Change Your Hair, Change Your Life

My friend who works in the spa and beauty industry once told me, “Fate follows hair.” She said this after I went and chopped off all of my shoulder-length hair. My new pixie style felt free and wild, svelte and quick. Which translated to feeling all of those things about myself. And it’s a good thing too because I had quit my lucrative and stressful job only a month ago. I desperately needed to believe in myself and a new direction toward creativity and art.

Like many women, I’ve experimented with hairstyles and colors over my teens, 20s, 30s. Long and feminine, short and blunt, bangs, layers, asymmetrical, curls, pixie, purple highlights, silver strands, tinted henna, au naturel. When I get bored with the status quo of life, changing hairstyles is a low-risk way to freshen up routine or catapult into a completely new life. Sometimes the hairstyle causes the change, sometimes the change causes the hairstyle. Either way, it’s a physical signal that change is brewing.

The hairstyle that I have most wanted to dare but have been reluctant to plunge into is the shaved head. It’s a strong signal, often seen as a political act, to shave one’s head as a woman. Perhaps that’s the fascination and the fear: to take such total control of my own appearance in an irrevocable, in-your-face way. I would compare the feeling to vertigo, the dangerous what-if of jumping over the edge. There is no going back, and am I ready to know myself with a bald head?

So far my answer has been no. I’m not ready to face that fate or change my life in that direction. But I enjoy having it in my back pocket, an emergency hatch to a new life if I ever need it.

No Excuses Solo Travel

When was the last time I traveled completely alone?

I went to Oklahoma for my mom’s birthday in 2017. But I traveled with my sister and stayed with my parents, so that doesn’t count for these purposes.

No, when was the last time I went somewhere completely by myself? I visited my best friend when I was in high school and flew alone to Louisiana. But her family picked me up at the airport, and I stayed with them the entire time.

I can conclude then that I have never traveled completely alone. I have always had family or friends with me for the better part of a trip. I’ve never been in a position to independently plan my days and activities. How strange to be in my late 30s and only now contemplating solo travel.

My favorite excuse for my inability to travel alone has been Motherhood. In fact, Motherhood has been my most-used excuse for the things I’ve said no to in the last 14 years. Motherhood was at some point somewhat of a hindrance, and it still offers limitations. But I am not so limited as I pretend.  

What would it be like to go to Portland, Oregon on a solo trip for four days, three nights?

Getting only myself onto the plane, off the plane, then to my accommodations. Taking some time to settle in first then go walking and exploring, getting a feel for the neighborhood. Finding my bearings and a cafe. Dinner. An early night to rest up for the next day.  

Choosing the day with the best weather to go to the beach. Walking the shoreline, exploring, turning over driftwood, rocks, feeling the cold sand, breathing the brine. Lunch. Finding another coffee shop or quiet bar to write and read.

Another day I would go to Powell’s Bookstore and make that my epicenter for exploration. I would walk in ever-expanding circles (or more probably rectangles), discovering the nooks and crannies of the high streets. Looking in at boutiques, used bookstores, pastry shops, Thai places. I would get a tarot reading, a massage.

I would go a whole day without speaking more than necessary pleasantries. I would be eyes and ears, hands and feet. I would tunnel into the thoughts these sensations evoke. Slip out of expression except through movement and writing. How interesting to be, without being forced to emote or communicate outside of oneself. Only for a short time, but what a pleasure to vacate the land of speech.

I’m going out to find new stories, my own stories, and bringing them back to share.

Fewer excuses, more stories.

 

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Everyone has a rock star dream. For some, the dream is to work at a prestigious institution whether academic, scientific, artistic, or corporate. The dream might be owning your own business or being your own boss. For others, the dream could be living in an exotic country, in a city far removed from anything familiar. Perhaps the house itself is the dream in the form of a houseboat, a tiny house, an old farmhouse that needs renovation, or a recreational vehicle and a nomadic lifestyle.

Only last year, I dreamed of becoming a full-fledged CPA and globetrotting accountant, but I broke up with that dream in January 2018. So why did I leave that dream in the dust despite a good company with upward momentum and a strong network?

Dreams change.

I moved into my dream and began to follow the steps to make it happen. I was well connected and had clear indication from peers and superiors that my career would fall into line. Their only question was where would I like to live and work next? But making dreams into reality causes some strange shifts. It doesn’t feel the way you expected on the inside. Like a fancy dress with netting in the skirt, the romantic look of it masks the reality of yards of scratchy netting next to skin.

I did not want the dream anymore. The dream made me feel that I was leasing my life from my job. The dream required a two-hour daily commute. The dream meant that when I had time with my children, they saw a woman who was irritated and always tired. The dream severely limited my social life and strained my relationship with my wife. The day the dream became untenable was the day I realized that the next promotion would mean even more hours and even more stress. The promotion was only six months away, but I was already at my breaking point. It had to stop.

Unfortunately, realizing that it’s not working is not the same thing as breaking up. It took me three months to fully see that this dream was incompatible with who I was and who I wanted to be. I thought I had failed the dream, forgetting that dreams should be tailored to the dreamer and not the other way around. When dreams change, it’s okay to mourn a little, kick the dust, and give the limp, worn out dream one more embrace.

If the dream isn’t for you anymore, it doesn’t matter how shiny it is—put it down and walk away. You will find that you are full of dreams and breaking up with the wrong ones will bring those other possibilities to the surface. You will be able to walk through other doorways, down other avenues, unencumbered.

And your mind won’t itch the way it did before.