Sitting in the chair- I could hear the conversation floating the background behind me. As usual, I was at my hairdresser’s shop listening to the grown women talk about things that were not meant for my twelve-year-old ears. I had convinced my mother to get a perm and had suffered through the burning and all. So finally sitting with my purple curlers like a halo around my head, I was much happier to play the innocent while listening keenly along.

Though I never got to know her name, the girl with the Nia Long cut was the one they were all listening to. She was telling the shop about the fiancé she wanted to walk down the aisle with if only he’d keep on the path and the boss who’d disrespected her once again. And though she would only nod when the firing squad asked questions about it, from her bobbing head we knew he was stepping out and she was working, at home and at work, for far less than she deserved.

Being on purple curler level meant I couldn’t take part in those conversations, but I swore to myself that when I did, I wasn’t going to be the Nia Long lookalike. Ok, maybe I’d be the Nia Long lookalike in terms of the wispy fly cut, but I’d be smart enough to not to stay in any situation that didn’t treat me right. I’d be relentless and I’d be rational. But then I joined the conversation and something changed.

Last week, I found myself back at the salon and realized that even though I was eligible to join in the conversation, there was little I wanted to put out there. I hadn’t been asking for what I deserved in relationships and in my career choices, and so with both I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had become worse than the Nia Long lookalike, I had become the quiet girl who stayed under the hood dryer to avoid being asked questions.  The girl who suffered through burning hot hairpins and piping hot ear guards because she was too consumed with worry and disappointment to share her stories aloud.

This week, I’ve made a promise to myself, to live a life I am comfortable talking about. That means taking the shame away from my mistakes and making an honest effort to be the woman the little girl in me thought I would. Truthfully, I am closer on track than I often admit, but I know there are areas that I need to work on- like remaining true to my character even when the situation isn’t what I hoped. We all have vices and being in denial about them can make us feel closed off from the world.  While our first instinct may be to shut down, working on those is probably the most relatable journey.  Instead of shrouding ourselves in shame, we should focus on make our efforts honest- that much we all understand.

Today, challenge yourself to be the person you envision even if the situation isn’t what you dreamed. Come from under the dryer and make the choices that will bring you closer to the you you’ve wanted to know.

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  • Maya

    Thank you so much Leslie. Seriously, this is the story of my life. And to be honest, I’ve been hiding for way to long, just keeping my thoughts to myself and a few close confidantes…you are so right. We have only this one life, no?