My Natural Hair Journey

Tiny disclaimer: Everyone has natural hair if you have not chemically altered the texture of your hair but for the purpose of this article, I’m focusing on being part of the Natural Hair Movement which was created mainly for Black people but includes other POC because we have been historically (and currently) discriminated against due to our natural hair textures and forced to assimilate to a more Eurocentric beauty standard.

Introduction

 

Legend has it, I was born with so much hair that the doctors had to cut it in order to see my face. I was born back in 1995 to two loving Black parents. When I was growing up little girls still wore puffs, beads, and barrettes but it was the 90s so a lot of us also wore braids. Some of the braided styles used our own hair and some used synthetic extensions but the styles were still child-friendly.

 

 

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Me as a baby

 

When I was around 6 or 7 my mom found out she had leukemia and she became very ill and was hospitalized. During her hospital stay, my dad had to do my hair and let’s just say things didn’t go so well. He was trying his best, but every morning we’d have to wake up early to press (thermally straighten with a pressing comb, very similar to flat ironing) my hair in order to get it into the styles that he was used to seeing. After a few months both him and I were tired of him accidentally burning me and yanking my hair out. So, after talking it over with my mom and cousin, he decided it was time to relax (chemically straighten) my hair to make things easier on all of us.

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My parents on their wedding day

 

Childhood

Because I was so young when all of this happened and we didn’t take a lot of photos back then, I started to forget what my natural hair texture looked like. And as time went on, I never thought too hard about the whole thing either, but that’s a discussion for a different post. By the time I was in middle school relaxing my hair was normal and it was a normal process for all the Black girls and parents around me. In fact, it was very rare to see someone with free-flowing natural hair. I was used to seeing people with dreads/dreadlocks/locs and even older people with the “scholarly” short, grey/salt and pepper ‘Fro but I didn’t see many people with Natural hair the way I see them today.1

From the time my hair was relaxed, all the way up to high school, I didn’t have any major problems with my hair. It was thick (for relaxed hair) and it was a decent length. The only thing that upset me was that it wouldn’t grow past my shoulders. I was the girl who always had her hair braided; that’s probably why I never experienced any real hair problems with relaxing my hair. But while my hair was braided, my hair would grow about 2 inches but I would never retain that length when we relaxed my hair again.

 

Transition

Fast forward a bit; the year is 2013 and I just graduated from high school. During that summer, my parents and I were getting me ready to move onto campus and everything was going fantastic until my mom asked me what I’m was going to do with my hair. What she really meant by that was, “Who is going to relax your hair?” I had never relaxed my own hair; my mom usually did it and on a rare occasion my Aunt Nykyta would pay for me to spend the day at a beauty salon she favored. Something as simple as styling my hair sent us into a tiny panic although it seemed minor, it really wasn’t. It was more than a beauty/cosmetic problem, it was a cultural problem. We were already aware that Webster Groves was a really White county (I ended up finding out it was close to 98% White during a school project) and we knew there would be no shops, stores, or salons that catered to Black beauty needs and it would probably be hard to find a Black student I trusted enough to relax my hair. In retrospect, I now know that wouldn’t have worked either because during my freshman year I had classes in which I was the only person of color in the room. Let that sink in a bit.

 

So I spent my summer before college trying to figure out a way to solve my problem. I ended up joining Tumblr that summer as well and I can honestly say it changed my life. When I got on there, I kept seeing beautiful Black women with really long hair. Some of it was straight and some of it was puffy Afros. At first, I thought they were wigs until I started clicking on the tags and following links. That’s how I discovered the Natural Hair Movement. I was intrigued by it and I’ll be honest with myself and you all, I really wanted to know more about it because I kept seeing all of these Black women with beautiful, healthy, LONG hair. I discovered Curly Nikki and then I took my search to Youtube and that’s what solidified it for me. I knew I was going to go Natural. That was it. I was done. My radical college change had already started. It wasn’t a radical body change, religious awakening or debunking, or personality swap. For me, the biggest change I underwent was my hair and that did influence my overall personality, but that is a discussion for a different post.

I told my mom and dad what I wanted to do and they were sort of on board. Remember, this was 2013, and although the Natural Hair Movement started gaining steam in 2009 a) I was in the Midwest and b) it hadn’t hit its saturation point yet so at the time we still had people who were very unaware of it. There were no commercials with Black families rocking Natural hair, there weren’t as many Natural hair products available as there is now, and there were no discussions on who was part of the movement and who was being excluded. This was 2013, there were things available to us, but we were all still fumbling around.

