Friday, February 7, 2014

Natural Hair Journey: Start 2/2/2014

Natural Hair February 2, 2014
 Hello Mavens!

So it’s official, I’m 100% natural! No weaves, no relaxers, no heat styling or harsh chemicals. My hair story is very simple and very sad, so let me explain. I’m at a point in my life where I’m on a journey of discovering myself and breaking free from all of the things that have held me back for so many years. For over 18 years my hair has been severely damaged and unloved.  I was nine years old when I received my first perm. Yup, nine years old and I remember that moment as clear as day. I remember how excited I was to get my first perm and how much I wanted my hair to look soft and bouncy like the girls on the PCJ box. That night, in front of a few of my friends, my mother premed my hair for the first time. After she washed out the perm and shampoo and added the conditioner, I remember touching my hair and feeling an instant high from the softness and from that moment on I was hooked! I was so excited about how long my hair looked with the perm and how much it clung to my shoulders. I remember that I didn't want my mother to style my hair right away because it was the first time my hair was hanging on my shoulders and was swaying back and forth. This is how I was introduced to chemicals.

4 Years old in this picture 
Fast forward a year later and I was ten. I was in 5th grade and my mother was styling my hair for picture day. She was doing a basic ponytail, but on this particular day she decided to add a curly hairpiece. I was outraged, livid to be exact.  Prior to this particular day, I had never worn weaves because I had no need for fake hair. As a child, my hair was thick and long and the regular PCJ perms were keeping my hair manageable. Well, as picture day arrived, my beautiful shoulder length hair had completely fallen out and was no longer shoulder length! Hmm… I was ten but I’m pretty sure I saw a difference in my hair and the fact that my mother was pinning a fake curly ponytail to the top of my head. Needless to say, I had taken the fake hair out once I had arrived at school and used a comb to slick my hair back for picture day. That day, I hid the weave ponytail in my backpack because I was embarrassed and I didn't want kids to tease me.  Several months later, it was graduation day and I had gotten my hair done in a weave ponytail and I really liked the hairstyle. 

The summer between elementary and middle school gave me a lot of time to experiment with weave and I became really good at styling ponytails that looked like they came straight out of my head.  The problem was at this point, I believed the tighter the ponytail, the better it looked. This went on for years and by the 9th grade, I had a real problem on my hands. I had developed a bald spot on the left side of my head.  So instead of me trying to figure out how to get my hair back, I just found a solution to the bald spot. I purchased hair mascara. I know what you are probably thinking. Why on earth would you do that? Unfortunately, this isn't the saddest part of my hair story.

So by the time 9th grade pictures had come around, cornrows were a popular style and I had asked my aunt to do a really cool design with my cornrows. Well, it turned out that she couldn't do much with the left side of my head because my bald spot had gotten noticeably bigger. Sadly, I begged her to do it anyway and cover my hair up as good as possible. So she did as I asked and I was very pleased with the results. That was until a girl in my class praised me on my hairstyle and decided to take a further look at how my hair was braided.  My aunt had hooked my cornrows up and had even covered my bald spot on the left side. I was excited about the style because I knew it was cool or at least I thought it was until the girl in my class rudely said that it looked like I was getting a bald spot on the right side of my head. Noooooooooo was all I could think! I was mortified and became very angry.  At that point, I decided that I would never wear cornrows again and truth be told, I have not worn cornrows since the 9th grade.

Now this is where my hair story gets a little more depressing. By the 10th grade, I was rocking a side ponytail. You couldn't tell me anything! On the outside I was fly, but on the inside I was slowly developing really bad self esteem issues. No one knew that my edges were balding and that I had two bald spots the size of quarters on either side of my head. I strategically covered those secrets up with hair mascara and black gel every morning.  I was in the 10th grade when another embarrassing bald spot incident happened. I was participating in a sweet 16 and someone had captured a picture of me and first my boyfriend dancing. The picture was gorgeous with the exception of my now dollar coin sized bald spot. I was mortified! My self esteem had now dropped from an 8 to a 3 because it was my boyfriend had bought the picture to my attention. I would never forget his questions. He asked, how did that happen and are you doing anything to fix it. I lied and told him that the box braids I had in were to tight and had broken off in the one section. He reassured me that he understood but deep down inside I felt like crap!

