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How Coloring My Hair Changed Me As a Person

With distance from the girl I used to be, I had space to figure out who I really was and what I really wanted -- and I wanted to be blonde.
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If you knew me 10 years ago, you would not recognize me today. For most of my life I had long dark brown hair but over the past few years it has been blonde, blue, ombre, and black.

I didn't used to be this adventurous. Growing up, I always wanted to be blonde but when I shared my desire with others I was met with total disapproval. "NO! Don't do it. It would look terrible on you!" Or, "I could NEVER see you as a blonde," which was fair because I have olive skin and dark eyebrows.

Hairdressers shared more reasons why I shouldn't do it: being blonde is a lot of upkeep. The color would damage my hair. It would take hours and several appointments to achieve the color I wanted. If I wanted a change, why not go darker instead? That would look better and really bring out my eyes.

It seemed the whole world was against me being blonde, so I gave in and stayed a natural brunette. Every time that little voice inside me whispered "But I want to be blonde!" I would tell it to go away -- this was the best I was going to look so I needed to stay this way.

Fast forward and at age 24 I found myself sitting in the hairdresser's chair, ready to make a drastic change.

There were many factors that contributed to this change of heart. I had been through a lot (heart ache, graduating school, living in a new city) and did some self-exploration. With distance from the girl I used to be, I had space to figure out who I really was and what I really wanted -- and I wanted to be blonde.

Sherri Belanger, my longtime hairdresser, played with my hair as we looked at my reflection in the mirror.

"I can tell," she said. "You're ready."

I was. I was ready to risk the tears and self-loathing that comes with a bad haircut, not to mention an entirely new look. I had no clue what I'd look like blonde but I was ready to trust the little voice inside me and finally go for it, even if it made no sense to anyone else.

(Side note: I'm forever grateful to Sherri for spearheading my transformation. She truly listened to me and never tried to dissuade me from what I wanted.)

I was at the salon for 6 hours. Because I had virgin hair, it could handle a lot of chemicals. We didn't know how blonde we could get it in one sitting, but I ended up a very beautiful, light colored hue. After my hair was blown out, Sherri and I once again stared at my reflection in her mirror.

"Wow," she said. I shifted my head from one side to the other, marveling at my new locks.

The next few days I kept walking past mirrors and feeling completely shocked. Who was I? My dog didn't recognize me when I picked him up from daycare. I was taking night classes and during roll call, professors did a double take. When I flew home for the holidays a few weeks later, my father couldn't find me at the airport.

Most surprisingly, this decision to go blonde opened up a floodgate inside me. I had wanted to be blonde, no one thought it was a good idea, I did it anyway (which took a lot of courage), and I liked the result. Instead of telling my heart, "Sorry you can't have what you want," I was sending a new message to the body: "You can have what you want and you can trust that little voice."

Over the next few months, I realized other things I wanted, other things I had feared: I wanted to quit graduate school. I wanted to start a business. I wanted to move to a different part of the city. As I began pursuing these dreams, in spite of my fears, I felt lighter, happier, more empowered, and free.

Now, years later, I am back to brunette, but it's a different type of brunette: shoulder length and almost black-colored. I've had many different hair colors and people have started telling me, "You change your hair every time I see you!"

If I wake up tomorrow and want to be blonde again, I'll go to the salon and make the change. The nice thing about hair is that it grows back and if you don't like it you can fix it. But because of this experience, there is a new fearlessness inside of me, an energy which has spilled over into all areas of my life.

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