This is going to be a long, rambling way of talking about my hair, which will lead to the main, but insubstantial point, and then a somber trip into the past.
For the last few years my father was alive, whenever I would go home to visit, he would always ask if I’d dyed my hair darker. I would always reply ‘no.’ This incidentally was true. He’d eye my head with deep suspicion and say no more. Then, my mother started to ask the same question. My mother. Who, as a former model & all about beauty, has dyed her hair for years and should know what to look for.
I like the sun. Before a lot of circumstances changed, I used to be outside a lot. I assume that my hair was once lighter, lightened by the sun. It’s been a dark brown for years, however. A very dark brown.
Until recently of course, when it’s started to go grey. Or silver to be more exact.
So, my hairdresser asked if I wanted to ‘highlight’ my hair. I said sure, why not? It’s not like it won’t grow back or out. Additionally, it was winter; I was feeling like a small, dark troll who should be living in a cold, wet cave. The highlights were uplifting. I felt brighter and less troll-like. I left with nice hazel streaks and they looked great.
Fast forward a year later. A few haircuts later & no more streaks. I made the mistake of actually looking in the mirror this evening. Something I rarely do. I mean, I LOOKED. And I’ll be damned if there’s not just a ton of grey hair coming in. I mean, it used to be concentrated over the temples, but now it’s sort of dispersing all over.
So my new goal is to be out of grad school and, I pray, to have landed some teaching position, no matter how lame, before I go totally grey. Not that my insane hair, silver, won’t be something to take in. But all this age stuff is piling up on me, and I got a late start due to, um, unfortunate circumstances (others) and just stupid decisions (mine).
My size and my youthful appearance, behavior and outlook shave off a few years—and this has worked in my favor. But it won’t last forever.
Perhaps I’m just hitting that neurotic stage. The one where my peers are all in relationships, having babies, being grown-ups. And I just have my undergrad degree, still have to get through graduate school and then start shopping my soul around for a job. I’m starting to worry that my best years in terms of productivity may have been used up, and that I’m dealing with diminishing gains toward the future.
I can chock a lot of this up to big changes and some recent disappointments. I can chock it up to being hard on myself, but the final root feeling is just: fear.
Fear of getting older and never quite doing the things I want to do. Fear that my skills are weak and that I won’t improve them enough to offer anything useful in a teaching environment. Fear that I’ll get beaten out of jobs by younger people. Fear that my best relationships have all disintegrated, or that I’ve bypassed those that may have been great—too focused on trying to get the damned degree. The last few years have been extraordinarily difficult on every level. I’m usually cheered by solitary time. Now the future seems foreboding.
Physically, my body’s taken some big hits in the couple of years. I’ve had a few pretty substantial injuries that just sort of had to be played down, or else run the risk of not being taken seriously in such a tough and testosterone-driven field. I’ve had to be as good as the guys and nearly as strong. And tough though I am, I’m just not built for it. I know what my limitations are, and I’ve had to exceed them the entire time.
I feel humbled by my own body. Facing physical limitation is something I don’t do well. As smart as I’ve been about finding a balance—to get the grades and the scholarships first, then to get the work done the way it needed to be, to get the portfolio in order—I know I took liberties with myself that I shouldn’t have.
This in part, explains all the grey: stress. Stress and pain. And the shame felt over the years that I lost when I myself was lost. I want to be one of those people who never looks back, never second-guesses themselves. I’m trying really hard to be that person. But tonight, I’ve clearly failed. And I’m wishing I had dealt with all the crap that went so horribly wrong on so many fronts, in a way that hadn’t sacrificed myself so needlessly. I was disillusioned. And it took a decade for me to figure out there was still hope; that I’d been waiting to figure it out and start the life I needed to.
And it feels good; it feels great to be that person. And there really are times when I feel I have no regrets, that all the mess of the past built me, made me strong and made me determined, made me want to keep on trying and trying and just keep going until I got it right. But then there are times like tonight, when I’m full of doubt. That’s when the reality of being an adult hits: even when you don’t want to reassure yourself and you wish there was a kind soul to do it for you, there isn’t. And you just have to shut-up and do it yourself.
It’s kind of exhilarating and it kind of sucks