“To be yourself in a world that is constantly try to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Growing up, I never had that sense of fitting in. I was always the tall, awkward chick with the curly hair. I was quiet and shy as a child, so that’s how people knew me. I wasn’t any good at sports and I definitely wasn’t in the “cool” crowd. Within my little group, we called ourselves the weird ones.
Then came college and all I wanted was to find a place to fit in. So I joined the Frisbee team, but my lack of athletic ability just accentuated my gawkiness. I tried to hang out with the girls on my floor; I went out with them once, and never again. Finally, I saw a flyer for sorority recruitment. Clearly I’m not the classic sorority type. What would I have in common with a bunch of sorority girls? I don’t go tanning and rarely straighten my hair, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to go to the interest meeting.
At the meeting, we heard from the president of the Panhellenic Council, gorgeous, blonde, eloquent. She spoke so passionately about the amazing experience she had as a part of the Panhellenic community, though, I just had to rush.
To my surprise, I actually got into one. I wasn’t in the top tier sorority, far from it, but it was a group of women who supposedly had a set of admirable values. To me, it was a group of built in friends, philanthropic opportunities and a resume booster.
I tried, but I still didn’t fit in well. I had different values then those that I was expected to represent. Waking up two hours early to get ready and picture perfect for my 8am class all the way across campus just wasn’t going to happen; it’s not who I am to look like perfection every time I leave the house. I get that looks are important, but I’ll never wake up extraordinarily early to straighten my curls just because it’s what most others think is “pretty.”
However, I’d always get so many compliments when I straightened my hair, it must’ve gotten to me. For my senior year, I got a keratin treatment for my hair, which keeps hair permanently straight for up to six months, if taken care of properly. I told myself I did it because it made my hair so much easier to deal with, which it definitely did, but really I think I wanted to feel accepted. I wanted to be something other than the tall, awkward chick with the curly hair. I tried to dress up more and wore a pound of makeup daily, but no matter how conventionally pretty I was on the outside, I was miserable.
A few months later, after graduation, I set off for what ended up being a life-changing trip to Israel. By then, the keratin treatment had begun to wash out, one dip in some salt water and my curls would be back in full force.
I spent ten days in a foreign country with a large group of people I’d never met before, yet I’d never felt more comfortable. I wasn’t the one with the weird curly hair, because everyone had crazy curls. One of the first days in Israel, we went to the beach for an afternoon in the sun. Without a second thought, I ran into the water with my new friends and bathed my hair in the salty Mediterranean Sea. There was no way to tame the curls in the humid Israeli heat, yet when they dried, I felt beautifully vulnerable and completely myself.
I graduated college with no job and little direction. That summer was the season of travel and discovery for me. I realized the beauty within myself and started to actually believe that being myself is enough. My Israeli experience, along with the wonderful people I met, gave me confidence in myself that I’d never had before.
Now I’m proud to show off my curls. How will you show off yours?