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It all started with a snip

by Hala 3 months ago in hair

How a DIY haircut changed my life in quarantine.

Photo is shot, edited, modeled and directed by the author.

Happiness. That sweet emotion can sometimes be tied to physical things, but more often than not, that type of happiness doesn’t have a lasting effect. Over the past year, I have discovered that happiness is not really something I had to struggle for, it kind of just came organically when I allowed it to.

I learned that happiness was not something I could force by looking at a toxically positive Instagram quote.

I've started looking at the emotion as more of a natural state rather than an earned privilege. I now see that everyone deserves happiness, myself included. It is not something that's reserved for the privileged elite (something my depression repeatedly told me). You do not have to work yourself to the ground to be happy.

***

When March of last year rolled around, none of us were ready. Life as we knew it was gone. Anxiety was at an all-time high, and happiness was at an all-time low. You couldn’t go on the internet without seeing the words ‘COVID-19’ plastered across every post. As a collective, it was something we’ve never experienced before, it was new and terrifying and nothing felt certain anymore.

Which brings me to my next plot point: I got super depressed. Boohoo so did everyone else, get over yourself! I know, I know. But all jokes aside, it was a rough time. I was going to the gym 6 times per week before lockdown, I had a great schedule, my life was actually pretty together for once. It felt like a cruel cosmic joke when it all came crashing down. I was now left with a to-do list the length of my arm, all this free time in my tiny apartment, and absolutely no drive whatsoever.

It just felt weird to be at home all the time. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my apartment was now supposed to be my place of work, my gym, and also the place where I… live. I went a little stir-crazy as most of us did during that time. Scrambling for something fun to do while stuck at home, as an attempt to get myself out of the funk. I was really starting to get tired of my sad girl routine (eat, work, Netflix, repeat).

So I started exploring potential hobbies. Here’s the thing… I've always been great at starting things, but finishing? That's another story (thank you ADHD, you sly devil you). But somehow, the hobbies I cultivated in quarantine brought something out of me. My previously trapped creativity came pouring out. I'd go into hyper-focus. Practicing these hobbies for hours on end, completely unaware of time and my grumbling belly. Like a trance of sorts.

Yes I know it sounds dark but I promise it's not. My best work, attention to detail, and artistic expression was born out of these periods of hyper-focus. And not only did I see these projects to the end, I kept going back and refining my skills every time. Which is more than I can say for a lot of projects\hobbies I've started in the past.

***

What’s interesting about hobbies is that what starts off as a predominantly physical activity, eventually translates into a-physical outcomes. Hobbies improve our mental health, make us happier, and teach us valuable lessons about life. That time that you carve out in the day just for yourself ends up making your relationships more fulfilling. Because when we take the time to fill our own cups, we are able to give more to others. My life transformed when I pursued my first hobby in quarantine; this is that story.

I decided that I was going to teach myself how to cut my own hair .

I know, so original.

A lot of people brought out their kitchen scissors and hacked away at their hair out of pure boredom in lockdown. But I actually didn’t make that impulsive decision, for once in my life. My hair was short in March, and I had enjoyed wearing it that way for a few months prior. I wasn’t ready to let go of my short-hair phase yet.

I’ve toyed with the idea of cutting my own hair for a while at that point. My hair is pretty curly, and the closest curly hairstylist in my vicinity is about an hour away. I was fed up with having to get on a train just to get my ends trimmed and bangs reshaped, it wasn’t something I could justify anymore.

So as salons began to shut down, I thought ‘screw it’! If not now, when! So I ordered a pair of hair-cutting shears and started watching every video titled ‘How to cut curly hair’ on Youtube.