 

I went to college rocking some very large and heavy box braids with the intent to grow my hair out and cut the relaxed ends, little by little, over the course of a year. During the first seven months of school, I struggled to maintain both textures of my hair. I wore my hair in semi-curly styles using Flexi rods and braid outs. My hair looked a hot mess but at least I was happy. My mom faked the happiness but my dad flat out told me the truth but at the time I couldn’t see the truth because of the way he’d stated it. During my trips back home, I had to flat iron my hair straight in order to avoid conversations I didn’t want to have, and even straightening my hair looked bad because my roots would puff up so quickly and I wasn’t used to styling my own hair. But at least it was growing, that’s all that mattered to me.

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The longest my hair grew while transiting from relaxed to natural

 

Eventually, though, my mom grew fed-up with it and decided to “help” me out. She offered to trim my ends to even it out because I’d started experiencing split ends due to the constant flat-ironing and the two textures. Instead of just trimming my ends or evening out my hair, my mom gave me a big chop. She cut off my relaxed ends and left me with about 4 inches of Afro-textured hair so it looked like it was about 2 inches of hair. I cried like a baby. But this was a teachable moment because since she cut my hair back in 2014, no one else has cut my hair. I learned how to cut my own hair because of that incident. But anyway, back to the story. After she cut it she braided my hair up into a bun with some braiding hair and the next weekend, I used my paycheck to get my hair professionally braided. I was natural.

 

Natural

 

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My natural curl pattern

After about two and a half months, I took my braids down and my hair had grown out a bit. I started styling it but found that I had a different hair texture than what I thought I did. At first, I was disappointed but within a month or two, I was fine, and a few months later, I loved my hair. For my dad’s funeral, I straightened my hair but halfway through the process, I stopped because something didn’t feel right. I washed my hair and thought everything was fine. I even styled it in a curly style and thought it looked fine. But as my hair started to grow more, I realized I had heat damage right around my right temple. It wasn’t extreme but it was noticeable when my hair was down so I started styling my hair in more pinned up styles.

 

 

During these months, I also discovered that I’m protein sensitive. That means I can’t use products that are high in protein because it makes my hair dry like straw and my hair starts to break off. Discovering this made me simplify my hair routine. Instead of using products that said things like “made with olive oil” or “made with shea butter” I just started using the actual thing that enticed me to buy it in the first place. For example, I now use olive oil in my hair care routine. It caused me to stop buying so many products and it made the whole process cheaper. In fact, on a standard wash day, I now only use about 4 hair products. 5 if you count water as a product.

 

Over the course of my sophomore year, I was slowly cutting my hair to cut out the damaged parts. During the winter is when I stopped cutting and my hair finally started to visibly grow. In some of my photos it almost looks like I’m a chia pet because the growth seemed so sudden but in reality, I just stopped cutting my hair. This is really when my healthy hair journey started and I started to see growth, both in myself and in my hair. Over the years, I’ve done blowouts to show progress and I’ve learned how to style my hair a lot of different ways but I haven’t tried straightening it since the heat damage incident. And I haven’t tried to dye it either, out of fear of damaging it. I’m hoping that 2018 will be the year that I become fearless.

 

My Natural Hair Timeline

  1. I transitioned from August 2013–March 2014
  2. Big chopped March 2014
  3. Heat damage by June of 2014
  4. My second transition starts June 2014–January 2015
  5. Healthy Hair January 2015–Now
  6. I’ve been Natural for 3 years and 9 months and I’m about 4 inches away from meeting my goal of waist-length hair.

What is your Natural hair story?

Failing at NaNoWriMo and Other Adventures!

November has been the month I failed at everything and I’m okay with that.

I’ve been looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo since last year when I started watching vlogs about it. There is something so inspiring about watching someone complete a book in thirty days. As the year went on, however, NaNoWriMo slipped to the back of my mind and by the time October of this year rolled around, I started thinking about it again. For the first two weeks of October, I debated with myself on whether or not I should actually participate in it. A week before NaNoWriMo started, I told myself I was going to do it. I had it all planned out. I was going to write two thousand words a day and it was going to be so easy. I was going to have everything on a schedule. I was going to be ahead of the game and although the book would not be finished when I hit fifty thousand words, I was still going to feel like I’d accomplished something.

And then two days before NaNoWriMo started, I decided to start a new, lighter story–something just for NaNoWriMo. Needless to say, this idea blew up in my face big time. I didn’t start actually writing until the fifth day of November. That day, I wrote close to four thousand words and then I gave up. Not because I didn’t think I could catch up, but because there were other things going on.

