“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference” — Reinhold Neibuhr
I tiredly dragged my two huge suitcases as I stumbled up to my roommate’s car. She and her uncle had kindly offered to pick me up from LAX and drive me back to campus, so I didn’t have to catch a Super Shuttle and spend extra money and time. After nearly a month at home battling negative temperatures during the Polar Vortex in Chicago and watching more TV than any one person should, I was relieved to return back to school for the spring semester of my sophomore year.
Despite my excitement, I knew returning back to school would be the ultimate test. My hair was laid: long and full and not entirely mine. The sew-in I got in December was starting to feel natural. The braids underneath the extra hair had become less bothersome. Furthermore I was starting to accept my new weaved look.
After an entire year, my permed hair catastrophe seemed to be coming to a standstill. I was finding contentment despite my anger. I was finding beauty in the changes and growth process of both my hair and my maturity.
I purposely got my first weave while back home in Chicago because I would be in my comfort zone. I had my mom around me to reinforce my decision, I had my hairdresser who was familiar with my hair, and most importantly I had my longtime high school friends who loved me regardless.
Yet now as I returned to school I knew that I was stepping out of my element. I had friends here, but it wasn’t like back home. Because a Los Angeles hairdresser permed and damaged early on in my freshman year, my college friends have never seen my hair at shoulder length. They have never seen my hair held in a high ponytail or it bouncing with curls. No, that look on me was foreign to them. To be honest, it was becoming a foreign look to me as well.
After unpacking my bags and visiting some friends in their apartments, my roommate and I decided to grab some food. As we walked she took hold of some of my hair and ran her fingers through it. I grew stiff. I still didn’t know how people would react if they felt the spiral of cornrows beneath my hair.
“Wow Jordyn,” my roommate said. “You’re hair grows so fast.”
I made eye contact with her. Was this sarcasm or legitimate amazement? Should I nod silently or vocally acknowledge my decision to install a weave in my hair for the first time?
“Yeah right,” I chuckled, deciding to take the honest route. “I totally added hair.”
She laughed with me and the conversation died.
I wanted to send out an air of confidence as I talked about my weave. I had attempted to do that while back home around my friends. They responded positively. I hope the same would be here with my friends in college. Yet I wasn’t personally ready to vocalize the words “weave” and “ my choice.”
Since getting my weave, I’m still dealing with issues and insecurities surrounded with pride, definitions of beauty and professionalism. If I had to identify one major realization from the drama surrounding my damaged hair, I would definitely have to say it was discovering how reliant I was on my hair and its appearance.
My roommate and I met up with some of our friends for dinner. As we all sat around the table eating pizza, some others commented on my new hairstyle.
“I really love the new look, Jordyn!”
“You look hot”
“I see you looking like Olivia Pope over here.”
All the compliments made me feel empowered. It reinforced my difficult decision of letting go and rebuilding. Yet, deep down I wondered if these compliments were actually backhanded statements of saying that my hair without the weave — and the hairstyle I had rocked all last semester — was not attractive. Were they even going as far as saying that my longer, weaved hair made me look better as a person overall?
I didn’t embark on this journey of returning to my natural, thick, healthy and curly hair for other people. I did it for myself. I did it to find myself, to learn about myself, to struggle with myself.
My journey is not over. No, it has simply just begun. This month I’m rocking the sew-in and next month I plan on getting “Poetic Justice” box braids. Farther down the road I want to get kinky twists and then I’ll expose my hair again to check its length and get a trim.
One day I’ll have confidence enough to wash my hair and press it myself before a big event — and not feel the need to run to a hair salon to do it for me. During this journey back to natural hair I envision myself being able to talk openly and honestly with my friends about why I felt it necessary to get a weave. I see myself running through the rain, hair uncovered and letting it recoil into its natural texture. I want to not feel apprehensive while doing these things. At the end of this journey I don’t want to feel that accidentally getting a perm is a poor reflection of my worth as a person — as I do now.
This journey, ultimately, is not a journey about my hair. Yes, it was ignited by the struggles associated with it. However, this journey is about knowing that my hair doesn’t define me as a person. It’s about accepting my strengths and my limitations. It’s about accepting the things I cannot change, identifying the opportunities to change the things I can and not stressing over things out of my control.
At this point in my hair journey the texture, length and healthiest of my hair is out of my control. Yet I’m taking the necessary steps to make changes in that respect. I’m not where I want to be now, but I’m getting there. Slowly but surely, I’m reaching where I need to be.
This is the fifth and final part of my series on growing my natural hair back. Though seemingly trivial, this journey has shaped me as a young adult in many profound ways and in several facets of my life. Thank you for following me on my journey. As my hair continues to grow, undoubtedly I will as well. Stay blessed.