Afro Lessons

I haven’t written a post about my hair in a long time. Since May 7, 2017 to be exact. But today I’ve decided to change that :).

Here’s a post about 3  things my Afro has been teaching me as of late.

1. I love wearing my hair in a full-out Afro because it makes people* smile, especially black people.

I love that my hair has the capacity to bring so much joy to the world because bringing joy into people’s lives is honestly a driving source of why and how I live my life. 

There’s also been something so special over the years, walking with my Afro through my neighborhood–the “hood” that Yale and the City of New Haven have deemed “dangerous” (read: black)–and being met with smiles and Wakanda nods from the beautiful black kiddos, aunties, grandmas, and uncles I am blessed to call my neighbors. Noticing how especially moved I am by the smiles of my neighbors has helped me name that during this season of my life, I feel particularly drawn to creating spaces of joy and healing for black people & communities, and that is a desire I can proudly embrace.

*White people smiling at me can sometimes be anxiety-inducing because I’ve had one too many experiences where a white person’s smile has been followed up by them asking to touch my hair like I’m a Bob Ross Chia Pet (I wrote about a particularly upsetting experience of this in my Traveling While Black post). If you are white and reading this, I’m not writing this to tell you what you can/cannot do, but instead, I’m writing this to tell you that if you smile at a black person and they don’t smile back, chances are there is more going on in that person’s mind than you think; navigating this world while black can be stressful.

2. My hair no longer fits. ANYWHERE.

Every time I get into a compact car (emphasis on the compact) with my Afro, the top of my head gets squished down, making me look like a potato head, and ain’t nobody got time to be looking like a potato head.

Additionally, every time I lean my head back on a couch or a chair, it becomes flat as a pancake. What makes this more unfortunate is that I be forgetting this is a thing that happens, so your girl is regularly out here in the streets, grocery stores, and parks with the back of my head looking like a pancake. #youhatetoseeit #truly

Furthermore, my hair apparently no longer fits in the air/world at large. It is now a frequent occurrence that as I am walking down the street, tree branches will mindlessly decide to grab my hair simply because the branch and my hair now coexist at the same altitude level. What’s even worse is that sometimes a branch has the nerve to strategically place leaves and flowers at the back of my head, so I don’t find out about the debris until someone tells me OR I wake up the next morning with dried up leaves and flower buds on my pillow. #againwehatetoseethis

On a more serious note: I resonate with my fro on this. As years go by, I no longer fit in places I used to. As I’ve grown, places (and sometimes even people) that used to feel so comfortable and hospitable no longer feel able to hold or nourish the fullness of who I am becoming. Sometimes it feels lonely, and like my Afro, it can feel like I don’t fit anywhere. But I’ve been learning that just because some things no longer fit, that doesn’t mean there aren’t new places and people out there that do align with who I am growing into, it just might take time to find them.

3. As much as it makes me happy to see other people happy when they see my Afro, I cannot wear my hair out like that all the time. 

Keeping my hair in a full afro is really hard on my ends. Unsurprisingly, having tufts of my hair ripped out by tree branches, and the constant fluffing and floofing to prevent Pancake-Potato Head Syndrome leads to many tangles and split ends. There is absolutely no reality in which I can ever fully “detangle” my Afro, so when I rock the all out afro style for too long, my hair slowly but surely begins turning into one giant dreadlock, and that just ain’t the vibe I’m going for these days.

This third Afro lesson echoes my current season of life, as I’ve been repeatedly learning the lesson: As much as I love bringing joy into the world and lives of others, if I don’t take care of myself, there will be no joy to give. Just as if my Afro were to fall out and turn into a tumbleweave because I didn’t allow it to rest, if I were to attempt to be all things to all people, I would collapse and there would be no future me to give.

My Afro is a constant reminder that self-health and wholeness is a prerequisite to creating spaces of joy and healing for others. With my hair, sometimes I’ll take 4 weeks between wearing out my Afro, other times I’ll take 4 months, with the key being to pay attention and be present with my hair enough to discern what it needs in the moment. Similarly, I’ve been incorporating more practices of mindfulness into my life over the years (e.g. journaling, meditation, yoga, therapy, spiritual direction) as a way to pay attention and be present enough with Self to discern what I need in the moment. Sometimes it will look like 4 deep breaths, while other times it looks like a 48 hour silent retreat at a monastery. Ultimately, my Afro has been challenging me to live out every aspect of my life with more care, intentionality, and mindfulness, and I’m oh so grateful for Her.

Who knew an Afro could teach you so much?! 😉

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