Reflections on One Year

One year and one month ago I made the decision to cut off my locs of 7 years. After a month of reflection, tears, frustration and a lot of hair products, I was ready to leave my natural hair pit stop and get back on my locs journey. Cutting (and unraveling) my locs was a purging process and an outward sign of my commitment to change myself. At the time I had hoped that the seriousness of the sacrifice would be appreciated by others, but now a year later, I have accepted that it is only important that one person appreciates the true depth and meaning of the whole process: Me.

India Arie may say that she is not her hair, but I have no problem with admitting the contrary: I AM MY HAIR. If you follow me on Twitter, you would know that natural hair is not just a fad for me or something to make me look pretty. From the day I cut my perm off 12 years ago, natural hair has always been a philosophy and a statement for me. A statement of my refusal to accept European standards of beauty, a statement that there was nothing wrong with my hair the texture the Most High created it, a statement that I would not yield to the pressure of society and my peers telling me how I ought to look. I went natural before it was the “thing” to do. I did not have any support groups, or websites, or blogs, all I had was a little book by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner called “Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff” and a lot of youthful determination. My hair expresses who I am and what I represent, and the way I choose to express that is through locs. I may change up my clothing style, from business suits to hippie attire to sexy vixen, but the one thing that remains constant that conveys to the world who I am underneath all of that is my hair. I recently interviewed for a job and the interviewer expressed concerns to my friend who referred me that I was too reserved. The thing my friend pointed out to him to show him otherwise? My locs. Though I was in a suit, had my locs nicely done up in curls, my hair still conveyed that I am not your average woman, I do not follow the mainstream, I am my own person.

Bantu knot braid-out
I went back to locs because what was NOT me was the loose natural, which lasted only a month. I have absolutely nothing against loose natural hair and I love it and embrace it (on others) just as I do locs. I just feel that I looked better with locs, that they are more “me.” I did not immediately go back to locs after I cut the first set, even though I had plenty enough hair to do so at any time. But all that was part of my sacrifice and penance. I needed to wait until I was ready to loc again, until I felt that I had purged the residual negative energy from my hair and from my life. I did not want to start over with a new set of locs and harness any of the negativity that I was trying to escape from. When I started my locs over, I wanted it to be a truly fresh start. I even went to a new loctician, a woman who was full of life and joy, and who unfortunately shortly thereafter had her life cut too short by a drunk driver. I took that as a sign that this loc journey was one that I had to do on my own, just as the change within myself could ultimately only be done by me. I had to choose not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Curled braid-out
This past year has been an entire process of penance and a lesson in patience. Change does not come overnight. It is a step-by-step, day-by-day process, making gradual progress over time. Going through the locking process was an outward manifestation of my inner change. Cutting my locs and going to have my single strand twists put in to start the locking processing were only the first steps, my commitment to journey along a path of growth and development that did not conclude on that November day in 2009. With my life, as well as my locs, I was committed not to make the same mistakes of the past and I made sure I took actions so those mistakes would not occur. I avoided harmful people; I avoided harmful products. I avoided situations I would later regret; I avoided over-manipulation. I took care to nurture relationships; I took care to nurture my locs. Over time, in both my life and my locs, I started to see positive progress, but all the while I was forced to focus on the day-to-day, not the end result. Yes, I looked forward to the day where I could shampoo without unraveling, the day when I did not feel constant guilt, the day where I had enough hair to do an updo, the day when my word was once again good. The outside reflected the inside, the process was one in the same.

Flat twists & bun
I am now at the one year mark, looking back over my journey thus far. My locs have gone from 2” hollow coils to 6” solid locs that are well into their maturation phase. I can curl them, bantu knot them, do braid outs, and flat twist them to the back into a bun. Retwists are now optional and I can wash my locs as often as I please, AND use conditioner from time to time if I so desire. In my personal life, I have become more responsible with my money, more proactive in handling my personal business, have forgiven myself for my past sins, have a more positive outlook, I am less self-centered and more transparent in my dealings with people. However, the journey is by no means over.

I really hope that people around me, and especially people I love, can see and believe these things as well. I have had some recognition and acknowledgment of the change from those who know me; even my ex-husband said he could see a definite change in me over the past year; he does not even know any of the background or events leading to or away from last fall’s purging and new beginnings, and we do not even speak or interact regularly. People say I look happier, I smile more, laugh more, that my joy radiates. Much of this comes from being more content in my relationship, but even that stems from my commitment and efforts to change and his help along the way. And though not everyone in my life may appreciate the true significance of my journey, looking back I have to be content with the fact that I did this for myself and everything else will take care of itself. Not everyone has chosen, or has been chosen, to come along this journey with me; I have definitely lost some friendships, abandoned some friendships, and scaled back other friendships. I can only go forward knowing in my heart and knowing that the Most High knows that I am a better person than I was in October 2009, and, like my locs, I will continue to grow, change and be better. There is no going back.