As with any significant change in life, you reflect on what happened immediately before and immediately after the transition-sometimes just to gauge whether or not the changes you made were for your own personal benefit, to benefit others, a total error in judgment, or the best decision you could have made given the facts or knowledge you had at the time.
In my school leadership training, one of the most impactful realities for me is the true sense of loss that you or others may feel when faced with change. For educators, being good often is just good enough, and the time, commitment, and energy it takes to be great (which, ultimately, makes children great) is rationalized as “above the pay grade,” “too much work,” “too difficult given the population, parent engagement, historic performance levels, test scores, etc.”
Still, I think about the new teacher in me, that 1998 teacher, that 2002 teacher who struggled with understanding how changing my thinking, just the slightest bit, to do my part, was merely a piece of a much larger part to positively impact student achievement. Internalizing how big the problem is negates your ability to do your part. Reflecting on how many children are behind grade level negates your ability to do your part. Bitching and moaning about overpaid administrators, low teacher pay, and apathetic Central Office Staff negates your ability to do your part. Challenging an innovative practice in favor of nurturing an ineffective one negates your ability to do your part. Change is, in large part, about the decision-making process, and where there is the least bit of indecision, your ability to do your part will be impeded.
But, what does all of that have to do with hair, Andi? Speaking of change…
Motivated by the fitness results of a good friend and colleague, in late-Spring 2013, I joined an outside, Marine Corps-style fitness program called USMC Fitness Boot Camp (www.usmcfitnessbootcamp.com) run by commanding officer and founder, Sgt. Tony Ludlow. By the time school ended in late May, I was over the initial soreness and exhaustion one feels when you finally start “taking care of” your body. For all of June and most of July 2013, I was determined to jumpstart my weight loss goals and work hard, on most days twice a day for an hour each, sweating, running, lifting weights, along with cardio/fat-burning exercises under the watchful, comedic eye of Sgt. Ludlow. All was well until I noticed the condition of my relaxed hair. I remember feeling a great deal of resentment about my normal routine of going to the beauty shop weekly or bi-weekly. Since I was too tired to style my hair, only to go right back out into the Memphis heat, sweat profusely, and destroy any semblance of a “style,” I needed a Plan B. More important, it was a huge waste of money to even visit a salon for professional hair care, so I got the bright idea to “go natural.”
“Going natural” did not have any significance attached to it other than making my life easier so that I could do what I wanted to do over my summer vacation-work out and take better care of my health. My relaxed hair was an impediment; it was in the way. So, I cut it off. Just that simple. I didn’t discuss it with anyone, and I cut it myself. It was imperfect, and I was not trying to make a fashion or political statement…I just wanted to work out everyday and rest my body when I wasn’t working out. I never went to a professional stylist or barber; my mom clipped away any “loose ends,” and I tried to make the most of it for about eight weeks.
In my very first post, I briefly discuss that my husband is not a fan of short hair, so as soon as his criticism of the “look” became uncomfortable for me, I succumbed to the pressure and went back to a relaxed, short cut. Luckily, school was about to start again so my exercise activity would lessen. I did not mourn the loss of my natural ‘do. In fact, I was a bit relieved. “Going natural” is more work than people think. I would even venture to say, reflecting on my two most recent experiences with natural hair, having relaxed hair makes you lazy about hair care, in general. I never cared as much for my relaxed hair as evidenced by the ways I now love on my natural hair. That’s the cold, hard truth.
Here I am arriving to a morning Boot Camp session, June 2013:
And again…sometime Summer 2013. My hair was pretty much one length all over, and at that point, it had not been permanently color-treated since the late 90’s. From time to time, when I my hair was newly relaxed, I would add a semi-permanent dark rinse to infuse rich, shiny color.
That encounter with my natural hair at 45 years of age was short-lived because I lacked the motivation to continue to care for my hair in its natural state. I was looking for support in order to maintain the look, the state of being, and when it was lacking, I folded.
My mother has worn her natural hair for several years now. Yes, I look very much like my mother in this picture of her:
She, like my cousin Len, isn’t shy about wearing a wig every now and then. Here she is on my Wedding Day wearing a salt and pepper number:
While I’m sharing the maternal side, here’s a peek at my father:
With a finer textured hair, my father was fresh from the barber shop in the picture above, but in the one below, his hair is a bit longer:
But, again, what does all of that have to do with hair, Andi?
To me, there is a certain authenticity in making the decision, finalizing the decision to wear your hair in its natural state. The authenticity I craved was somehow connected to my entire being…hair was just a part of it. I wasn’t ready to be authentic, nor vulnerable enough to let others see my natural hair in 2013. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t want to deal with the loss of relaxed control. I didn’t want to deal with styling trials and tribulations. I didn’t want to think too hard about what it really meant to wear my hair natural.
I’m so over that.