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As a result of Hurricane Katrina, I moved from the extremely humid climate of New Orleans to the dryness of Denver. Although my hands were full with relocating with my husband and small children, I decided to go natural. Hair was not priority at the time, and I regret that because my hair suffered.

When we moved in September 2005 I stopped perming and just knew it would be a breeze. Well, it was a nightmare! I started damaging my hair by wearing wigs, weaves, and braids with no concern for my own tresses. I know it seems strange to say my hair suffered when I stopped relaxing, but I took better care of my hair while it was relaxed. Later it dawned on me that the chemicals weren’t good for my hair. I realized that because my hair would never retain length past my shoulders.

In the late 90’s I began wearing long box braids for months at a time. I would only taking them out to have them put back in and I wouldn’t relax my hair during those stints. My hair would thrive and finally grow past my shoulders. It was my trick to grow my hair out, but it never clicked that I needed to steer clear of the chemicals. So when we moved to Denver I figured I would do the chemical-free approach all the time and my hair would be down to my butt in no time. Ah, who knew I needed to actually take care of my hair for that to happen.

For the first three years after going natural, I was in auto-pilot mode of wearing added hair for comfort. I wasn’t doing anything special because I was using the same old products and doing the same old routines as I did while relaxed. When I grew tired of dealing with two textures, I cut all the relaxed hair off without realizing it was a big chop. I didn’t even realize it was called a big chop. I had to keep cutting it off because it was so damaged, but in October 2008 when I noticed thinning edges after one too many applications of tight box braids I decided to take a break from the added hair and began to embrace and nurture my natural tresses.

I was 35 when we moved to Denver and 38 when I decided to care for my hair in its natural state without guidance. It was well over six months before I discovered what the internet had to offer me in the ways of education, products, and support. There were groups, forums, and websites that gave assistance on styles, products, and maintenance. It was overwhelming but in a good way. I wasn’t alone. Despite my findings, I did have to struggle through some personal dilemmas.

Here are the three challenges that I faced during my transition, and hopefully the lessons I learned will help you face them with a healthier, happier attitude.

Accept shrinkage, even embrace it

The first challenge was embracing my hair in its natural state. It was hard to accept the shrinkage, the lack of curl, and my insecurity of being the lone natural in my world. Naturals were around in 2008 (and technically forever), but not like now or even two or three years ago and the lack of knowledge and products made it even harder. My family and coworkers were supportive, so I overcame my own issues and just became seriously natural. It was freeing.

Find right products and regimen

The second challenge was finding the right products and regimen for me. My hair stayed dry! I was working for the state when I first embraced my natural hair and had to run to the bathroom three for four times a day just wetting my hair because the product I picked up from Target dried my hair out. Over time I found more brands to try and before I knew it I was enveloped with lines that were catering to me. I no longer had to purchase super expensive brands online. Now I could walk into my local department store for my favorites items at regular prices.

Forgive yourself

The third challenge was forgiving myself for my past transgressions. I have not always been as nurturing or knowledgeable about my hair and for that I had to let that sadness about not being where I wanted my hair to be. I’ve been blogging for almost four years but didn’t begin the curly girl method until almost two years ago and only then did I finally see my hair growing, thriving, and happier than it’s ever been before. I’m learning that wishing, hoping, envying others who may have longer hair than me is a waste of time and unproductive. We each have our own journey and we must each find what works for our hair, schedule, life, and ourselves.

I know my journey has its ups and down but it’s all for the right reasons, as those challenges make me stronger and wiser. I would never change my past as it’s made me who I am today and that goes for my hair journey too. I’ll be 44 in a few weeks and I can’t imagine going back to relaxers or nitpicking me hair. I’m natural and I’m beautiful. Challenges be damned!

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