I vividly remember my first highlights. Done by my kitchen sink by my mom and older sister, Ronny, we used the shower cap-type method you pull out random pieces of hair and hope for the best. I was 10 years old in 5th grade, and it felt like a rite of passage. I knew my mom dyed her grey hair (she swore she had to wait until we were in high school to let it show hehe) and Ronny always dyed her hair different colors. As a pre-teen, there is power in knowing you can change your appearance and be who you want to be.
Granted, I also had just gotten glasses and braces within a couple months of each other. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. My lips may have been swollen from braces but I had highlights!
After that, I continued to dye my hair different colors and experiment with different styles. I continued to highlight it in junior high (thankfully, by a stylist that I still visit) and started trying out perms and bangs. Remember when crunchy hair and straight bangs were a thing? That was weird.
When I got to high school, I decided to go for a “mature” look. I dyed my hair darker for the first time and quickly fell in love with rich, chocolate hair dye. I experimented with different variations every couple of months. It was fun. And stop judging me for my selfies, okay? These were the MySpace days.
Sophomore year was the year of red. In the fall, I tried out a burgundy color. TBH I felt like a total badass. Unfortunately, it washed out in less than a month and I was back to dark brown.
In the spring, I decided to go full-on red. I went to a different stylist and it did not end well. I remember while sitting with the hair dye, my scalp began to itch horribly. It was an omen. My roots were yellow. Imagine a 16-year old with yellow roots who had also just gotten her first (and last) facial that upset her sensitive skin. It was a difficult 24 hours to wait for my roots to be fixed. I still liked the color, but it washed out. My scalp still itches thinking about it.
My junior year of high school, I went back to more natural shades of brunette, mixing it up with highlights, lowlights, and redlights.
However, come senior year, there is a level of commitment with senior pictures. This is how you want to be remembered. I also wanted the same hairstyle for summer and winter senior pictures (yes, this was a thing in my family). Long, dark brunette, and styled either curly or straight were my go-to. Throughout high school, my hair was always styled. If it wasn’t, it was in an impeccable ballet bun. I was so extra in high school.
When I got to college, upkeep was hard and expensive. Our family suffered financially, and the last thing I was going to do was ask for money to dye my hair. My hair was natural for about two years, and I seldom cut it. I started braiding it some to keep out the sweaty knots, but nothing crazy.
The summer before junior year, post-breakup, I needed a change. As the unofficial start of my wild phase, I went blonde (ish). Blondes really do have more fun, and every couple of months, I went a little blonder and got a little wilder. New hair, new me.
I also started braiding it every day. For sweat purposes and for style. “Boxing braids” became my thing, and I loved how it saved my hair from breakage. It was a win-win.
Once I began grad school, I knew I needed a change. But, I kept making excuses. When I wanted to cut it, I was worried short hair would make my face look chubby. I was worried how I would style it to workout. I didn’t want to style it period and loved being able to have “beach waves.” When I wanted to dye it, I clung onto my “fun” days, relishing the fact that most friends in Chicago were convinced I was a natural blonde. When everything else in my life was changing faster than I could imagine, I wasn’t ready for a change.
After graduating with my MBA and starting my new job, I felt like not much had changed. My schedule wasn’t changing as much as I expected, and I still felt like the same college student wearing workout clothes to work (#blessed). I was going to work with wet hair everyday after fighting out sweaty knots and lots of hair breakage.
After a workshop with Sarah Morrone, the Clutter Curator, I realized that my hair was actually becoming clutter in my life. It was a time suck, and it wasn’t serving me. Sure, it made gorgeous curls, but I only curled it about once a month, if that. It wasn’t worth the fight anymore.
When I went home for Easter, I cut off my hair. I had to mentally prepare myself all week, reminding myself it was just hair. Even though I may miss it, it was only hair. It was a new chapter of my life, and it was time to cut off the excess in all areas of my life.
The woman in the chair next to me was having a panic attack for me, asking for the clippings to be used as hair extensions for her. My hair felt healthier than ever, and I felt like a new person. It was finally time for the new chapter in my life.
I was surprised how much I liked it, even at first. I took a selfie to send to my family and realized I looked so much like my sisters, Ronny and Claire. When I got home, my whole family told me I especially looked like my older sister Anne. I may be the only Kesinger left in the family, but I was no longer the baby… okay just kidding I still am 100%.
Still blonde, I love my hair and how it feels. I feel more professional and polished, yet more carefree. Its still long enough for ponytails and braids, and my bangs look way better with short hair. Will I grow it out? Maybe. But I’m happy where I am, how I look, how I feel, and how I’m doing. I’m happy with where I am in life, and I look forward to cutting more clutter out of my life to help me achieve my goals and continue to become the person I want to be.
(Does anyone else feel this strongly about hairstyles or is it just me? I can’t believe how long this blog post ended up being!)
++ Mary K