Round brush in one hand, blow dryer in the other, I stare at myself in the mirror.
A small tuft of fluff protrudes from my forehead like puffy down on an awkward newborn bird.
What the hell was I thinking?
A new chapter, a fresh start, a new me—this is what I was thinking.
Again and again, I change my hair to reflect outwardly what I feel internally. I know I am not alone, in this impulse to change my hair as a message to others, and perhaps to the universe.
Red ombre hair marked my breakup from my fiancé last year.
In color psychology, red signifies life—like blood coursing through veins. A deep ruby glow signaled to the world that I was ready to allow vibrant color back into my life, in the middle of a cold January, my hair came alive. It made me feel stronger, more powerful, and ready to move on.
A switch to neon pink ombre marked my Dad’s heart surgery two months later.
I was terrified of losing him, and I felt out of control in so many ways. Pink was the color of wild abandon for me. As a banker I was never allowed to have hair that was not “natural,” and pink hair became my fantasy color of choice.
When I died my hair pink, it was a realization that my life and my hair are my own to conquer.
After a couple of months, watching the vibrant neon fade to pastel, I made the leap to deep royal purple—the richer tone reflected the richly rewarding turn my life had taken.
With that richness came a realization, I didn’t need color to express my mental state anymore. My life felt balanced, and as I examined the royal tones at the end of my badly damaged locks, I no longer felt the need for those vibrant tresses.
In one visit to my hairdresser five inches of bleached, dyed, and over styled hair fell to the floor. Those months of struggle and pain, symbolically swept away.
Since that symbolic cleansing, I have moved to a new city, started a new career, found love and support.
A year after his surgery my dad is healthy and healing, and in about two weeks he and I will both celebrate birthdays.
So, why am I staring at bird fluff in the mirror, trying desperately to learn how on earth my hair stylist made it look so good yesterday?
I believe the answer lies in The Fool, a fittingly appropriate tarot card illustration by one of my favorite artists, Kim Krans. In her deck The Wild Unknown, the fool is a fluffy little fledgling bird with barely functional wings, perched on a twig.
The fool symbolizes spontaneity and innocence— this is a card that points to excitement, inexperience, naivety and new beginnings.
As little girls we, excitedly watch the women around us transform routinely.
I remember sitting with my grandmother in a salon, as the stylist permed my sister’s stick straight hair into crimped curls (yes this was the 1980’s/early 1990’s).
I was amazed that it was that easy, but if movie makeover montages have taught us anything, it is that the simplest way to convey to those around us how we feel is simply to reshape or recolor the tresses that top our heads (and to remove our glasses, always remove our glasses).
Voila! A new beginning, on display to the world, like a billboard framing our faces.
We approach new haircuts and styles with the same inexperience as a fledgling bird. Excited for the world to react to us differently, we perch ourselves on the hairdresser’s spinning chair, don the smock and watch the pieces of our past fall to the floor.
How often to we stop to think about what this process really means?
Perhaps this practice is approached too lightly in our Western culture. In many countries around the world it is believed that our hair actually holds memories, as well as strength and wisdom.
In yogic tradition, hair absorbs spiritual wisdom from the crown chakra—long locks symbolize wisdom, physically growing as we spiritually develop.
In Native American culture, hair is a point of pride, grown to impressive lengths and treasured as a symbol of spiritual thoughts. When hair is cut, it signifies the removal of the past—often this is reserved for mourning practices, physically representing the deep piercing of pain from losing a loved one. Physical regrowth of hair will only happen with time, mirroring the emotional growth of loved ones as they recover from the loss.
Is it melodramatic to treat each change in our lives with such dire measures?
Perhaps. Though it does feel like an appropriate way to mark the metaphorical chapters in my life.
So, here I stand, placing my mark on a new beginning. I am the fool.
With excitement, inexperience, and naivety—taming my fluffy bangs, looking at a new journey into a new year.
Author: Kelly Visel
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/ Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock