3 Life Lessons My Curly Hair Has Taught Me

by Vanesa Pacheco

When I wake up in the morning, my hair is a bonafide pile of frizz and tattered curls that don’t seem to look like ringlets, but half spirals with jagged edges. Most ways of styling this mess require a dozen bobby pins and a hair elastic because I can’t be bothered to finger curl them back into place (if that’s even possible). I have one “good hair day,” which is usually the day my hair is washed, but other than that it is something unmanageable. My curly locks are thin and frizzy with their own agenda; they don’t consult me before they dry into place, so I can only pray they set nicely.

This type of hair is not bad. I never worry about having volume or texture because my hair naturally has both of these qualities. I also don’t have to worry about it being boring because my curls always do some interesting shapes that frame my face. But is it easy? No, not even close. I think if I was more laid back or less cautious of things, my hair would be fine in however it decided to look, but my personality is not even close to this type of thinking.

I am an impatient perfectionist, even when I don’t want to be, and organization is almost second nature. I like to give my bookshelf as an example of my organization style: I have organized it by genre, author last name, and first letter of titles (at one point, it was also based on date of publication). No, I don’t have OCD, I am just a perfectionist. But, sure, this does get in the way of things, especially my hair.

Unlike my personality, which is grounded in laziness (I keep things tidy to avoid having to fix everything all at once later on), my hair is wild, untamed, and probably thriving off of my dissatisfaction with it. I sometimes think that I was cursed with this mop on my head, but after lots of thinking, I’ve come to realize that it is somehow a blessing in disguise. Can there be any good in something that brings me so much frustration and annoyance everyday? hair is wild, untamed, and probably thriving off of my dissatisfaction with it.

Surprisingly, yes. Once I stopped hating my hair so much (which is different from complaining, I promise), I realized that my curly hair might actually compliment me in the way that people say, “opposites attract.” Here are the three things I’ve learned about my hair:

1. Patience

As a perfectionist, when things don’t go your way, you’re basically melting inside at the “mess” around you. You become eager to step into the situation to fix it, even if it isn’t your place. Well, having curly hair is kind of like living this all the time. You basically just sit patiently and wait for it to do its thing. You can’t touch it as you risk messing it up, and if it isn’t curling right, you definitely can’t touch it because it could get worse.

My lack of patience has been tried many times by my tresses. But instead of running from it, as I did with my straightening phase, I’ve slowly embraced this issue as a way of working on this weakness. If I can finally put up with my hair having a mind of its own, I can definitely accept when other aspects of my life don’t go according to plan. Sure, it is a stretch to compare hair to life experiences, but when dealing with patience, a chance to accept little things does have long-term effects.

To work on this, I’ve tried to find the simplest methods of letting my hair curl naturally. For an everyday look, I only use diluted jojoba or coconut oil on my hair to make sure it is moisturized (avoids frizz) and then I let it air dry. This helps keep it healthy, while also letting my hair do its thing.

2. Spontaneity

In some ways I’m a spontaneous person, as I’ve had my fair share of moments where I did things just for the hell of it. I am also a creative writer, so I tend to live in the clouds a lot. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more conscious of my decisions (or learned the hard way when I didn’t). Coupled with that is my need to understand what is happening and be in control of situations. Obviously, spontaneity doesn’t coincide with this kind of thinking.

But my hair is going to do its thing whether I like it or not. When it rains, it is going to mess up because water + curly hair = frizz. When it curls in the morning, it is going to look however it wants. I have no control over that – and this is good, because some things don’t need to be tediously thought out or planned. Sometimes it is better to see what happens and be surprised than to know the outcome to every situation.

While I try to plan according to the weather, this isn’t always possible. I used to freak out the minute the weather changed because it meant my hair was going to go haywire. But now I go with the flow. I use a simple curling cream that helps define curls, add a little hair spray if it’s really humid out, and just let it be. Sometimes I braid it or put it in a bun, but if it suddenly decides to snow in spring (like it did on the day these pictures were taken), well, whatever.

3. Audacity

Nothing is louder than curls flying aimlessly all other the place. If you’re the type of person who wants to hide in a corner at parties, it’s a bit hard to do when your curls are speaking for you. As an introvert, this has always been my problem. Sure, I’ve donned the vibrant colors that, in some ways, have brought more attention to myself. But, it was always my curls that really caused the conversation starters for me. The amount of times people have asked to touch my hair is excessive; no one approached me to touch my pink hair.

There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and there is nothing wrong with my hair being curly either. I am both these things and I shouldn’t try to hide one or the other. Yet, I also shouldn’t hide behind them. My personality is what it is, but I shouldn’t feel like I can’t do certain things just because they don’t fit into what I’m used to. I have to take risks, to step out of the box sometimes, and let my hair be wild.

I used to wish my hair would stay flat because I thought it looked ugly when it had some volume (even though my hair isn’t even close to how other people's hair gets). But now, I embrace it. Whenever I have some time or if I am going out, I tip my head upside down and use a diffuser to dry it gently for a few minutes. When I am finished, my hair is more voluminous and, surprisingly, curls better.

I still get frustrated with my hair because the sudden realization that it is basically my teacher for life lessons doesn't automatically make me worship it. I'll still straighten my hair and do other funky styles with it (nothing's going to stop me from getting a fringe), but I'll give it props for forcing me to work on my weaknesses. It can only make me a better person, and for that I am glad.

Images by Diamond Coleman Photography