A typical conversation over the past three weeks:
Hey, you’ve had a pretty drastic haircut! Didn’t you used to have long hair? Are you…sick?
Nope, I’m not sick so don’t panic. Yes I have cut off all my hair, although it’s growing back faster than I had imagined.
Phew, I thought you had become a Buddhist or had got cancer. So what brought that about?
The inspiration was wanting to get involved in ‘Shave for a Cure’, the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Foundation’s annual appeal. But I also had an underlying motivation – I’ve been trying to take more risks lately.
How’s that working for you, bungy jumping or eating weird food?
Not that sort of risk, although cutting off your hair when it’s so much a part of how you image yourself is in the pretty risky category. I’m just aware that I have very well-defined comfort zones and my ability to avoid taking risks is remarkable. But I have limited my opportunities and missed out on awesome growing experiences by my preference to stay safe and composed.
So, this year during the Lent season, I challenged myself to take more risks. I haven’t actively gone out of my way to engage in risky behaviour, no running on the motorway or climbing tall trees. Just as situations have arisen I have tried to think about my normal reaction and then intentionally pushed myself to do something a little different.
Cool, well make sure you keep your head warm, it suits you by the way.
I have cried in front of people I didn’t know instead of pushing away my emotions or hiding in the toilet. I worry that I might be judged for not keeping myself under control or for seeming weak so this was a big risk for me.
I have confronted some people near my work about a parking situation and got it resolved instead of stewing and resenting but never dealing with it. I’m a worst-case scenario sort of person, and an introvert, so this felt like a particularly scary experience.
I have accepted peoples’ offers of hospitality and assistance – especially when I had no control over the outcome, whether that be a cup of tea or a place to sleep (long story) or baking me dozens of cupcakes for fundraising. Normally I wouldn’t want to ‘impose’ on my friends but I realised that they are often just as blessed as I am by the whole experience.
And I have cut off all my hair. I have received weird and concerned looks from strangers and mountains of support from friends. I had a great conversation with the lady at my local bakery about Cambodian grief customs (they shave their heads when a family member dies) – much more interesting than talking about the weather or how busy work is. My biggest fears were that people would think I’m sick or even worse, a boy. Instead I have received so many compliments and encouragements for being so brave!
These risks may not sound grand or life changing but I have found them challenging. All round, taking risks, especially cutting off my hair, has been an extremely liberating experience. I will keep trying to live it out after Easter – the only downside is I am sure the number of grey hairs growing back is increasing more rapidly on my poor head!