Natural hair on a college campus

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When I was a senior in high school getting ready to leave for college, I had so many questions. Like most students, I wondered where I would live on campus. Would I make friends? Would I like my professors and my classes? And lastly, but certainly not least, would I be able to take care of my natural hair?

In the black community, the process of transitioning to natural hair is a big deal. Cutting off all your relaxed hair when you do the “big chop” usually leaves you with extremely short hair to adjust to while you’re still figuring out how to manage your new hair. I’ve always had natural hair, so transitioning was never an experience of mine. However, I was the queen of straightening my hair from the time I was in fifth grade up until my sophomore year of high school.

Constantly straightening my hair left my hair in a state of distress with shorter strands, damaged ends, and heat damage that acted as if water was the antichrist. So my junior year of high school I decided to fully commit to not heat styling my hair. I spent hours on YouTube watching videos learning how to do natural hair styles, and soon I was off trying out “twist-outs,” “Bantu knot outs,” “wash and go’s,” “flexi rod sets,” etc. I loved the results I got when I truly took the plunge into my natural hair journey, and I continued the same routine throughout my senior year.

Because I had such a breeze dealing with my natural hair in high school, I’d assumed I’d have the same experience in college, only to find I was terribly wrong. As I walked through the halls of the GCPA and across campus to get to The Inn, I lived for the compliments I’d get on my hair from numerous men and women even on the days when I thought my hair turned out like a hot mess. Although the compliments and the confidence I felt towards my hair thrived, I definitely started to feel the effort it takes to maintain natural hair on campus.

The rigor of first semester classes definitely began to hit me and although I was handling it through hard work, the 3:00-4:00 a.m nights only awarded me enough energy to crawl into bed and get up to do it all again next morning. Twisting my hair at night to maintain my twist out curl pattern and keep my hair from getting tangled suddenly became the farthest thing from my mind. Moisturizing and refreshing throughout the week seemed like a foreign concept. And 3-4 hour Sunday wash days felt like running a marathon. However, after about a month I adjusted to this new hair schedule of mine and all the rest of the adjustments that come along with being a freshman in college.

Adjusting to managing my natural hair made the process easier than when I first began, but not by any means easy. I came to terms with the fact that having natural hair can be hard work. It requires time, patience and a resilience to still leave your dorm room when that twist out/ wash and go/ Bantu knot out/ puff doesn’t turn out right even after you’ve spent hours doing it, and realizing that’s okay because taking care of something so beautiful doesn’t need to be easy, it just needs to be worth it.