Is an afro a no go in the corporate setting?..that has been a big question. When I look in the mirror these days, I don’t feel that I look “professional”. I feel that I look fun, creative and well, for lack of wanting to hide my thoughts, black. I look black with this hair. The way my mane is growing full and thick, and without any pattern or any shape that is easy to tame, I feel free. I am happy to admit that black is no longer a negative image for me. I feel ethnic, urban, or fill in the blank with any other adjective and match that with successful. I have matured enough to know that the image of success does not come in a certain shape, color or style. I am mastering the art of self love and that makes this journey successful.
As I transition home and think about moving back into the Corporate American world, you would think I would have other fears. I could be worried that living abroad for 3 years has altered my ability to articulate my business views in a clear way for those that understand English as a first language, but I’m not. I could be worried that I have slipped behind on the latest healthcare IT jargon and U.S. standards, but I’m not.
Instead, I’m worried about these wild curls that I have let grow wild and free for the past year. There are lots of styles that could make my look appear more of a business style…but wait…what am I saying? Do I feel like this afro is not made for business meetings and a normal corporate setting? Do I feel embarrassed or ashamed that my hair doesn’t slick back in a neat bun or lay down with the fine flow that I often envy? Yes, that is exactly how I feel. Well, how I used to feel.
My mind is changing and evolving with my natural state. Everyday, I feel more comfortable and confident with this hair. There are still moments that I miss my long, straight tresses that were silky to the touch and made me feel beautiful as it ran down my back. There are still days that I feel that quickly whipping up some chemicals and relaxing this hair down while killing my curls would be much easier, but I’m committed.
This is not some crazy cry for attention. This is not my claim to never straighten my hair again. Quite frankly, I believe that our hair is an expression and we should be able to style it as our moods change. My main goal is to accept myself and my hair for the unique look that I was given and feel comfortable going to work with this look. I don’t want to feel out of place or as if my hair is a distraction from my intellect. There is no statement to be made, but rather a bold request to make this normal. At first, it will feel awkward, but eventually it will become an image that is matched with the value added to a great business. It will become an image that is not challenged by radical views of what beauty or professional women should look like.
Growing up, I hated my hair because no one around me looked that way that I did. If I had one successful woman who embraced her natural hair and wore it with confidence and acceptance, I would have admired her. I would have felt comfortable saying no to the long processes that strip every wave and every curl. I would have abandoned all negative thoughts of how my look would hold me back from certain successes.
I want to help little girls with their self images. I want to encourage anyone who doesn’t feel they are pretty in their natural state, and open them up to accepting beauty as a feeling, not a look. More than anything, I admit that maybe I am writing this blog out of fear. Maybe I am writing this blog to build my own confidence as I prepare for my first business meetings next week. Maybe I am writing this blog to tell you that you are not alone in your feelings, but that change is here. Before I grab my hair gel and bobby pins to face these clients next week, I want to ask myself one serious question- Do I feel comfortable and pretty? Just go…"let em’ see you kid!"
Two of my biggest inspirations can be found at the youtube channel "Naturally GG" Subscribe and let these young queens encourage you with amazing styles and beauty tips with your hair! Thank you for paving the way! https://www.youtube.com/user/NaturallyGG
I wish that I had the luxury of telling you that I don’t understand grief. Yes, I consider it a luxury to be protected from the deep, heart wrenching pain. I consider those around me to be lucky when they still have both parents, grandparents, and only 1 or 2 funerals under their belt. That is not fair. I realized that I was comparing myself and becoming envious of these blessed lives that seem to be so blissful, but I was wrong. This is my journey, and all of the loss that I have faced does not make them lucky- it makes me hurt. I have no idea what type of demons others may be facing. The truth remains that my biggest hurdle and my biggest victory has been death.
Here are 7 hard lessons that came from recent deaths:
1. Don’t forget about those that helped you through childhood- Being raised by my grandparents, it took an entire village (literally) to help out. My grandmother’s baby sister was one of those helping hands. She took me along to plays, movie theatres, shopping, church events, etc. When I was old enough to do all of these things myself, I don’t think that I properly repaid the favor. By her bedside for the last time, I told her thank you for everything. We need to repay people with beautiful experiences before it’s too late. Don’t ever get too busy for these people!
2. We are not invincible- They said that she had a bit too much to drink. The car accident spread throughout our community quickly. She was one of my childhood best friends, and the news of her death literally took my breath away. I felt sick and thought of her young, vibrant life. It is easy for us to think that "it will never be me". When I drink, I am responsible now. I think of her and it shakes me up- get a cab!
3. Show up when parents die- It is very convenient to send condolences through a quick text or on Facebook. It makes us feel like we have done our job, but we haven’t. Several of my dear friends have lost a parent recently, and I am also a part of that “club”. If you are able, make a physical appearance to show your heart. I didn’t have any words that would make 2 of my friends feel any better when they loss their mothers, but I had plane tickets. I flew home to Texas and the other was a flight to South Korea. We drank, I rubbed their backs and let them cry. Just be there!
4. LOVE is all that matters- Watching my grandmother at his bedside, completely heartbroken, showed me what really matters at the end. Over 5 decades, she spent loving a man who took care of her and everyone around us. I sat on the couch and my whole body shook as I watched her hang on. The money they earned and lost, the jobs they worked, the fights they had, the long list of hardships and celebrations: nothing mattered now. She loved another human with all of her soul. I want that and not one ounce less!
5. Stress WILL harm you- Healthy lifestyles and trending food prep should not annoy you. Young people are catching on to the reality that our grandparents are outliving some of our parents. We can control this. Don’t let the burdens of everyone around you take over. Take your emotional health very seriously and treat your body right! My dear brother was overwhelmed, but he carried it every day. His body suffered while he tried to juggle everything in an unhealthy way. Take care of your heart, young people!
6. Forgive your mother- We put a lot of pressure on our moms. They have really tough jobs and not to mention the pressure of the world on top of that. I have never felt a friendship more delicate than that of my mother and I. We had huge expectations for each other, but our souls LITERALLY wrapped around one another. I met her 10 years ago, and the day she died, I have never felt that much pain in my life. She had a lot of guilt for giving me up, but to be honest, my life has been amazing. I am happy that we became friends and that I forgave her. Be gentle with her...Love wins!
7. People are hurting: Don’t judge them- Drug addictions will forever be a sensitive topic. I have watched drug and alcohol abuse flip entire lives upside down. The biggest problem is that you lose control. You lose your perception of what is real and what is important. I don’t make excuses for the substance, but I understand it’s manipulation. The day that my brother took his life, I felt the immediate impact of mental health imbalance. This subject is tricky, because sometimes people pretend they don’t want or need help. Don’t give up on them!
After recent events, I almost feel like a death expert, but that’s not possible. We all process it differently, and I pray that peace and love is the only outcome. You don’t have to be ashamed of grief..take it easy. Take a deep breath and keep living… I am with you!