Hair Journey Part VI.V: Strawberry-Blonde.

Baskets of strawberries with the text: My hair journey took an unexpected detour.

So, this was a serendipitous mistake.

The plan was to go from blonde to copper. When I went in to talk to Elizabeth, she pulled out her swatch book and I, not wanting to do anything by halves, picked the brightest copper in her book. I came out looking very orange:

A picture of me with bright orange hair.
There’s a makeup lesson here as well: black, liquid eyeliner definitely enhances the anime effect.

One of my friends summed it up well when he said “you look like an anime character.” Which isn’t bad, per say, just not what I was going for. Still, Elizabeth did say that the color might fade pretty fast, and I had gone intentionally bright to prepare for just such an eventuality.

Little did I know how fast that fade would happen.

The first time I took a shower, the water came out orange. I’m used to a little color the first couple times, but I’d never seen so much at once. With one shower, enough color came out to have significantly toned my hair down to the level I would usually expect after a full week. It dried well, but on my next shower even more dye came out—and this time in patches.

My root color, which was a little stronger to help mask the dividing line between the blonde and my natural hair, stayed strong. But I was starting to notice a distinct blonde patch growing on my right side, and it seemed likely to continue growing. A week in, and I started to consider moving my next hair appointment up by a couple weeks. I’d hoped to make it six, but I really didn’t want to spend most of October with an uneven color job.

Fortunately, after another shower or two the fade became more even. Now my hair didn’t look patchy, it just looked… well, blonde.

My hair, after it's faded to a lighter, cozier color.
At least it faded into a cute color! I think I liked this better than blonde.

Not a full blonde, but a light, strawberry shade. And the funny thing was: I liked it! It was slightly warmer than the blonde I’d left behind, a sort of cozy color that worked well with the spattering of cool fall days we had before Indian summer hit.

I also really enjoyed the length of my new cut. In the past, I’ve tended to grow my hair very long, and then chop it short all at once. Then I start missing the long hair, and the growing-out process begins again. I usually pass through this middle-length with slightly unkept hair, because I’m avoiding the salon. But it turns out this shoulder-length cut is just about the perfect length: long enough for a ponytail, but not long enough to be super heavy.

Anyway, Elizabeth had given me a heads-up about what to expect from this coloring. Apparently, brighter hair dyes fade faster because the pigment molecules are larger, and don’t absorb as deeply into the strands of hair… or something like that. Dye also doesn’t stick as well to bleached hair or damaged hair. She suggested that this round might fade quickly, but that my next round of color would hold better.

Me wearing a purple floral dress against a blue patterned background. My hair has faded back to blonde.
Just before going to get colored again: basically blonde.

I decided to move my salon appointment back up after all. By the time I went in, most people were back to telling me how well I was rocking my blonde hair. Yes, there was still a slight blush tone in some areas, but even “strawberry blonde” was a stretch.

Elizabeth recommended a pigmented conditioner which I plan to use for the next couple months to help my hair maintain its copper coloring. In the meantime, the unexpected detour has been fun, and I enjoyed learning more about hair chemistry along the way. There’s way more that goes into hair coloring than I ever expected. So, to salon colorists everywhere (and mine in particular): Respect.

On boredom.

Boy by wood pile with an axe. Text reads: I sometime avoid hard things by doing other things that are equally worth doing. If that's procrastination, it's awfully productive.

I used to think I never got bored.

As in: unless I was stuck at the Secretary of State, or some function I couldn’t get out of, and either had no book, or couldn’t read a book without being impolite, or was otherwise trapped without a cell phone, pen, paper, or any other means of recording my thoughts and organizing them into some idea worth communicating, I could find something to do or think about and not consider myself bored. Maybe I’d rather be elsewhere doing something different, but I could get by.

My family regularly made road trips to visit relatives in New York that involved 10+ hours of sitting in the car—seven of us in a seven-seater minivan—and I credit that experience with toughening me up to endure transatlantic flights with equanimity.

And on my own time? I struggle to understand boredom. I hear adults say that they’re bored, and I wish there were a way to exchange time: If you’re not using the next hour of your life, I’ll take it!

But I’ve recently come to understand it a little better. Not the boredom of sitting around with nothing to do, but the boredom of sitting in front of a task you have to do and wishing for all the world that you could be doing something different.