So, I’ve been expanding this website and trying to plan out my future, or at least figure out what I’m going to be doing for the next few years. I have a degree in Scriptwriting but I live in Missouri. I can’t really use my degree until I move closer to one of the coasts; I’m just being honest with myself. During this economical draught, all of us in St. Louis are experiencing, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to either get a second job or start marketing myself as a freelance writer for a little side income. You see, although the main focus of my degree was film and television I had to take the same core curriculum as journalism, mass communication, and public relations students. So, I’m actually well versed in commercial writing and I’ve been trying to market my services.

Around the time I started NaNoWriMo I actually got a client that wanted me to do some technical/legal writing for them and build them a website. I was super excited about this opportunity but I was really nervous because I’d never done legal writing before. If you can understand something and mimic it, then you can learn any type of writing style but the thing about legal documents that will catch you up a bit is the fact that there is rarely an example or template you can work from. So, while I was coming up with a story for NaNoWriMo and trying to get caught back up, and expanding the website and promoting my other services, I was also working really hard on something I’d never done before. I wanted to do well on this, not just because someone was paying me to do it, but because it was a legal document that was going to help them start a business. I was very upfront with them about not having done any legal/technical writing prior to their assignment but they had faith in me and they were patient with me. The final version of the legal document turned out very well and after it gets notarized by an attorney, I’ll get started on building my client’s website.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes, I’ve failed and I’ve come to accept that but I’ll be ready for it next year.

Making Friends As An Adult

Do you remember the good old days were all you had to do was sit down in class next to someone and BAM, you were best friends. It was like magic and I’ve been struggling with/failing at finding that again. Making friends as an adult is like pulling teeth. It’s a process you have to hype yourself up to do. It usually costs you money you weren’t expecting to spend and it rarely goes as planned. Sometime’s it’s painful and sometimes it leaves you feeling goofy. The whole process is bothersome if you ask me, and yet…I find myself trying.

Growing up I was socially awkward. It wasn’t until college that I become somewhat cool and even with that, I’m pretty aware that I’m a huge weirdo but at least I accept that part of myself. Embrace your weirdness. Own it. It’ll boost your self-esteem, trust me. But anyway, I’ve come to realize part of the reason I’m having a hard time making more friends as an adult is because I don’t get out much. It’s like I said before, back in the old days I made the majority of my friends by sitting next to them. Part of that was because I was so shy I couldn’t walk up to people and talk to them. We had to be forced to interact (group projects, sharing a workspace, etc.) in order for me to talk to people. Once I started talking, I usually made friends. I am a likable person and if someone didn’t like my personality, they liked how smart I was and how that could benefit them. I’ve come to realize I probably would not have made as many friends and acquaints as I did had I not been forced to be in a building with them 8 hours a day.

By the time I made it to college, I was aware of this. Most of the friends I have from college are all people that lived on my dorm floor freshman year. Sure, I made a few more friends hanging out with them and meeting their friends and every now and then I made a friend by going to an event on campus and bonding over something we both enjoyed but all of this is hard to recreate outside the magical grounds of a college campus or a school building. At work, I try to be friendly but I also try not to befriend my coworkers. It’s nothing personal, I just believe it’s good to keep your personal/social life separate from your work/professional life. So outside of work and work-related events, I rarely contact my coworkers.

But even with all of those obstacles, the biggest problem I’ve run into when it comes to making new friends is scheduling issues. Want to go see a movie Wednesday night? No, I can’t, I have to work. Want to eat dinner at my house on Saturday? Sorry, can’t do that, I already have something planned. What are you doing Monday morning? I have to do the laundry, wash the car, clean the house and go grocery shopping. What about next week? Sorry, I have a funeral to go to.

Yeah. So, even if I manage to meet someone cool I still have to deal with stuff like that.

Why is making friends as an adult so hard?

What I Learned From My Solo Night Out

I don’t get out much. Shocker, I know, but ever since last year, I’ve been on a mission to do more things by myself. I know that sounds strange. Why would anyone actively try to be alone? Well, around a year ago, I read a very introspective article written by someone in their 30s talking about all the things they wished they’d done in their 20s. We’ve all seen these types of lists but what made this one special was that it focused on all the things she wished she had done by herself. Some of the things were simple such as going to see a summer blockbuster in theatres by herself or taking more nature walks in the park near her apartment, by herself.

