Wavy Alabaster

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Am I my hair?

Am I my hair?

Listening to the Body episode of Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham, hair was a hot topic. Okay, it might not the highest rated podcast out there, but powerful points were made by some groundbreaking women. The question was placed in front of multiple creatives: are you your hair? Such a classic question, yet I never asked it of myself. My hair is a beloved physical trait as you have guessed by now. It is one of the main sources of inspiration behind my blog name and is a physical identifier, maybe my most popular one. But, am I my hair?

Photo by Jenn Ott

Photo by Jenn Ott

I recently had a nice balayage refresh by my girl Stephanie from Tula Organic Salon and Spa. A definite option to check out if a new salon is on your radar. I accidentally stumbled upon Tula through Yelp when I first moved to Pittsburgh. The stars aligned as she was one of the first people that made Pittsburgh feel like home. Okay, so what is balayage, you ask? It is a "less is more" sister of the ombre. Balayage is a French word for "to sweep." Stephanie literally painting highlights in a less symmetrical, more random method leaving a natural, dare I say, sun-kissed look (insert kissing face emoji here). Leading up to this much needed refresh, I had an itch. A yearning to do something crazy. Chop, dye, maybe both? This fidgety thought process leading up to any hair appointment is typical. 

Photo via Teen Vogue

Photo via Teen Vogue

My friend Jenn proclaimed with force as I was chatting about dying my hair purple or teal or maybe just slicing it off, "You can't dye your hair, you are famous for your hair!" Both of us had a good chuckle as I commented about that nonexistent fame and would love to know where it is hiding. Jenn replied by saying, "Well, you are becoming famous for your hair." Again, another chuckle.

Not until the last year and a half, have I truly stuck with one specific hairstyle. It is funny because the one that has stuck, the one I currently rock, is the most wildly natural one of them all, but we will get to that. 

The love affair with my hair came to the surface in high school. From rolled socks left in overnight to flat irons to the scrunch and go technique, I styled my hair a variety of ways. Much like all of us, whether we realize it or not, I was figuring out who I was and that thought process was shown directly through my hair. Some days it was straight-laced, tried and true with every strand perfectly placed. Looking back today, the prep time necessary to straighten my then thicker hair is laughable. I could have used that time to become a way better foul shooter or learned how to drive a stick shift, ya know, the important stuff. Other days, I scrunched gel in it and let the open air from my 1994 automatic Jeep Wrangler dry it. I know, Badass. The one consistency I could rely on, though, was the increase in color. With each year, the blond highlights became more loud and noticeable and so did my voice. I don't believe now that blonds have more fun, but at the time, that cliche gave me the false courage to open myself up to people and experiment. My blond was the great light leading me out of my shell. Of course, it all paid off when I was voted the coveted and fought over title (insert sarcasm here) of "best hair" at the end of senior year. I still think that honor should be allowed on my resume.

The first three years of college were practical, regimented times for my hair and my life. Everything surrounded the court. Maintaining and styling my hair on a daily basis took a backseat to school and workouts. My natural brown color was rocked and there was maybe three hair cuts in three years. Pre-wrap and an elastic hair tie were all the tools I needed. Unless a class presentation was on the books or it was a Saturday night, my hair was thrown up, out of the way. Then I studied abroad in Greece for six months, and that all changed. 

With my sports career taking a weird, unexpected turn kick started by an injury and my breath taken away by a guy only a few months prior to leaving, I was surrounded by a lot of fear and uncertainty at the start of this adventure. Greece could not have come at a more appropriate time. It was as though She reached out her hand and said, "come with me little lady, let's figure it out." A significant amount of time spent in a foreign country that does not value a strict regimen stripped me. It exposed fears and forced reflection. Greece was where the relationship between my pen and myself was solidified for a lifetime. I constantly wrote. I wrote about the great days and the rough ones, the trips and new sights and the homesickness I never expected to feel. Overcoming the newness led to simple, authentic confidence and with that, a drastic hair change.

With an entourage of friends, we entered a salon where little English was spoken but a lot of positive energy existed. Over wine, we looked through various hair photos I printed over at the University. Talking was not through words, but took the form of hand gestures, nods, and smiles. Then, it was time to enter the chair. The lively stylist combed my entire head of wet hair in front of my face which made me look like a more chic version of the girl from The Ring. Before I could cheers with my red wine, before I could take a breath, the stylist cut a straight line of hair right at my eye level. In a blink, the hair I had placed to the back burner over the past couple of years was gone. Even though my friends had to help pick my jaw up off the ground at first, that leap of chopping my hair had a bigger bark than bite. I felt lighter, and that's not just because 12+ inches were cut off. My spirit felt lighter. My hair suddenly became the side show and I was the main event. It was a baby leap that prepared me for a bigger ones later down the road. 

The next years following college were covered in professionalism with a side of "I didn't know what the hell I'm doing." I kept the short hair in a nice lil bob style at first. The tidy, straight across cuts giving the vibe I was put together; when in actuality, I was a hot mess trying to transition from carefree college kid to full blown adult with a 9am to 5pm job that rarely ended at 5pm. As the sports industry was strategically navigated with the end goal of finding my perfect, permanent fit, I tested multiple hair styles searching for that unicorn of a style I would keep forever. I tried burgundy red and black and platinum blond. I tried bangs, mysterious side-swept and blunt as a bat. I grew out my hair, only to cut it again on a whim. I was a see-saw of emotions and my hair was the net that took them head on. 

It wasn't until the move to Pittsburgh that a sense of contentment was felt. Though there are a still a good amount of uncertainties within this move, my soul is reaching a place of serenity; and in turn, so is my hair. That feeling to make a crazy change when I approach the styling chair is still existent, but the itch is slowly diminishing. Old habits die hard I guess. I went back to my roots, or at least exposed them. I let my hair wave wild with minimal taming. I let it grow. I let it play and the result has been simple happiness. Talk about unfailing love. My hair has been dyed, cut, pulled, blown, burned and yet it still flourishes and shines. And who receives the credit? You guessed it, yours truly.  

So, if you are still with me. Am I my hair? Yes. A resounding, scream from the rooftops, YES! Am I only my hair? No, but I would be remiss to say that my hair has played a powerful role in my life. It has been my number one companion through this journey of identity and self-discovery. Hair reminds me of the beauty of music. Listening to one song can transport us to a specific time and place. One song can uncover emotions forgotten years ago. One song can pinpoint one memory among millions. Hair is my physical trait of melodies. A picture of a past hair style opens the flood gates of past thoughts and emotions, the good and the not so good. It is a tad bit scary how parallel these strands are to my life, but then again I am my hair.

Photo by Jenn Ott

Photo by Jenn Ott

Cheers to good hair days, Jessa

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If all else fails, we can always go back to bowl cuts, right? That was a good choice. 

all black, never boring

all black, never boring

Dear Brenton

Dear Brenton