I know we usually call that “procrastination,” but I don’t mean that, entirely. Right now, I’m writing this blog post to procrastinate from doing my work out. It will happen, but I’ve deemed this post temporarily a more worthwhile effort. I spent half of Saturday reading a book to avoid doing some sewing. I wanted to sew, but I had a difficult step that I felt a bit uncertain about, so I read instead.

I sometimes avoid hard things by doing other things that are equally worth doing. If that’s procrastination, it’s awfully productive.

But I’ve begun to notice lately a kind of procrastination that seeps into my work day that feels more akin to boredom than what I just described. It’s the rebellious impulse to do anything but the task at hand—even other things that I don’t like. It’s what sucked me into hours of BuzzFeed articles in college when I was meant to be writing essays, or what sends me to YouTube to watch hours of tornado videos when I should be researching my next blog post.

I would never read these posts or watch these videos on my own time. Why is it that I can’t consciously justify spending an hour reading a book when I’m supposed to be working, but I can subconsciously waste two hours surfing Wikipedia articles on pop music icons I don’t even like?

I think the root cause is boredom. Not the kind born of poor imagination, but perhaps of a surplus of energy. Of resenting all the things I can’t do because I have to do the task at hand. Perhaps there’s still a small child in me after all, throwing a temper tantrum, pounding the floor and screaming but I don’t want to!

And all the while, adult me looks on, chiding, scolding, making suggestions like “If you’re that bored, how about you go finish that copy that’s due…”

Friends, Strangers, Internet, I have no solution to this yet. And I know this isn’t a new problem. I know this isn’t a “me” problem. It’s at the heart of every productivity piece I’ve read in the past ten years of avoiding work. It’s been called procrastination. It’s ben called Resistance. And now I’m calling it boredom.

Maybe giving it a name will help me do something about it.

Awkxious.

Woman lying on pavement with hair over her face. Text reads: Awkxious, adj.: a combined feeling of anxiety and awkwardness; the anticipation of embarrassing oneself which makes subsequent embarrassment seemingly inevitable.

I coined a word the other day.

It’s a portmanteau of “anxious” and “awkward,” the result less of my own linguistic genius than a comical slip of the tongue during a particularly… well… awkxious moment.

The thing I like about the word is that I sometimes feel we use these words interchangeably. However, you can definitely be anxious without being awkward, and the other way around.

Sherlock Holmes, for instance, as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, is almost always awkward without ever being anxious. (Non-Cumberbatchian representation are often eccentric yet confident geniuses who seem to transcend any social mishaps through sheer whit and intelligence.) Alternatively, I’ve witnessed much nicer people navigating social situations in a way that is either staggeringly oblivious, or endearingly self-aware. Some people seem to not know or not care that they’re awkward.

Anxiety, on the other hand… well, many of us are super good and hiding that. You could, internally, be one roiling mass of stress and existential terror but never let on. You could be the most gracious host, an incredibly charismatic public speaker, someone who generally passes at life as a chill person but who spends countless private moments contemplating with horror the gaping maw of inscrutable futurity. Who would know? I wouldn’t.

But put them together, and you get a compounding maelstrom of social self-destruction as your anxiety triggers your awkwardness while your awkwardness fuels your anxiety in an endless, reinforcing feedback loop.

Oh, life.

Anyways, the good news is that if you’ve ever wanted to describe the way in which you anticipate your own embarrassment, or the way in which your social anxiety creates a self-fulfilling prophesy, then I have just the word for you.

You’re welcome?

Hair Journey Part VI: Blonde.

I originally planned to skip blonde.

I’ve never felt like blonde suited my personality. Which still feels like an odd observation, even though at this point I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how cultural stereotypes around hair colors have influenced my feelings about dying my hair. And let’s be honest, blonde has a lot of cultural baggage.

Blondes are dumb, shallow, basic—the chosen hair color of wannabe Hollywood bombshells and high school cheerleaders. It’s the hair color of every white, all-American, girl-next-door. Swiftian, you might say. Or Ivankian. It is the Aryan Ideal, the hair color most laden with racist undertones, the thing I most anxiously don’t want to be identified with.

No, I did not want to be blonde. Which is why, at the end of the day, I decided I needed to give it a try.

Because if there’s anything you can take away from that torrent of negative stereotypes I’ve just unleashed it’s that they’re nasty. Like, really vicious. And, for the most part, fairly groundless.

Yes, obviously, people who choose to dye their hair blonde (like I was about to do) might want to conform to a certain stereotype. Maybe we think of blondes as shallow because shallow people dye their hair blonde for shallow reasons? But I also know some truly excellent, intelligent, compassionate people who also happen to be blonde—naturally and otherwise. But I still felt weird about it.

