Cutting my hair
Today I'm happy to share the news that I have cut off nearly all of my hair!
If it seems like I'm changing a lot in my life... it's because I am.
Despite having an incredible life on paper, I was profoundly unsatisfied with it a year ago. Since then I have made big decisions. Quit my job, gave away most of my possessions, chose not to have a permanent address, got another dog. I've also made choices that are not tangible. Trusted myself to solve problems as they arise, really depended on my family and friends to support me, faced aspects of life that I previously avoided.
Part of what I'm doing is figuring out why I was so unhappy, given the comfort that I had on every level. A home, a flexible job with a caring boss, meaningful relationships, Bertie, enough money to take care of her and myself, extra money to experience things and save for the future, a car that reliably took me wherever I wanted to go, health that was well enough for me to be active.
Another part, though, is trying to live in alignment with my values and beliefs. And to get a hold on what exactly that means.
If you've known me a while, you probably won’t be surprised when I say that I don't like being told what to do. While I do mean this on a pretty shallow level, I also mean it deeply. I'm frustrated with most of what society expects of us. The way that we’re supposed to be based on our age, gender, race, education, etc. When I have the courage, I do things that are more logical, comfortable, and enjoyable instead of what social norms tell us to do. Of course, this is a challenge. There are plenty of ways in which I acquiesce and act in line with societal expectations. But as long as I’m alive, I will continually strive to reject as many of those expectations as I can.
One such expectation that will never stop bothering me is this:
Women have to look a way that they are not actually. My hair, my face, my complexion, my body - it's all supposed to appear different than how it actually is. It's exhausting. There are plenty of reasons to shave your head. It's fun! Liberating! A literal and metaphorical weight lifted off your shoulders. And yes - an opposition to expectation.
The thrill of cutting off a lot of hair is nothing new for me. When I was in third grade, my teacher, Ms. Eggers, donated over 10 inches of her hair. As soon as she explained that process to 8-year-old me, I was onboard. From that day on, I would grow out my hair and cut 10 or so inches off every 2-3 years. It felt amazing every time. The last couple years have been the longest I’ve kept my hair above my shoulders.
But I wanted it to be gone. And the only reasons not to do it are all related to what other people think of me. Even the prospect that I might not like it would be rooted in the ideal of beauty that has been beaten into me by infinite advertisements and media.
I’m excited to have less maintenance. To waste less of my limited minutes grooming my hair for no meaningful reason. To give even less priority to the appearance of my body. A body that, while I am genuinely grateful for what it allows me to do, has been dictated by genetics and doesn’t correlate to the sentient being “inhabiting” it.
I know that you may disagree with any number of the things I’ve written. And that’s okay. It’s kinda the point. I’m not saying you should cut off all your hair. I’m not saying you should like the way it looks. I’m not even saying that this is a big deal, considering how plenty of people have short haircuts. What I am saying is that this is a very meaningful choice for me. And I anticipate that many of you would have at least a fleeting curiosity at what I’ve done.
The changes I’m making are not just about trying to figure out what could bring me happiness. They’re also about finding meaning in existence. What values are most important to me? How I can live in a way that keeps them from being buried by nonsense? For that reason, each change - big or small, seemingly significant or inconsequential - is purposeful.
And finally, because I am as full of contradictions as the next person, I want to reaffirm my belief that life shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
So with that, I will leave you until the next letter.
See you then!