Shedding the excess

Shedding the excess

You probably think this post is going to be about losing weight. And I sort of wish it were.

I’d love to write some tell-all about how I’ve dropped some lbs since I moved to Spain. Those are the kinds of stories I like to read on people’s blogs – the honest, personal ones. Even if you have no stake in the matter, you still can’t seem to click away once someone offers you a look into their messy, relatively tragic inner worlds.

But like I said, it’s not about that exactly. 

Truth be told,  I don’t know if I’ve gained or lost weight in the past four months. I have no scale. I have eaten more barras of French bread and more chocolate croissants than I ever did in my preceding 27 years of life, but surprisingly, my clothes still seem to fit. Perhaps that’s because I wash them in cold water and hang them out to dry on the line, so they’ve just lost their elasticity and stretched out.

If that’s the case, be kind when I get home, people.

No, this blog is about shedding an excess of dead ends. Literally. I got a haircut last week, and they cut off like three inches of dried out, sad, crispy hair. IT WAS AWESOME.

The truth is, I hadn’t gotten a haircut in nearly a year. It was the last week in February or the first week of March when my mom came to visit for my birthday. She took me to get my hair cut and colored as a gift (thanks, mom!). I’d gotten a bang trim or two during the spring and summer, but neglected my locks at large.

Scrambling to get my Visa paperwork together, abandon my life in Boston and drag all my worldly possession across the country before bailing overseas, a hair appointment was repeatedly pushed to the bottom of my to-do list.

“Some of the worst mistakes in my life were haircuts” – Jim Morrison

This, of course, was a mistake. Seeing that I don’t speak Spanish fluently, or comprehensibly, or well … you get the idea – getting through a visit to the Peluqueria with my hair intact seemed dubious. In the months leading up to my fated appointment, I imagined the fiery Spanish hairdressers growing more and more frustrated at my inability to understand their consultative questions and eventually just taking it out on my hair. A snip here, a whack there. Perfect: A mullet.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

All of the employees at the pelu were quite understanding about my ability to communicate. They handed me magazines when I walked in, and after a 5-minute wait, took me back to be shampooed. Then they toweled me off and took me to the chair. A charming older gentleman, who appeared to own the joint, asked to see the pictures I’d snagged from Pinterest and saved on my phone once again. I showed him and he began snipping.

Sure, there were some things I didn’t understand completely. Yeah, I probably said “Si, está bien,” and “es verdad” too many times. But I was trying. And I had that I’m doing it moment!!

It’s the same rush you get when your dad finally takes his hand off the back of your bicycle seat to let you ride solo, the same sense of satisfaction you feel when you finally figure out how to use public transportation or disembark a plane after traveling solo for the first time ever. Success. Exito. I am doing it.

With every half-moon strand that hit the tiled floor, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. This was partly physical. My hair was so overgrown I looked like a Mormon. But it was also mental.

This was one more task I could check off of my ‘Spain to-do’ list.  This was one more thing I wasn’t going to be afraid to take one. This was one less thing to wring my hands out about when lying in bed at night, chastising myself for being such a chickenshit.

Necessity is the mother of change.

When the entire floor around my swiveling chair was covered in a layer of golden “crispy critters” (as my mom would call them), the hairdresser explained that it looked like a lot more hair than it actually was. It’s still pretty long, he assured me, as he called over one woman to sweep the evidence into a dust pan.

“Está bien,” I told him yet again. Those dead, split ends weren’t something I needed. I was glad to be rid of them. And ask I looked at them pooled on the floor, I imagined that they were the fears and anxieties I’d been holding onto all along:

Am I doing this right?

Should I hold this tiny cup by the handle or the bottom?

Am I saying the correct thing?

Are they annoyed that I can’t speak Spanish?

Could I be doing my job better?

Shouldn’t I be able to speak more Spanish by now?

Do I need to go out more to justify living in Spain?

Are the students learning enough from me?

Am I making good enough use of my free time?

But there they were – all snipped off and ready to be discard.

For my New Year’s Resolution, I vowed to be bold. This year, 2016, is supposed to be the year when I break loose from the constraints that have always held me back – fear of judgment, fear or making mistakes, fear of embarrassment – and start treating the world as my oyster.

Living in Spain has proven to be a great catalyst for change. There’s no way around it.

The majority of the things I do are unfamiliar at the very least, if not strange too.

To scratch the surface of any experience, you have to take risks and be bold. Otherwise, you’re going to end up eating in kabob shops or cooking alone in your apartment or spending all your nights in Irish bars seeking companionship from other expats.

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”― Coco Chanel

I don’t want to go through the motions. I don’t put things off until I get back to the safety net of my comfort zone. I want to push myself and make sure I’m getting to the marrow of this opportunity – even if that means putting every last hair on the line.

Not every first is going to be as awesome as my first haircut in Spain. (The guy chatted me up about the Superbowl and spent nearly an hour meticulously measuring and tousling out the layers. After an extensive – and fabulous – blowout, he made me turn my head over and flip my hair like I was Farrah freaking Fawcett.) But I’m readier than ever to tackle things unfamiliar.

I feel that this has given me a second lease on life. It’s delaying my fate of becoming a curmudgeonly old person. I can’t settle into a routine and get bored. I can’t get boxed into having a regular order at the corner Starbucks because the baristas remember what I usually get.

Whether or not I like it at the time, I am being forced to have those ‘firsts’ all over again. And even though I might struggle through it at the moment, grit my teeth and just wait to come out on the other side, I get to feel the exhilaration of those moments.

I hope old-me appreciates this 🙂