All that said, my trepidation proved mostly groundless. No one made any dumb blonde jokes. In fact, I got more compliments on my blonde hair than on almost any previous color. One of my friends who initially thought blonde hair wouldn’t suit me came round by the end and thought it looked great. Which is nice.

And yet, it never felt entirely normal to me. More than any other color, being blonde felt like wearing a wig. I got used to it, learned how to dress with it, even enjoyed busting out my red lipstick a bit more. But it always felt like wearing someone else’s skin. It lacked the “rightness” I felt with other colors.

More people have been asking me how much longer I plan to keep dyeing my hair. It’s been almost a year now, and initially I only had two more colors planned after blonde. But… I’m having a lot of fun! My hair’s held up well to the battery of chemical processes it’s undergone since last October, the result of working with a colorist who knows what she’s doing and an investment in good shampoo and conditioner. So I can see meandering through a few more colors and just continuing to have fun with it.

Anyway, philosophical ramblings aside, can I take a moment to say: excellent shampoo and conditioner really does make a difference? I accidentally left my current product at my brother’s house in Illinois back in June, and it took over a month to get it back. In the interim, I used my old shampoo and conditioner from before I started this whole process. Holy cow: the difference is actually incredible. I mean, my fancy hair products cost a whole lot more, but last way longer. Although part of that can probably be attributed to how I don’t wash my hair as often as I used to, because it’s dryer than it used to be. Back in the day, my hair got so oily that I had to wash it every other day to keep it clean. Now, my hair only needs washing twice a week. Given that it takes a good twelve hours to air dry, this is a huge life improvement.

A side note to my side note: I hate hair dryers. I have a lot of hair in terms of volume, the the strands themselves are super fine. This means my hair absorbs water like a sponge. I learned years ago that it would take me far too long to blow dry my hair every time I showered, so I gave up. It turns out that blow drying also damages your hair, making it more brittle and prone to breakage. These days, if I need my hair to dry faster I take a walk outdoors. I’ll probably have to buy a blow dryer before winter, because leaving the house with wet hair in the midst of a Michigan cold snap has left me with a head of icicles in the past. But I plan to use it as little as possible.

Oh, and while I’m going through shampoos and conditioners: one of the fun things with blonde hair was needing to regularly tone it with my purple shampoo. Blonde hair gets brassy after a little while, so my hair person (hi, Elizabeth!) advised me to balance it out every other shower or so with a special, purple-pigmented shampoo. It was funny to watch my hair fluctuate between a more orangey shade of yellow and near-white. People kept asking me if I’d gotten my hair re-colored. In fact, my last time round, I actually went too far and ended up with a faintly bluish lock.

OK, hair tangent over. To conclude, I can see coming back to blonde some day. I may try taking it even lighter, going all the way to that silver hue that’s so popular these days. But for now I’m happy to leave it behind. Next stop: copper.

hair-journey-blonde-final.png

Envisioning a positive response.

It’s not often I get a piece of advice that really sticks.

That probably says more about me and my obstinate personality than anything else, but I wanted to put this thing out there because I think it’s important.

If you know me (which if you’re reading this you probably do), you know that I get ranty. It’s a family trait. As I expressed to a friend recently, I frequently care an inordinate amount about relatively trivial things. Maybe it’s because I’m a nerd. Maybe it’s because I’m a Lynch. Maybe it’s because Lynches are nerds, or maybe it’s just me. In any case, I care, although whether or not I should care as strongly as I do is a matter of debate.

Most of the time this is in good fun. I optimistically think it’s one of my more charming traits. When I catch myself ranting, I attempt to make it enjoyable for the listener in so far as I am capable. But sometimes the rants are just rants, just me unproductively shaking my fist at the machinations of circumstances outside my control.

And sometimes these rants are me, vocally working through a stress point. An argument I haven’t had but probably will have to have and don’t know how to approach. A conflict I’m not avoiding so much as training myself for. I have them with friends. I have them in my car. I have them in the solitude of my apartment, pacing back and forth, refuting the ghosts of interlocutors past and present.

Sometimes I get really worked up over things that haven’t happened, slights that haven’t come to pass, opinions I only imagine another person holding.

It’s as though I’m so afraid of missing my opportunity for a killer comeback that I’m trying to anticipate every potential scenario for which I might need to have a comeback prepared.

