How does the saying go? “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”
A change is precisely what I needed, and exactly what I was afraid of. Our hair holds many stories that carry a lot of weight. I knew a change needed to come—both with my color-damaged hair and my life. Shaving my head last year was the catalyst to begin that process.
I needed to cut off a job, old relationships that had run their course, and my comfort zone. I needed to make intentional financial decisions that would put me in a position to finally move to New York City—my dream city. I needed to learn how to be confident in my own skin.
I cut off—and had my cousin graciously shave and shape up—the sides and back of my hair on January 1, 2019. New year, new me, right? I was only getting my feet wet. In late May 2019, I shaved the whole thing off. I thought I would regret it or struggle to learn how to embrace it, but I was in love with it.
Around that time, I decided to work part-time while I learned how to build my business, Social Soundtrack, and figure out how to gain income as a trainer, consultant, and writer. I was healing from career traumas and closing doors indefinitely to perpetual heartbreak while aggressively failing—or learning—as an entrepreneur. My savings quickly began to dwindle, and I soon learned that working for myself through booking speaking gigs, sticking to my rates, and publishing paid articles wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, even with my years of experience.
For the sake of my savings account, I decided to look for full-time work again. I eventually landed a position in media for a nonprofit organization, and I was grateful for the answered prayer. I don’t think the time I took off from full-time work to nurture my dream was a waste. I learned a lot about myself, like what I truly want in life and that it’s okay to step into the unknown. It’s okay to go back to the drawing board to develop a better strategy. After my time away from the workforce, I found a job I enjoyed doing while I learned how to build a solid side hustle until income was steady enough to quit.
Real transformation happens when we have the audacity to step into the unknown. When I cut my hair, it signaled something similar. That I could break away from what I’ve always known and, over time, nurture the possibility of more.
Years ago, I didn’t know if I had what it would take to go natural; I’d just figured out how to maintain my relaxed hair after nearly 13 years on the creamy crack. Plainly stated, I didn’t know if I wanted to say goodbye to my wraps and become confronted with my big ass forehead—an insecurity of mine for as long as I can remember. But after heat damage, compounded by the stress of my first heartbreak in college, I went forward with my first big chop. Thanks to endless YouTube tutorials, my hair grew into a TWA—accompanied by struggling twist outs—and I learned how to break away from what I’d grown accustomed to by stepping into what my hair was born to do: be in its curly, natural state. I perfected three-strand twists and wash day routines. But it took cutting off the old to nurture the new.
Even when we cut something off, we must build other things to take the space. Since shaving my head in 2019 (big chop #2), I’m learning how to nurture the new growth that I have coming in, testing new products, and figuring out which oils are best suited for the new me.
Maybe I’m being fake meta about my hair, or maybe like many Black women, my hair is an expression and an extension of where I am in life. I finally made it to Harlem, New York. I’ve prayed a long time for this and I’m here. This current phase of my journey, in hair and life, calls for me to build structure, and learn how to nurture all that I desire—like an Esperanza Spalding-size afro. It’s a phase to tend and cultivate the delicate ground. My hair says so much about my process in life. What I’m learning, what I’ve experienced, and who I’m becoming.
I’ve been through roughly eight protective styles since my last big chop in September 2019. Protective styling is almost like scaffolding against a building. I see scaffolding everywhere in New York; it’s a bit of structure for buildings and signifies construction projects in progress. That’s what I am, like a protective style or a scaffolding—it’s a nice structure, but it’s only the process for something bigger.
I thought I was making a bold statement when I shaved my head, and I certainly did. But I’m learning now that we also make bold statements when we spend hours upon hours nurturing our hair through the growing pains. It’s a bold statement when I wear my braids or Marley twists. It’s a bold statement when I try new styles instead of sticking to what I’ve always known or what’s comfortable. It’s a bold statement to embrace and accept myself through every little phase. Cut, nurture, build—repeat.