I always thought age was only a number, but my subconscious has proven to have a mind of its own.
In my late 30s, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a 20-year-old younger version of me. I knew I was in my 30s, but it really didn’t feel like it. The reason for that was because I didn’t see myself as “old.”
I had lines underneath my eyes and a few wrinkles on the corners of my mouth, but nothing that would embarrass me from telling people my age. If anything, I loved telling people because I received compliments for looking young!
If you asked the young adult version of me, “old” was a descriptor used for people who had gray hair and wrinkly skin.
So when I woke up one morning and combed my hair, my entire world turned upside down. I wasn’t 40 anymore, I was a young girl and an old woman in a split second. It felt like time stood still, and I was peering into my past, while also envisioning my future.
Age wasn’t only a number, it was a stark reality. You could conceal it with hair dyes and products, but at the end of the day, gray will become your “natural” hair color. There is no going back to what you looked a month, five years, or a decade ago.
The rush of all the thoughts that came to my mind changed my life forever…
The times leading up to those gray hairs.
I was 15 when I noticed my first strand of gray hair. I scuffled my hair thinking I must have gotten some paint or white marker on just one strand. I couldn’t believe it, I thought that I was going to look old sooner than all my friends. My mom saw the expression of horror on my face, and gently caressed my hair, laughing. She said it was normal, and that it was highly unlikely that I would start to get a full head of gray hair anytime soon.
From then on, I didn’t think too much about my hair. I grew up watching my mom dye her hair at least every month, carefully making sure to cover up appearing old. She complained every now and then, but I didn’t think it was a big deal.
I never had an urge to dye my hair, and the few odd gray hairs I got in my 20s and 30s weren’t much to worry about. I loved my dark curls just the way they were.
Twenty-five years later…
When my world flipped upside down.
After combing a batch of my hair to the side and examining it rigorously, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. These weren’t the odd gray hairs that appeared every now and then. I had finally reached a major milestone, and it wasn’t one that I wanted to share with anyone.
The first thought that ran in my mind was that I’d have to start dying my hair regularly just like my mom. I would also constantly have to worry about hiding these white strands so no one would notice. AND I could never rock salt and pepper hair or silver hair…
Once I finished obsessing over my hair, I examined my face. When did I suddenly get crow’s feet? Wrinkles on my forehead? When did that happen? My skin is sagging too?!? I thought that since my hair is turning gray, it’s only a matter of time that my eyebrows will too.
I simply felt hopeless, and afraid. All I had were questions, and nothing could calm me down. It was as if I was in a Freaky Friday situation. I suddenly looked more like my mom’s sister than her daughter.
After all that selfish thinking, I thought of my kids. What would they think of their mother freaking out over something that eventually happens to everyone? What example would I be setting for them?
Learning to not be afraid.
Once my existential crisis was over and I snapped back to reality, I realized that I was fretting over hair. So what that my hair is turning gray? So what that I’m not a young adult anymore? I should feel blessed for all my life achievements, and all the goals I hope to reach in the future. Just because my hair is turning a different color, it doesn’t mean I’m a different person.
I never want my children growing up feeling agonized over a few strands of gray hair. They should embrace that new milestone.
And so I left the bathroom and showed my husband and children my “new look,” and they were curious to know how I felt.
I told them that I’m getting older, but I’m still me. I have many things to look forward to in my life, like being a grandmother, having wisdom that I can pass onto younger generations, and looking forward to my retirement.
Embracing my gray hairs, now 10 years later.
I just celebrated my 50th birthday, and I feel so proud. My hair is considerably more white than it was ten years ago, but I know it doesn’t define me.
My 20-year-old daughter came to me last week and showed me her first gray hair. She seemed more fascinated than upset, which made me feel a little embarrassed by how I reacted to it when I was a teenager.
She combed my hair back, placed her head against mine, and we laughed. She shrugged and said, “I guess it’s just hair. I’ve always wanted to dye mine lavender anyway.”