Justice Amick is a senior telecommunications journalism major and writes “Pencil Shavings" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Justice at jramick.
I grew up in a town about 20 minutes south of Indianapolis in Greenwood, Indiana. I went to Center Grove High School. , the diversity rate there as of the 2015-2016 school year, the year I graduated, was 11 percent.
So of course, I stood out as a woman of color.
I was a hot pink dot on a blank white canvas walking the halls of that school.
I always felt different, like I didn’t fit in.
I started attending the school as a kindergartener with my wide and fluffy afro that all of my friends wanted to touch. People said all the time when we were kids that they loved it, that it was so fluffy, that they wished they could have “black girl hair.”
But then we got older, and those compliments started to go away.
My skin color, and in turn my hair, started to get on my nerves.
I stood out from almost 90 percent of the community. Some days this was empowering, but most days it bothered me.
If you were to ask me why I started relaxing my hair at the age of eight, stripping it down with chemicals in attempt to make it straight and sleek, I would have responded simply with: Because I wanted to.
Ask me now, and I’ll tell you the truth, something that took me awhile to understand. I didn’t want to be different anymore.
It was easier to blend in.
I wouldn’t stick out so much in photos. All of my white girlfriends and I could all actually do our hair the same way for once.
When I got to middle school, I focused on different things, like maybe for once a boy would like me if my hair looked like everyone else's.
Looking back, it honestly astounds me that I thought changing my natural curly hair to straight was going to fix all of my problems. But boy, did I try. I tried for seven years to be exact.
Then I woke up one day my sophomore year of high school, put my clothes on and shuffled to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror with one side of my hair a curly mess and the other half haphazardly straight, and I realized was tired.
I did not want to wait for my iron to heat up, section my hair out into a million pieces and then go to work straightening it for another hour. I didn’t want to go in for another four hour session next week to keep the relaxing process in place. I wanted to sleep in, to stop having to get up early and slave away to reach this perfection I quickly realized was not real.
I did not want to put in the effort anymore. I threw my hot iron under the sink that morning, grabbed a hair tie, threw my hair up in a semblance of a ponytail and walked out of my bathroom.
By walking out, I embraced myself as I was.
I love my hair now, wild and unruly. It goes in about 1,000 different directions when I wake up and turns into a giant fur ball if the humidity is high that day. I get horrible knots in it if I don’t brush it everyday that literally make my arms shake after I finally brush it out.
It’s sensational. It’s different. It’s unique.
My hair is me.
That’s why I’m chopped it off. Ten inches to be exact.
A movie came out on Netflix recently called Nappily Ever After, and it was like I was in a time portal going back to the part of my life where I constantly ruined my hair.
I was the main character, Violet Jones. The idea that she needed her hair to be slick and straight so as to feel confident and perfect — that hit home. Her hair was this integral part of her identity and without it, she was no one.
When she finally allowed herself to be seen outside of her perfect hair by shaving it all off, she was able to find out a lot about herself and truly become the woman she wanted to be.
While watching the movie, I was reminded how refreshing it is to find yourself again. The day I allowed myself to unwind, to let my hair grow and change, is one I’ll never forget.
I had found myself again; I’d never felt more free. It may sound cheesy, but it’s completely true. Without that moment where I finally said, “There is more, and I’m going to find it,” I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I’m young. I’m hot. I’m motivated. I’m confident. I’m killing the game and taking names. That’s why the idea of me chopping my hair off and allowing it to be refreshed and revitalized for the first time in a couple of years wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating.
This type of change and growth is what allows us all to try and figure out who we want to be by the time we leave our parents and have to be real adults. Some people find themselves by doing something others consider drastic, like dropping everything for a year and backpacking Europe. Others opt for something simple, like trying a new food every day or going out with someone who is not their type.
Ever since the day I let my hair go natural, I’ve tried to find myself in a different way each year. One year, I did yoga four times a week - which I still do - and it allowed me to appreciate not only myself, but my body as well. Another year, I read more than 237 books to try and find one of the greatest stories ever told, to try and reignite my imagination.
This year’s choice was the giant chop. A rebirth of sorts. I’m looking to find myself in the uncharted waters of beauty and strength — a place that is hard for almost every women to travel — to ask the hard questions and find exactly what makes me beautiful.
With or without my hair, I am absolutely everything I want to be and more.