What I learned:

  • You will need the following tools: a spray bottle filled with water to keep your hair hydrated, a comb, 2-4 clips, leave in conditioner for slip, shears, and most importantly: PATIENCE. Optional: cape or garbage bag (if you want to be extra).
  • Hair-cutting shears are sharp and if you’re not careful, you will cut yourself (more than once if you’re an impatient idiot like me).
  • Every single hairstylists who makes one of these tutorials will say: “You shouldn’t be cutting your own hair at home, go to a professional!” before they start instructing you on how to cut your own hair at home, without a professional.
  • They will also say: “Put down the kitchen scissors!
  • There’s two types of cutting techniques, blunt cutting and point cutting. Blunt cutting is when you cut the hair in a straight line, and point cutting is when you go in at an angle and create a zig-zag. You can change the angle when point-cutting depending on how much texture you’re looking to get.
  • Less is more, don’t get too scissor-happy!
  • If you’re not confident, just point cut everything. Just kidding don’t listen to me, I’m not a professional. (But I will say; this tip has yet to disappoint).

I went into my first DIY haircut terrified of screwing it up, so I was extremely conservative with the scissors.

Hilariously confident after my first DIY haircut

As I sat with my new haircut, I couldn’t help but feel so damn proud of myself. It looked quite good and all my loved-ones agreed… on Facetime anyway. But as the days went by I started to notice how bottom heavy it was and decided it was time to attempt layering.

Armed with all the internet knowledge I could dig up on layering, I grabbed my shears and got to work. Once again, I was conservative, but somehow it came out great! It was choppy and more rounded, I managed to remove all the bulk at the bottom without sacrificing much length.

Left: before layers, right: after layering.

Now I will say, textured hair is probably the most forgiving hair-type when it comes to DIY haircuts. Any minor mistakes can be hidden within a curl pattern and nobody would be the wiser. So no, I don’t think I’m some haircutting genius with natural God-given talent and magical technique, as much as it pains me to say that. I’m just a girl who tried something and it happened to work out. And when that gave me confidence, I tried it again, and again, until I got decently good. I’ve been cutting my own hair for over a year now.

What I’m saying is that if I can do it, with my cackhandedness and occasional impatience-induced scissor injuries, so can you!

Remember, less is always more so don’t go hacking away your first time. And layering is fun! Try it. Give yourself some bangs. Life’s too short.

***

Here's a demo of me (again, an amateur. Not a professional!) cutting my own hair a few days ago. I wanted to refresh my layers, shorten my bangs, and trim a bit off the bottom. I currently have a 'shag' haircut which I 100% credit to TikTok, that app is fully running my life now. But I'm definitely not mad at that because this haircut has given me so much confidence.

In case you're wondering; Yes I did in fact make this entire video solely to show you that even imperfect work can look good. Haircutting is much more fun than it is scary, I promise.

***

Some great resources for all things hair are: Manes by Mel and Brad Mondo on YouTube.

Manes by Mel Wet cut:

Manes by Mel curly vs straightened (or wet vs dry) cut:

***

Snip.

Dead ends need fresh life.

So I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around, and wait and picked up that pair of shears. Being self-sufficient was an immediate self-esteem boost. I realised that if there was something I always thought I couldn’t do just because people told me to ‘leave it to the professionals’, I was going to try it. Give it my best shot. And keep an open mind.

Cutting my hair was one of the first things I reached for as an escape from my messed-up reality. In those quiet moments of chip-chopping away at my ends, I had managed to quiet down the noise in my head and get clear on what was no longer serving me.

Gym closures forced me to face my struggle with exercise addiction, fatphobia and my historically toxic relationship with movement in general. And instead of running away and ignoring my problems, I faced them head-on. Equipped with my newfound happiness and peace, I was able to manage my emotions and be kind to myself. It sounds silly because you wouldn't think a hobby would do all of that. But carving out that time for myself to learn a new skill and refine my technique was an intimate form of self-love. By practising a new hobby, you are telling yourself it is okay to fail and try again, and that you accept yourself regardless. You start showing yourself more grace. This newfound self-love led to me finally learning how to eat intuitively, normalise weight fluctuations, and learn how to accept my body at any size.

What came after that haircut .

I taught myself how to build, structure, shape and paint a polygel nail. Start to finish.

I threw myself full-force into this new hobby, sometimes spending 12 hours at my desk filing, shaping and painting. This was a hobby I could practice more than once a month, so I was thrilled to have another artistic outlet.

In just a couple of months, I made huge strides and even started creating better art on my tiny canvases.

Snip.

cutting down my nail tips to size.

