Priscilla Sodeke enjoying her short, natural hair.

When I packed up my combs and hair products, I knew where I wanted to go, but I had no idea where my hair would take me. I set out with the desire for fuller, healthier, longer hair. After 16 years of relaxers, my hair was at its longest, but it was thin and listless, slouching at my shoulders without any intentions of growing longer. So after going in search of a healthier hair regimen through hours of online research, I became what you might call a hair product ingredient Nazi. Determined to purge my collection, I attacked the bathroom counters and shelves full of hair products with a vengeance. My plan was to relax less and flat iron the kinks out of any coils that dared to show up at my roots.

My quest for length didn't last very long. Just before my sister's wedding in October of 2009, I snuck off to get a haircut to get rid of my wispy, damaged ends. Now I wonder how I could have been so impetuous! But at the time, I felt sassy and brave and I rocked that pixie cut for about four months. Over those four months, I developed a curiosity about my natural hair. For the first time I didn't groan with annoyance at feeling my kinky, coily roots growing. In fact, I couldn't keep my hands out of my hair! I got online and found a community of curlies who, along with my natural-haired oldest sister, helped inspire me to go natural. I was mostly inspired by the boldness of their choice to embrace this part of themselves whether others did or not.

Priscilla Sodeke with relaxed hair.

In February of 2010, I did my first real big chop. I immediately felt bold and striking. My style changed, because the way I saw myself changed. Joan Juliet Buck described this change aptly in “Vogue” when she wrote, “short hair makes you aware of subtraction as style.”  Chopping my hair off forced me to come face to face with my face — no hiding behind my hair. I could see my eyes and I saw myself with new eyes.

When I was a baby, my sisters used to put me in my empty diaper boxes and push me around the house. We have a picture of me like that — a happy big-haired baby sitting in a diaper box. I'm unashamedly envious of the full head of kinky coils I had before getting my first relaxer. After taking a stab at caring for my own natural hair, I don't blame my mom for giving up on my kinky coils to keep me from wailing every time she touched my hair.

"The hardest thing has been the struggle to accept and enjoy my naturally kinky, coily hair the way it is and not get caught up in curl envy."

I grew up envying the straight, shiny, long hair of the little girls on the relaxer kit boxes. Every time I looked in the mirror after my mom had dried and curled my freshly relaxed hair, I was always disappointed and confused. Why didn't my hair look like the girls' on the box?

It's weird, but after the high of my big chop wore off and my hair was growing out, I started to feel like that again. My greatest struggle since my first big chop hasn't been retaining length or finding the right natural hair products to keep my thirsty kinks moisturized and manageable. The hardest thing has been the struggle to accept and enjoy my naturally kinky, coily hair the way it is and not get caught up in curl envy — wishing my curls were more like someone else's.

These days, I wash-n-go or wet-n-go every day. I am thrilled with the softness and moisture I get from using Shea Moisture Organic Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie and Queen Helene Royal Curl: Curl Shaping Crème together on wet hair. Recently, I big-chopped for the third time and I'm enjoying the ease of having short hair. I embarked on this journey with different goals than I have now. Now, I'm earnestly trying to get to know and appreciate my natural texture.

What have you enjoyed or struggled with most on your natural hair journey?