I transferred from community college to a university I dyed my hair blonde.
This wasn't the best look for me, but I was compelled to try. Why? Because I was going through an identity crisis/transformation when I transferred.
Have you ever noticed that celebrities, or maybe even your friends, tend to alter their physical appearance after a breakup or after they get married? Ashley Simpson just got a divorce and chopped off all her hair and dyed it blonde. Vanessa Ann Hudgens and Zack Efron recently split and she just got a tattoo. Simple and shallow, maybe,but it is also deeply psychological.
When I transferred from community college to a private school I had a hard time getting adjusted. Everyone at this new school had been living together for 2 years by the time I arrived. They also still lived together while I commuted 30 minutes there and back every day. And most of all, most of them were rich.
I'll never forget sitting down in my first class and trying to strike up a conversation with this sweet blonde girl in my class. We started talking about our majors and what we wanted to do, and her dream was to work for Chanel Makeup. At the time I didn't even know Chanel had makeup, and it seemed absurd that such a fancy purse brand would be able to hike the price of makeup just to slap two opposite C's on it (okay so last week I bought Chanel nail polish but it was the only nail polish in the department store and it was an emergency).
But I'll never forget how simply out of touch and out of place I felt in that moment. Once she mentioned Chanel I had nowhere else to go with the conversation. Me, who started up countless conversations in every community college class I had. Now all of a sudden here I was with these kids whose parents were doctors and pilots, who had designer purses and internships already lined up. And I couldn't relate.
So unconsciously I dyed my hair blonde in order to fit in. This was all I did. I didn't join a sorority or stay out late or do things I shouldn't. I just dyed my hair. And then dyed it back a semester later because it just wasn't me. But as I've hoped you've figured out now this isn't about hair color. It's about adjusting to new life situations and managing and maintaining your identity so that you grow and not wither.
I almost withered when I transferred but I soon found my place, re-established my identity, and made the most of my experience.
When I graduated and moved on to my first real job, however, I actually did wither. Like Ashley Simpson I chopped off all my long hair that I loved so much and started wearing suits. The over-achiever that I was I read books about how to be and dress professional and I followed the rules exactly. The rules said you needed to not be so girly and be more masculine. So I put away my flowered blouses and started wearing loafers and pants and cut off all my hair. And I was bored and I missed myself.
I can't remember exactly when or how it happened, but one day I realized that pants suits just weren't me. I realized I could still express myself and reach my professional goals. I didn't have to compromise that much; and if I wasn't feeling happy or confident, how could I be expected to bring my best ideas and creativity to my work?
So while I couldn't go back to the bright sun dresses and eclectic gladiator sandals that I wore in college, I started growing my hair out. And wearing flowered blouses. And dresses. Skirts. And heels. And I felt like myself again.
The inspiration came for this post after browsing Facebook (I call it browsing...not stalking) and seeing a few of my favorite transfer students from both my tutoring days and my community college work who had altered their looks. One of my favorite old smartie-pants tutoring students started wearing these big glasses. Another started dressing a bit more urban. And the other chopped off all her hair.
I think it's fun to explore new looks and reconsider your identity now and again. In fact, it is crucial for growth and development. However, especially as you transfer to different colleges, move, change jobs, or start or end new relationships, you want to make sure that the identities you create are yours and yours alone. Deep down you will know when the change is for someone or something else. And you will know when you look in the mirror when you really feel like yourself.
So my challenge for you today is simple: wear something nice that makes you feel like you to school or work today. Though it may seem shallow, how you look can often reflect how you feel, and how you feel can reflect how you interact and perform. Try dressing nice to school every day - especially during test days - and notice how you feel and act. And also, don't do anything too drastic when you transfer.
And finally for my greatest pearl of wisdom that you will ever receive in this blog --> Wait at least a semester before dying your hair blonde :)