This isn’t as completely neurotic as it may seem. In fact, it’s been helpful in some circumstances—particularly when the event I’m preparing myself for is an extremely likely scenario—to have a response ready. It helps me feel more confident to have an argument at hand, rather than being caught off-guard.

I was caught off guard a little while ago by some criticism I received about some work I’d done. I didn’t know how to respond. It took me a while to work through some of the frustration I felt. It nagged at me. And that’s a bad thing, because in my line of work, I can expect that criticism to come hard and heavy. I can’t have this reaction every time it comes up. It doesn’t matter that I’m right; handling criticism maturely is part of being a functional adult, not to mention a self-employed entrepreneur.

This whole topic came up recently at a work conference. Topher DeRosia over at HeroPress gave a talk about how to handle negative feedback, and one of his main suggestions was: envision a positive response.

Or something along those lines. I don’t 100% remember his wording. What I took away from it was that all that time I spend working out the perfect repartee to that thing that no one’s said yet could be better spent imaging a positive response. Something that might de-escalate the situation. That could build trust and understanding—or at the very least not cost me my job.

I had a really good opportunity to practice this recently. A dear and valued friend gave me advance warning that a particular person had been invited to an event that I was going to. In ordinary circumstances, my response to this person being present would be to not attend, but I didn’t feel this was the appropriate reaction in this instance. Instead, thanks to my friend’s warning, I had about thirty-six hours to coach myself into finding a way to deal with this person’s presence appropriately.

It worked, but old habits die hard. I have an upcoming client meeting where I know I’ll have to listen patiently and explain my decision-making process to someone who has hired me for my expertise yet somehow thinks they know better. It’s frustrating, because I care. I want to do the best job I can for them. I sincerely believe I am. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time building up a detailed case in my mind to demonstrate to this person how the thing I am trying to do for them is the best thing we can do.

But: that’s not the right response, and not just because my client ultimately holds the purse strings. No, it’s not the right response because my client deserves to be heard, and I could stand coming down from my high horse for a bit to listen.

I am a person of strong opinions. But thoughtful opinions are better. My goal is to provide both. It’s not a bad thing to think through your ideas—intensely, rigorously, with all the passion that a late-night ranting session can offer. But it’s far more vital to be ready, when the time comes, to respond with respect and compassion when your ideas are challenged.

That’s my goal. At least I hope it is. I’m working on it.

Hair Journey Part V: Pink.

It’s hard to overstate how much I loved pink hair.

In all honesty, though, I did not expect this. Pink hair would be my first “unnatural” color, in that it was going to fall outside the gamut of hues I could conceivably have been born with. Even though I felt fairly certain that my previous hair colors were obviously not my natural color, this was bound to be a step beyond. But, if only in honor of my younger self, I felt I had to give it a go.

For context, little-me loved the color pink. I know many little girls are obsessed, but I’ve been told I took it to extremes. “Pink” was synonymous with “good” in my child vocabulary, such that at family dinner blessings I used to thank the Lord for “having a pink day.” D’aw, so cute.

But eventually, I grew out of pink. It’s still a color I like, just not one I wear very often. And when my hair journey was first conceived, it didn’t make the list.

And then I started doing my “research” (which here means obsessing over other people’s hair colors), and quickly stumbled across images of people online with absolutely stunning pink hairstyles. I learned that what I wanted was more of a rose or peach color, something dusky and delicate, but still dark at the roots like a balayage. Elizabeth assured me I’d have to start with something pretty strong, because really vibrant dyes fade faster than the ones I’d been using thus far. So I basically just trusted Elizabeth to pick colors that would work, and then let her go to work on another marathon session of bleaching and painting my hair.

I should say that this is also the point where my hair experiment got expensive. Like, really expensive. Turns out, it takes a lot of time and product to bleach your hair and then paint stuff back in, not to mention treating it along the way to make sure it doesn’t become impossibly fried in the process. I’m glad I’ve reached this point several months in, because by now I feel like I understand and appreciate the cost. If I’d been quoted this number six moths previously when I first started I probably would have been more than a little incredulous. I also appreciate that Elizabeth breaks this news to me before we’ve started so that I still have a chance to change my mind. I decide to go for it, but also to wait longer for my next appointment so that I don’t destroy my budget. I’m glad to know that my root color (the same I used with my previous balayage) will last for two months, even though I’m pretty sure the pink ends won’t.