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At first, it doesn’t seem so enlightening but the more she talked about why it’s important to do those types of things by yourself every now and then, the more I understood why she wrote the article. It has a lot to do with what we miss when we’re with our friends. Our attention is so focused on what our friends are doing or the conversation we’re having that we don’t notice all the stuff that’s happening around us. We miss parts of the movie. We don’t stop to smell the roses or notice the bird’s nest and the baby birds inside of them. As the list goes on, the things she wished she had done by herself became more extreme such as taking a solo road trip or going to a music concert by herself. After reading the article, I’ve been trying to do more stuff by myself. I’ve seen a summer blockbuster by myself in a foreign country (so a mini trip by myself, although that really doesn’t count). I’ve gone to more events in my hometown by myself and last Sunday, I went to the Bishop Briggs concert by myself.

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The concert was held in the Duck Room of the historical Blueberry Hill bar/restaurant. The bar is a historical landmark that draws tourist and locals to the Delmar Loop from all over the country. The sidewalks of the Delmar Loop are lined with gold plaques similar to the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The plaques tell the rich history of the famous people who hail from St. Louis. Right outside the Blueberry Hill bar stands a lively statue of the great Chuck Berry himself.

The Duck Room is located in the basement of the Blueberry Hill. It’s not a spacious room but it’s not cramped either. I took a few pictures of the place before it started to fill up. By the end of the night, the room probably had somewhere between 250-300 people in it. The show was sold out. The opener for the show was a band I was virtually unaware of until that night, Foreign Air. Foreign Air at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room
I enjoyed their live performance. It was a little jarring, I’ll admit. The lead singer does a lot of voice manipulation. If I had heard the songs on the radio, I would not have thought much of it. I probably would have thought it was the other members of the band providing backup vocals but seeing it live, that was something.

The main event was Bishop Briggs. When the band took the stage and started setting up their instruments the crowd started to stir but when Bishop herself came out, the crowd went wild and she met our energy and challenged it. Just from seeing her on stage, I could tell that she was quirky and kind and was genuinely happy to be performing in front of us. She was nervous the first two songs but once she knew she had the crowd and the air around all of us started to warm with our collective excitement, she relaxed and her voice grew steady and strong. I found myself swaying and dancing the same way I do in my bedroom when I’m listening to her music. img_2502I looked around and realized I wasn’t the only one. It felt so nice to just relax and enjoy myself. For three hours, I wasn’t worried about all my problems and anxieties about my future. I wasn’t stressing over my personal relationships imploding around me and I wasn’t missing people I would never get the chase to speak to again. In that moment, under the blue, red, and purple lights, I was fine. I was happy. I was alive and I was having fun.

 

 

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Bishop Briggs Live at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room

If you would like to see Bishop Briggs perform “Dead Man’s Arms” please click here.

Inspiration in the Dark

A while back I made a post about my yo-yoing weight and how I wanted to make a permanent change because I was tired of how my life was going. It’s been a few months now and I wanted to give you all an update.

It’s important to note that I have severe scoliosis—it just isn’t obvious—so my workouts are a bit limited. My limitations come in when I’m dealing with weights. I’ve been advised by a few doctors not to lift weights so my workouts usually consist of toning exercises (basic Pilates and resistance training with a resistance band) and cardio. I can do the Pilates and resistance training at home because I have yoga mats, medicine balls, exercise balls, kettlebells, small dumb bells, and several sets of resistance bands. But the one thing I can not do at home is the cardio because I hate running. So for the cardio, I was going to the gym and using the elliptical for an hour, four times a week.

This went on for about a month and a half before I lost my motivation and gave up. But wait, don’t roll your eyes just yet, let me explain. I lost my motivation because even though I was slowly slimming down I was losing a lot of muscle. Yeah, you see, I’d actually stopped doing the Pilates and resistance training and was focusing my time on the cardio because that’s all I had time for and it was working. But because I wasn’t toning my body, I lost a lot of the muscle I had in my core and ended up looking flappier than before. A good example of this is the fact that I am smaller than I was when I made the original post but I now have “love handles” because my stomach isn’t as firm as it used to be. Once I realized what was happening, I tried to correct my error but it was already too late. I’d lost some fat that used to sit around my tailbone area and because it wasn’t there to cushion me, getting down on the floor and doing the moves I used to do became painful. My tailbone and spine began to take on too much pressure and it became really painful. So I just stopped altogether.

I didn’t lose or gain any more weight until I went to Texas in the beginning of August. While I was down in Texas, I stayed with a family that was on a diet and I didn’t want to be rude so I ate what they ate and their portion sizes and I actually lost weight. I probably lost about four or five pounds over the span of two weeks just from eating better but because I don’t diet, the moment I got back to St. Louis I ate everything that I’d literally been dreaming about and gained the weight back.