In order to place a fake nail tip on a natural nail, you need to find the perfectly-sized tip. Essentially, you have to customize the tip size and shape it in order to fit the natural nail, not the other way around. And the same rule applies to clothing.

You should not have to fit yourself around clothing, clothing should fit around you. Stop keeping that pair of skinny jeans from last year that no longer fit, to 'motivate' you to lose weight. Show yourself some grace and buy a pair of jeans that actually fit your current amazing body (that got you through a freaking pandemic for crying out loud).

I cut the tags off the larger-sized clothing I graced myself with, snip! Goodbye self-loathing.

I became a plant parent in quarantine, and learned that it is important to give your plants periodic trims. You have to cut off the dead parts that hold back growth, it's kind of like your mind. Catch my drift?

As I became more invested in sculpting and building polygel nails, I began to understand the importance of high quality tools. I began using an E-file with sandpaper bits to file down the gel.

These bits were poor quality and took twice as long to get the job done, it was time for an upgrade. So I invested in some beautiful ceramic bits. Oh the joy I experienced when I began filing with my new and improved tools! It actually made filing fun, which happened to be my least favorite part of the entire process.

Tools are a lot like people. They can help, but they can also hinder. A low quality tool (or human) will make a job take twice the time, and you'll be miserable the entire time. A good quality tool (human) will make the job smoother, more efficient, and actually enjoyable! Is that a reach? Maybe. Am I going to keep it in? Yup.

Here's the thing: I love cutting shit out. I may be a little too good at it. 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo is my bible. I love the novelty of a fresh start. I've always been a sucker for back-to-school season, make-overs, and Mondays. There's just something about new beginnings that gives me happy anxiety (is that a thing? I'm coining it). I love the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, I love the excitement of the unknown that is to come. But I will admit that cutting people out is perhaps too brash a concept.

Everyone is always saying we need to 'cut out toxic people!', but here's an unpopular opinion: if that's your moto in life... you're the toxic one. It's just too easy to label someone as 'toxic' and cut them out. What's not easy is the aftermath. How it makes you feel, the mess left. Like a fresh set of nails, your hands look fantastic and glamourous, but your work station looks like a crime scene. Nail filings and debris everywhere.

So you grab the vacuum and cleaning supplies and get to work. Or you just go to therapy and ignore my weird analogy.

The point is that I found that everything I had to cut off made me grow back healthier, stronger. Just like my hair after that first haircut.

That first snip changed everything.

I finally learned how to embrace my hyper-femininity and flamboyance. What was on the inside all along finally matched the outside. I began experimenting with new hair colours and styles.

Yes I was wearing the same belt in all three of the before pictures. Yikes.

I broke through the rickity old cardboard box I kept myself in. It was tight and uncomfortable, wouldn’t let me spread my magnificent wings. I was cooped up in there. So I decided to cut out a core belief that I deserved to stay in pain.

Ironically, quarantine made me break free.

Quarantine taught me to cut out all the bullshit and focus on what actually mattered. There are only a handful of things that truly matter in life. Everything else is just noise. A distraction. And when the world stopped we were forced to acknowledge what was actually important to us as a collective. Health, our loved ones, and our minds.

With one snip, everything changed. My first haircut led me to authentic self-expression and radical self-love. A simple act such as picking up a pair of scissors could change so much about a person. One thing could lead to another and a year later, you’re finally the person you’ve always wanted to be.

I used to allow the noise distract me from what was truly important. I wanted external validation so badly, I was willing to limit my creative expression to what was deemed ‘socially acceptable’. I had no idea how fragile that external validation was, how easy it was to lose it, and how much it never even mattered. I’m the only person I need approval from, and I'm finally living by that now.

Maybe it was turning 26. Maybe it was the collective realization that this pandemic proved how short life really is. Whatever it was, I’m glad I made it here .

I’m about to be thrust back into the newly-vaccinated world, a brand new woman with all these tangible changes.

All because of that first Snip.

hair

Hala

26. She\Her. Taking down the patriarchy, white supremacy and other tired BS, one weird metaphor at a time.

Insta: @halasapien

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