I Recommend The BIG Chop, But...
Hello WannaGoCurl (cute username by the way)! I, too, love curly hair. I recall having my first relaxer @18yrs old and not going back natural hair until I was 27. I'm now in my 30's and it's the best decision I've ever made.
Now to answer your question...
When I decided to go natural I tried letting my natural hair grow while the relaxer was still on the middle and ends of my hair- BIG MISTAKE, because as a naturally, very curly hair textured girl, I'd want to wash and go, but my hair looked awful due to 1/2 my hair being curly and the middle and ends being straight and stringy. I believe it has a lot to do with the texture of your hair whether or not you should go natural or not. My hair is extremely curly so it doesn't mix well with straight hair. Also, when relaxed hair meets curly hair, it tends to break off- they just don't mesh well at all. It's really like adding fume to the fire.
I finally did the BIG chop- this way you can see the true beauty of your hair and you can wash-n-go if you'd like without having to blow dry and flat iron your hair until the relaxer is completely gone.
Here's a piece of advice if you'd like to keep length to your hair if you do decide to do the big chop... Usually, curly/natural hair women have a problem with shrinkage when our hair is wet and because my hair is so curly when it's wet, my hair looks like it only goes just past my earlobe when it really is way past my shoulders. When I wet, wash, or pre-wash my hair, I section my hair off into 8 sections. I evenly distribute Blue Magic Olive Oil Leave-In-Conditioning Cream throughout each section, while blow drying each section one at a time (just air dry- don't use the blow dryer with a comb or brush. You can also use a diffuser). This step only takes about 20 minutes and I only have to follow this every 3-4 days. The results- looser, bouncy, and moisturized curls that moves every time I move my head. The Blue Magic Olive Oil Leave-in-Conditioning Cream is so moisturizing that I don't need to use a spray oil or oil sheen afterwards, and I have very dry hair. If you would prefer to use a good oil on your hair, you should definitely buy Palmer's Olive Oil Spray Oil- this oil will seal every curly strand on your head. Before going to bed I always wrap my entire head in a silk scarf to protect my ends and maintain moisture throughout my hair.
I hope my advice is helpful to you in making a decision to do the BIG chop or allowing the relaxer to grow out while you go natural. Please keep me updated and let me and the forum know what you decide to do.