Anyway, Elizabeth finishes up and turns me around. I’ve learned by now that my reaction will always be somewhat giddy. As much as I didn’t anticipate how expensive this whole process would be when I started, I also didn’t realize how fun it would be. And now here we are, with a pink color I never thought I would choose, and I’m over the moon. When I get home, my niece Charlotte (3), who’s usually shy and won’t let me hold her, pats me on the head tells me “I like your hair.” Thanks, Char. I do, too.

At one point, a couple days after dying my hair, I went out to one of my favorite local pubs to grab a pint and do some reading. I sat down at a bench not far from a girl with rainbow colored hair, and thought, Oh, her hair is very fun. And then I realized that I, too, have very fun hair!

That was a turning point. My heart leapt. I might have smiled awkwardly at her. The thing is, when I see people on the street I assume that however I see them that day is however they must be all the time. But in reality, most of us take turns looking good: some days we’re wander out of the house in a semi-unkempt state, and we see the put-together folk wandering about and we wish that we, too, could look be perpetually sharp like that. And then there are other days where we’ve taken our grooming an extra step, and people probably look at us and think we always look that way.

Well, in this instance, it was me looking at a girl with colorful hair thinking she must have always had her hair that color. And then suddenly realizing that now people look at me and probably think that I’ve always been the kind of person to sport pink hair, when in truth, only six months ago I’d never dyed my hair at all. Well, look at me now. Look at me now!

The sad news is that, just as I’d been told, the pink faded. After only a couple weeks I felt myself already missing the bright vibrant color I’d started with. I had meant to take pictures along with way, but for most of this time period I was absorbed by painting my new home, which didn’t leave me many days to get cleaned up enough for pictures.

I also noticed a distinct difference in the texture of my hair—something I again expected because of the damage bleach does. Up to this point, my hair had been surprisingly resilient. Now, it felt rougher particularly after a shower. I had some hair serum lying around that’s supposed to make your hair feel smoother, but I’d never needed it with my natural hair because it was slippery enough. Well, it’s finally found its purpose. I guess the other side affect of the new texture is that my hair stays in place a little better. If I had more time, I’d probably use this to try some new hairstyles.

Even though I didn’t get pictures of it as it faded out, I did have the foresight to snap a foto the day I got it done, while still at its most vibrant and with Elizabeth’s curls intact. I almost wish I could stay with pink a bit longer, but I have a couple more colors lined up for the summer before I reach my grand finale, and I’m to excited about what’s coming up to linger. I go blonde tomorrow, for the first time since I was five. In the meantime, here you go, folks: pink hair, don’t care.

hair-journey-pink.png

One Year Later.

A year ago, I flew to Vienna.

It was the beginning of a great experiment: to see if I could sustain myself through freelance copywriting while living for two months in Europe. It worked, mostly. I made enough to keep going, but not enough to do so indefinitely. I wanted to bring my German back up to the proficiency level I’d achieved during the year I spent as an au pair after high school, and it certainly improved but not as much as I wanted. I traveled more than I expected, but was less productive than I imagined I would be. (I blame my imagination for that.)

Nevertheless, a lot of that trip went super well. I had a friend living with me my first month, which probably helped to get me up in the morning and kept me motivated to work through the day. It was summer, which left plenty of daylight in the evening for me to wander around and enjoy the city after work finished. I knew the language and had a good reference point for the culture, so a lot of the experience felt familiar and comforting. The entire trip left me full of inspiration and a sense of possibility. I came home bursting with ideas and motivation.

Most of that didn’t pan out. But more of it has than I give myself credit for. From June 1st, 2016 to June 1st, today, it’s been an intense year. I spent four months of it living abroad, I learned new career skills, I met some great people, pushed my boundaries, regretted pushing my boundaries, learned some really useful things about the boundaries that I pushed and later regretted pushing, changed my mind about some things, disassembled some of my Islands of Personality and started reconstructing them, found focus, lost focus, re-found focus. All-in-all, a bit of a rollercoaster for someone who doesn’t really like rollercoasters.

But I’m glad the whole thing started from Vienna. When I think back, I feel grateful for the sunshine in the park, for the waiters who left me be while I wrote, for the long walks at night, for the vaulted ceilings and marble tables and coffee served on silver trays, and for the pianist playing Für Elise while I nursed an Aperol spritz and listened. I wrote when I left that I could see myself going back one day. I still think that ways sometimes, much to my surprise. Whether it’s nostalgia or the beginning of something bigger, I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll know more this time next year.