just cut my hair two days ago. my dreads were between mid-back and waist length. for me, it was a bunch of things.
the two most important ones were these:
*my two biggest problems, that caused many other problems in my life, were that i both have had a huge tendency to live in and idealize the past, and that i have always held grudges like a barnicle holds a ship. because of both of these things, i got really stuck for years and didn't really change or grow.
*in 2003 and 2004, i was really excited about life. i was meeting a lot of new people who seemed pretty awesome, i was wrapping up college, i was reading a lot of interesting books and coming into a lot of interesting ideas, and i was discovering many kinds of music that were new to me and the people in my band at the time were also really excited about it and we'd trade mp3s around and talk about how awesome fela kuti and esg were. world music, death rock, no wave, weird jazz ... it felt like we were really on to something. i tried to do the crusty traveller thing and it didn't work out well, but it was still new and exciting. i got really involved in a lot of solid organizing, wound up dating someone i met at meetings for all the anti-dnc stuff we were doing, etc etc etc. then life went kind of haywire for like a year and a half and i think the short way of saying it was that it was largely defined by failure. the dnc came and went and the band broke up, and i felt really rudderless and like i'd lost my purpose. i couldn't get a job and because of that i couldn't move out of my mom's house. i lost a ton of friends. i couldn't get a new band together and i had to watch the ex bandmates start doing things like touring europe. the girl bailed. about six years of my best photo negatives got stolen out of my car. etc etc etc. lots of crap happened. i think in some ways i've been trying to get over this year for like two or three years and i just got over it a few months ago. the way i hold grudges made me get madder and madder at a lot of people because of things that went on during this chunk of time, and other things just made me feel kind of overwhelmed. so i couldn't really focus on getting anything done and i spend a couple of years mostly wallowing.
so anyway, i did a photo shoot for a bunch of drag queens and i thought the way their identities shift in and out of costume was really interesting. a while later i started thinking about my own different identities and how i think my public "scene face" isn't really what i'm showing to my closer friends. and the more i thought about this, the more i realized that i put on my 2004 personality and set of interests and image like it was a suit of armor, and i was playing a character version of myself and not actually, you know, being myself. part of it was that i was dressing pretty crusty and i wore that like armor too. i'm not huge, but i'm a decently big guy, and when you start walking around with a really big beard and big dreads and you dress in all black and wear big boots and a punk vest with a skull and crossbones on the back and when you wear a bullet belt and all this other stuff that's part of the uniform, well, it feels like armor and it feels like saying "don't fuck with me". that wasn't all of it either. i also defined myself by my interests and activities. like oh i breath fire and i brew beer and i'm really into the world inferno friendship society and i'm a loudmouth about my politics and i'm a musician and a photographer and etc etc etc. in short, i stopped growing almost entirely, and i just wasn't very happy. wearing my old self like an armored shell didn't help. so i trimmed the beard, stopped wearing the vest, stopped brewing, stopped playing music, and just decided to buckle down, work on making myself happy and my own mental health, and on getting a day job that doesn't make me feel like a cartoon character (i live in a student ghetto, i work in vegan pizza and i work at a homebrewing store, and i look really punk) and on making something happen with my photography.
i've always thought that dreadlocks represented strength and stability and perserverance.
on the other hand, the flip side of all of those things is stubborness, being dug in, being stuck, and being unable to even think about change. when my incentives for cutting my hair were my family and friends families giving me crap about them and my boss worrying about the health department getting mad and grumbling about it constantly but never actually coming out and saying cut them or you're fired, i just got dug in more. a while back i realized that doing something just because someone else doesn't want you to is dumb. it's how a four year old acts. my hair started to feel like i was carrying the past eight years around attached to my scalp. they haven't been a bad eight years but they've made me what i am. and i've had some incredibly awesome experiences and i've been a lot of great places, but i've also been around some really bad and painful shit. when i started getting over my past, it kind of felt like i was still carrying some of it around with me. also, i want to be able to change, and changing how i look helps me change both what's going on inside me and what's going on in my life. it also helps that i lost enough weight this summer to drop two pants sizes and i fit into pants i was wearing seven years ago and band t shirts that i bought that never fit.
anyway, it just felt like it was time for them to go, and i labored over it for a long, long time. and i put it off. so saturday i just did it, and it felt incredibly liberating. i can't believe how great my scalp feels, althought the first night it felt like my scalp was constantly expanding. i feel like i'm really not held down by my past and my past hurts and i can deal with the present and trying to be awesome and positive and trying to make my life better. i almost feel like i'm walking a little taller without the weight of all that hair. what's funny is that i've heard twice that i actually look my age. and most people seem to like it. my mom's beside herself.
you'll know if it's time. i did and i kind of procrastinated, but if you think it's time, just do it. you'll thank yourself.