself last. There’s no harm in tending to needs aside from your own, but losing yourself for the sake of pleasing someone else is never worth it. You know that, and now, so do I.
Not once have I mourned the loss of my mane, or wished I hadn’t followed through with my impulses, because now I’m more myself than ever before. Was I nervous? Fucking yeah I was nervous…I was about to tread on unknown territory and transform the familiar appearance I’ve primed in the mirror for years into someone I had yet to meet. But this wasn’t courage or bravery, or qualities that are more fit for real-life heroes; this was my chance to shed all that was holding me back in a way that I couldn’t undo. All the shit I’ve held on to that restricted my recovery fell to the floor with every strand cut. After all, it’s just hair. Chopping everything leaves me with no choice but to grow.
By choosing to release the version of myself I clung to for all this time, I’m greeted with new challenges and exciting discoveries I would have never knew otherwise. Like, did you know I have cut my shower time in half? Or that I can successfully rock bed-head without the need of a brush? Sometimes I wonder why I waited so long to do this. My life is made easier because I’m all I have to make happy everyday. You have full control of everything that you do in your life, so throw out that damn sweater that won’t ever leave your closet. It’s no use to you anymore, and it’s occupying space that belongs to something new.
[Featured photo by: Altovenue]
[Shirt from Ocean In Space]