As someone who has committed my life’s work to helping others achieve personal transformation, my natural hair journey was a reminder that transitions and transformations are not necessarily pre-planned or deliberate for that matter.
As I reflect on my decision, I can honestly say my natural hair journey unintentionally happened after my 40th birthday. I was a divorced mother of four entering a new decade of life. I had just published a self-help book on personal transformation, had a new love in my life, and an internal desire to reinvent myself.
In the year following my big 4-0, I switched up my usual safe bob with everything from a sew-in ponytail, sew-in weave, to braids.
Six months after my 40th birthday, my then boyfriend proposed to me. At that time, I just happened to be wearing a full sew-in weave for the first time ever. I speak on authenticity, on being unapologetically you. And though wearing anything other than your natural hair does not by any means exclude you from these virtues, I can remember looking back at the picture that captured that moment and thinking, the hairstyle was cute, yet I would have preferred to have sported my own hair on such a memorable day.
Shortly thereafter, I ditched the sew-in and the safe bob hairstyle that was underneath. With just 6 months before my wedding I cut all my hair off and opted for a cute pixie style. Let’s just say my effort to reinvent myself was having an identity crisis when it came to my hair.
When I walked down the aisle at my destination wedding in Cancun the following year, I embraced my short hair, however I felt trapped by the frequent hair salon visits. Being a busy mom, business owner, and new wife, I increasingly became more and more frustrated over the time I was spending in the salon. I was so over it. Around this time, I was diagnosed with borderline hypertension and my effort to exercise to get it under control was centered around my hair regimen. If I had clients, a speaking engagement, or television appearance exercising was out of the question. Like so many other black women, I was sacrificing my physical health for my hair.
Then my world shifted.
Five months after my wedding day, my mother, the same woman who danced and celebrated with us at our wedding in Cancun unexpectedly died. I was devastated. My father had died years earlier from complications of a stroke and now I was burying my mother whose hypertension ultimately led to her passing.
In the months that followed, grief took its toll on me. My spirit and confidence was shot. I decided to get braids because honestly, I didn’t have the mental or physical energy to put toward my hair.
I wore braids for a year following my mother’s passing.
Just after the first anniversary of her death I took the braids out. A jar of relaxer sat on the counter just inches away from me. This was, metaphorically, my crossroad. Do I return to the safe, accepted, straight and narrow, or do I embark upon the road less traveled. The previous year had taken its toll on me. Now, braid free and feeling less battered by grief, I remember looking in the mirror and realizing how organic and raw I was in more ways than one. I was looking at MY hair for the first time since I started getting relaxers at age 7.
I was as unfamiliar with the hair on my head as I was with the motherless woman reflecting back at me in the mirror. Little did I realize that I was about to become very familiar with both and my hair journey would become a metaphor to the personal journey grief propelled me on. I made a decision to go natural and establish an intimate relationship with my crown and glory.
Dr. Rose Moten, is a clinical psychologist, and the author of two books. www.drrosemoten.com
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