That was it. I was all packed. My bags were sitting at the end of the bed, where they are now, my mind and heart feeling the tug, the pull to drive back to Chattanooga after celebrating a college friend’s sweet marriage and union in Memphis.
But Facebook, you get me every time.
I opened it up to see a reminder of a photo from two years ago. I was in Angie’s chair getting my hair buzzed, taking photos of my transformation. When I accepted alopecia areata was a part of my life. Not just a part of my life, but part of who I am. Part of my internal fabric, no matter what the true “cause” is, whether stress or my autoimmune system fighting itself or my diet or whatever. I have alopecia. But I hope, and I’d like to think, that I didn’t let it get the best of me.
Really, the truest transformation is now. It was just starting two years ago when I buzzed my head. I’ll never forget how shocked I felt to see how much hair I had lost, these little pieces, chunks missing from my scalp. What’s more exciting is to see how much hair I’ve grown back. Sure, I can feel around in there and find some little spots every now and then. But for the most part, except for one corner in the back left, which some consider my very stylish bald spot, I have a full, gigantic head of hair again.
What’s most difficult is when I meet people who I haven’t seen since my hair grew back. Maybe old friends, or people I only saw here and there while I was in Florida. They look at me and say, “You’re so beautiful! Your hair is amazing!”
Thank you, I say, it’s fun to have hair again.
But that’s it. That’s the transformation—realizing that this security blanket of hair on my head could come and go. This security blanket of my body, limbs, bones, muscles, skin, guts, heart, WILL come and go. Or rather, in the end, it will just go.
It’s really hard for people to see that, I think, to see that I was the same beautiful person with a shaved head. If not more beautiful because I felt courageous and bold, though scared shitless.
The hair doesn’t make the package, I say. The body doesn’t make the person.
You are not your body. You are not your hair. You are not your made-up face, your clothes, or the way you decorate your skin, do your hair or the glasses you fit on your head.
I am not my glasses, I am not my hair products, I am not my clothes, though I’m the first to admit that I enjoy participating and wearing ALL of those things, and the experiences and people that come along with them.
I am not my hair. I am not my appearance.
That’s the true transformation. It started with a haircut, it took me through a wild ride in South Florida, in a beautiful relationship and space where I learned many lessons about myself and the world, including just how much wonder and beauty there is to appreciate and love in the world, in people and place and in things.
So here I am, ready to go on another mission. Thank baby jesus I was given a gift like alopecia. It’s helped me appreciate my body, my skin, my hair, my self, just as I am. I hope that experience will make me more capable of meeting other people exactly where they are, and shining that light to them.
And in that way, it’s been a gift.
Amen. And welcome back hair. It’s nice to have you around.