This was around the time my brother became an inspirational figure to me. My fourteen-year-old brother has always been skinny and as he’s gotten older, he has also gotten taller. He has the same body type as our dad. He’s naturally skinny but with him growing so much, he was starting to look slender. He didn’t want to be slender going into high school so for the past month and a half, he’s been going to the gym and working out. Over this short amount of time, I’ve seen him put on muscle and start sculpting his body into the image he wanted. It was easy for him because he was already skinny, all he had to do was put on the muscle. But, just from watching my own friends try, I also know how hard it is to put on muscle and he’s done it all without taking supplements or drinking protein shakes or anything like that. He just eats up everything now, but I get it. He’s hungry, so I can’t really get mad at him for cleaning out the fridge. But watching him get abs, rounded shoulders, and develop the muscles in his back and pectoral region really inspired me to get back in the gym and on the yoga mat.

I know I can make a difference before the year ends.

Writing Log 1: Start With A Bang, End With A…Whimper?

Day One—Aug 20,2017

Last night I finished my seven-page outline in under three hours. I was so excited about this project. I thought that when I woke up the next morning I would still be excited and ready to write but I wasn’t. I guess I realized I no longer had my lack of an outline to hide behind. Suddenly I realized that this was the first book I was going to actively write with the intent of publication. I guess that frightened me a little bit. So I put off writing until after I watched Game of Thrones. I also had some problems with tense. I thought I was going to write in third person past tense limited and then I kept slipping back into third person present tense limited. I know a lot of people don’t like it but I’m used to writing in present tense. I’ve been writing films in present tense for four years. I guess it’s a little harder to shake than I thought. Prologue complete.

Total Word Count: 1,116

Day Two—Aug 21, 2017

I didn’t get a lot of writing done today although I can say it was much easier to write today than it was yesterday. I guess I was just rusty. The last time I wrote something in a narrative style, it was back in May so I can see how that happened. The Solar Eclipse happened today. That stopped me from writing earlier in the day and then after the eclipse passed, I got a headache and ended up taking a nap. I woke up from the nap a little later than I expected but the headache was gone and I was ready to write. Or so I thought. I ended up having to sit and think about what the city and certain rooms in the story looked like. I ended up looking at lots of pictures to try to match the vagueness in my mind with some real images to help me narrow down what things actually look like because I’m a visual person. But after that, I started writing and really loved it and then I started playing with Scrivener’s compile setting because…why not? I love wasting time. It’s midnight. I’m going to sleep.

Total Word Count: 2,142.

Day Three—Aug 22, 2017

So I thought I was going to get up and write but it was raining and my mom is so paranoid about the rain that I ended up pushing my writing time back. We did laundry today and that took longer than usual but overall today was a pretty good writing day. I also washed my hair today, so that’s a plus. 👍🏾 I think the hardest thing I had to do in regards to writing today was trying to figure out how to describe racial/ethnic markers on people without sounding racist. I never realized how much I relied on generalizations or cultural understanding until I tried to describe a diverse group of people in a world without our established countries and racial categories. I didn’t do as much writing as I wanted to but there is always tomorrow.

Total Word Count: 3,583

Day Four—Aug 23, 2017

Today I actually got up and wrote when I was supposed to. I only wrote for about 45 minutes before I took a break and went to the gym for an hour. When I got back, a laid around for a bit and watched a few YouTube videos before getting back to writing. Things were going well until I spent four hours on Netflix. Chapter 1 complete.

Total Word Count: 4,972.

Day Five—Aug 24, 2017

It was a good writing day, I just didn’t write for very long.

Total Word Count: 6,747.

Day Six—Aug 25, 2017

I picked greens, baked cupcakes, styled my hair and worked on a physical map of my fantasy world. I put off writing because my sister was supposed to bring my nephews and niece over, but in her typical fashion, she broke her promise. I’m going to bed three hours early because I’m irritated and I might have plans tomorrow that requires me to wake up before 8 a.m.

Total Word Count: 6,747

Day Seven—Aug 26, 2017

Oops. Not writing for the second day in a row, huh? I’m not trying to justify this, I’m just stating what happened. I had a really busy day. I actually got out of the house and had some fun. My sister also brought the kids over for a few hours and then I got drunk by myself and went to sleep early. It’ll be better next week. I swear.

Total Word Count: 6,747