Over the years, my self esteem dropped more and weaves and perms became the norm. I was really insecure about my hair. I decided not to fix the problem and just cover it up. I started using hair glue and I stopped paying attention to the breakage and damage I was doing to my limp and lifeless hair. I became the weave master and truly lived by the motto that as long as the outside looks good, it didn't matter what was underneath. This went on for years! Weaves made me feel beautiful and I could no longer see the real me. I was ashamed, I was depressed and I was disappointed in myself.  I felt lost and I did try to stop and make changes but my self esteem was so torn and I was in so much denial that I felt that I didn't need to waste my time.  
My first hair cut January 2010
During the winter break before my senior year of college, I received a gift that gave me a boost of confidence and had awakened something in me that I had never felt before. The gift was money to get my hair done. My aunt had paid for me to get my hair done so I was excited and nervous at the same time because it had been years since I had done anything to my real hair. While getting my hair done, the stylist asked me several questions in regards to the condition of my hair. I had known her for a long time so I wasn't nervous about telling her the truth. We talked for a while and she had given me some advice as to how to get my hair back on track. We discussed treatments, daily hair care and other things that I could do to strengthen my hair. I remember that while she was cutting my hair, I was really sad because even though my hair was severely damaged, it was devastating to see my dry, limp, lifeless hair on the floor. The stylist had noticed my concern and I guess my brief moment of anxiety and she reassured me that my hair would look great once it was done.  After my hair was done, we talked for about five minutes before she showed me the final look. When she handed me the mirror something inside came alive and I smiled from ear to ear because I had never seen my hair look so good and I had never felt so beautiful with my natural hair. That day I walked around with a smile from ear to ear and I had a feeling of peace.

My short hair lasted for about eleven months. I was still using perms but I had also started taking better care of my hair. I was going to the salon every two weeks for a wash and set and my hair was really starting to grow. I saw major improvements in my hair and I was happy. During this time, I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina so the weather was great and I didn't have to worry about how my hair would react to harsher climates. Well after graduation, I moved back to Connecticut and my hair completely broke off. I was devastated! I had worked really hard to maintain hair growth and now I felt like a failure. I didn't know what to do to restore my hair and financially I could not afford to go to the salon every two weeks. I started wearing weaves again because it was all I knew and I just couldn't handle trying to regrow my hair again. I continued wearing weaves and perming my hair until 2012. In January of 2012, I decided not to perm my hair anymore and to leave hair glue alone. That was my first step in going natural

Sewin- As you can see my edges look really bald
So from 2012 until 2013, I wore only sew-ins to try and regrow my hair back. My hair became stronger, longer and extremely thick. I was proud of the growth so I kept my hair in weaves. The problem was, I wasn't able to care for my hair. I wanted to be able to wash and treat me hair and that wasn't an option I had with my sew-ins. So I decided to do some research to try to get my hair back. I tried upart wigs for about a week before I gave up with wearing weaves. I was so fed up with purchasing bundles and spending money on hair that wasn't helping my natural hair. So I knew it was time to go natural! My hair had already been natural since January 2013 and I had cut the permed ends off. So on February 2, 2014, I started my real natural hair journey. I did my own mini big chop and cut off all of the damaged hair.  I had finally decided to stop hiding behind my weaves and to break free for good. I went to the super bowl rocking my new look and it felt good to finally be free from low self-esteem, expensive hair weaves and bad hair care habits. I felt amazing and I still do!

My journey is very different from the stories I have heard on YouTube and from friends and for that I am happy that share my story. I’m not perfect and I have made mistakes but what matters most is that I know that I am not my hair. I’m excited about this journey and I excited about sharing it with all of you. I no longer have low self esteem and I am very confident and strong. I know that restoring the health of my hair is not a race and that I will need to have patience and learn to be consistent.

I hope that my story will inspire others to start their own journeys. This is just the beginning, more natural hair, more bargain shopping and more self growth. If you like this post or have natural hair care tips, please feel free to leave a comment.

Stay blessed,

Nakia

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