I have a complicated relationship with my hair. A kind of love-hate relationship, where some days I get it to curl just the right way and it complements my outfit, and other days it looks thin and stringy, and I use hair accessories to hide it. Recently, that relationship took a turn for the worst. I went through a period of severe anxiety and began pulling out my hair, leaving behind a damaged assortment of missing pieces. My locks are still recovering from the harm I’ve caused, so I decided it was a time for a change. That’s why I chopped my hair off and dyed it for the first time, leaving myself with a new do that feels emblematic of my time in New York.
When I moved to New York three months ago for my internship at Bustle, I set one rule for myself: say yes to everything. Even if a story concept or an event fell outside my comfort zone, I was going to do it. I was going to take this low-stakes opportunity to push myself and try new things. Over the course of my time here, I have held myself to that standard. I wrote a story about my hair-pulling habit when I had barely addressed it with family members or friends. I approached editors at events despite my introverted personality. So, when I heard two Bustle editors talking about needing someone to cover a story about dyeing their hair for the first time, I jumped on it. Maybe a new hair style would help restore my relationship with my hair, while giving me another opportunity to take a leap outside my comfort zone.
From the second I agreed to change my hair up for this story, however, I started to panic. The biggest worry clouding my mind was the thought of revealing my patches of missing locks to a hair stylist and colorist. It’s easy to conceal them when I style my hair every day, but there’s no hiding when the stylists split your hair into sections to get an even color and cut. My mind then wandered to the what ifs of a new hair color. What if I don’t like it? What if the dye damages my hair even more? What if they can’t even dye my hair because of the patches? I began approaching the hair appointment from a place of anxiety and stress, rather than excitement.
To ease my worries about my upcoming hair transformation, I attended an event thrown by Bustle’s Please and Mynd Spa and Salon, where guests tried on wigs inspired by fashion week styles to get a sense of what they would look like with different hairdos. This was my chance to try out new hair colors without making any permanent changes. I started small with just a longer version of my dark brown locks, which more than anything reminded me how nice it feels to have a full head of thick hair. Next, I did a complete 180 and tried on a blonde wig. I took one look in the mirror, and I knew that it was not for me. After trying on a couple zanier options for fun, I put on a dark bob. I hadn’t even considered cutting off my mid-length hair before that, but that wig made me feel the most “me” I had felt all night.
For the next couple days before my appointment, I began seriously considering (and panicking about) a drastic haircut in addition to the highlights. Now I had two major hair changes on the horizon. But despite my pre-appointment jitters, when I arrived at Mynd, my colorist, Rachel Bodt, and stylist, Heather Packer, showered their calm spirits over me. I showed them a picture of the caramel highlights I wanted and mentioned I was willing to go shorter, which they both agreed was a good idea. Then came the part I was dreading, the part where I had to tell them why parts of my hair were so wonky.
“I have to warn you,” I said, “My hair is recovering from a pretty stressful period.” They both said, “OK, no problem,” and moved on with the appointment. There was no further questioning about my habit or how I let that happen to my hair. They assured me that they’ve seen everything, and the cut and color would restore some body to my flat, lifeless strands. I felt a sense of relief rush over my body once we got that out of the way.
Since I had never colored my hair before, Rachel made sure to walk me through each step of the process. First, she sectioned my hair into different pieces and meticulously painted the dye onto each strand. She explained that this method makes the color look more natural as it blends in with the rest of my hair. I was only slightly panicking as I watched her smear the white goo on my virgin hair. There was no going back now. After we let it sit, and Rachel rinsed out the dye, she coated my entire head with a glaze to make my hair shinier and stronger. Finally, it was time to wash my hair and see the finished color. I took a deep breath, looked in the mirror, and — my hair looked the same. Rachel assured me that the color was hard to see with wet hair, but it would pop out once my hair was dry. I trusted her.
Next, it was time for the cut. Heather came over to the chair and started chopping off inches of my hair. To my relief, she cut around the patches and kept assuring me that the shorter hairdo would give my hair volume and allow it all to grow back in together. I don’t have too much hair, so the cut was quick. Before I knew it, I had chin-length locks.
I couldn’t see the color yet, so the cut was more stress-inducing than the dye. But I breathed and remembered that it’s just hair. It grows back. Heather blew dry my short locks, and I finally got a glimpse of the complete new hairstyle. Despite all my nerves before and during the transformation, I loved it. It looks full and healthy. The peanut butter-colored highlights blend seamlessly into my natural chocolate color, like a perfectly balanced Reese's cup. I feel a sense of confidence in myself that's been absent for months.
My initial reaction to this whole process, like most new experiences, was panic. I was terrified to try something new. While I’m still figuring out how to style this hair length so strands don’t stick out in random places or fall too flat, the risk paid off. I actually think my hair looks nice most days, and I have even found myself pulling less hair out as I pound away at my desk. And, most importantly, I can still style it with my collection of headbands and barrettes that have recently topped my list of favorite accessories.
Just like my hair transformation, I was also terrified to move to New York on my own. All my friends would be back in Evanston, IL where we go to school, and I would be alone in a big city with a new job. But that’s when I decided to change my attitude and make these three months my “months of yes.” To my surprise, I have filled my days with meetings, work, and events. I have become friends with my fellow interns. As my mom told me a couple weeks ago, I’ve "grown some balls." And I take that as a compliment.
My anxiety will always be part of me. In some ways, it’s something I like about myself. It motivates me to work hard and stay organized. But over these three months, I’ve been pushing myself to keep it in that positive space and not let it prevent me from trying new things. This new haircut and color proves to me that I can take chances despite the voices in my head trying to steer me in a different direction. And, like my chic new do, those chances usually pay off in the end.