Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Making the Chop, Empowerment, and My Story: Donating to Pantene Beautiful Lengths

When I started crafting up my list of 25 things I wanted to do while I was 25 during the early summer before my August birthday, I knew I wanted to add things to my list that were meaningful. I wasn't entirely sure what that meant to me at the time and I am not really sure what triggered the desire or how I even crafted up #2 on my list.

You see, for as long as I can really remember I've always had long hair. (Let's just say the last time I remember having short hair is when my parents gave me a "boy" haircut in elementary school!) It was always below my shoulders but usually much longer. For the past few years, it has rested gently on my mid-back. Although it wasn't the most gorgeous hair and I didn't get stopped on the street by passerby who wanted to ogle at it, I loved my hair. It was long -- which made people with short hair jealous. It was the perfect length and texture to wear different ways -- straight, curly, sleek bun. I could put zero effort into it or spend an hour and would still have good results. It was perfectly me.

Here's a snapshot into my hair life for the past 6-7 years:

It's funny how you don't realize how much something is a part of you and what it can mean to you. I never ever considered cutting my hair. I loved the versatility. I didn't have any ideas or reason to go shorter, so I never did.

I somehow stumbled upon the idea of donating my hair. Giving up my hair, an integral part of "me," to someone else who was stripped of something that was so them had significance and meaning. Once the idea popped into my head, there was no going back. 

I initially wanted to donate my hair to Locks of Love, as that was the only organization I had ever heard of. I started doing my research. If you are interested in donating or plan to, make sure you do too! I learned about a few other organizations in the process and started comparing them in regards to their donation rules and their organizations.

I ended up deciding to donate my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They are partnered directly with the American Cancer Society, which is near and dear to my heart. The ACS gives the wigs out completely free to adult women who are battling cancer and have lost their hair. The donation requirement was similar to Locks of Love (no color treated hair), but asked for a longer length of at least 10 inches. For many, many reasons I went with Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I liked how they presented themselves, who they worked with, and how they operated. The decision was made.

No one knew about my cut besides my boyfriend, mom, and sister. I much preferred it that way. This was more about me trying to do something for someone else. I scheduled a cut at a nearby Chicago salon, which was a struggle since I've been going to the same hair stylist back in Michigan since middle school! 
<By the way, my cut was done September 30. I am just getting around to writing about it because the experience has been really meaningful and hard to put into words.>

She sectioned off my hair in specific ways in order to get the most hair cut. One by one, I ended up with 6 ponytails grouped together to make what normally hung from my own head. 13 inches gone. 

(Here's the transformation again.)

Boy was that something to get used to! I didn't know what to make of my hair...or how to keep it out of my face when the Chicago winds started to blow. I still am learning how to style it and "deal" with it.

But I did learn a few things throughout this process: 
-Because I live in Chicago and really know only a handful of people because most are still "back home," no one on the streets would know of my haircut or transformation. It was my little secret, which is fun in its own way too.
-Stepping out of my comfort zone and getting rid of something that I thought was such a big part of my identity was empowering. Every time I curl my hair I pretend I'm Carrie Bradshaw, which is pretty awesome.
-It feels good and worthy and comforting knowing that something I gave up that meant so much to me will bring a bit of comfort and peace to someone else who could probably use it far more than myself.

If you've ever donated, share your story with me! I did a lot of blog-searching for stories prior to my cut. If you ever consider donating and have questions, feel free to ask too -- it's nice to have hair donation friends and conversations.

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