A moment I often revisit happened in the bottom of the PepsiCo Plaza. Hardly a glamorous location, but it was right there, mid-Zoom meeting, where I heard a life-changing phrase: “Everyone has their purple phase.”
At that point in my life, I’d done just about everything to my hair other than dye it. The dim lighting highlighting my streaked bleach job, I realized that the decision to change up my looks was hardly trivial.
The change that occurs when you dye your hair an unnatural color permeates the air. Maybe it’s the smell of artificial blueberries from all those bottles of Arctic Fox, or maybe it’s the beacon of attention that you inevitably draw, but either way you feel conspicuous. It’s both good and bad — it’s easy for your friends to pick you out in a crowd, but it’s easy for anyone else to do the same.
People love to comment on it and ask why you chose your new path in life. It’s an easy in, especially when it comes to small talk. They may gossip about whether you had a bad breakup or if you’re just “really going through it.” You’ll also notice that people gravitate towards you more, and vice versa. Human beings adapt to our environments. By being forced into the limelight, you eventually learn to stop squinting under the blazing beam.
It’s easy to become self-conscious. Every move you make feels like it has more weight as a result of the added pigment in your hair. It’s hard initially to get accustomed to the fact that people see you differently and that you have no control over it. It’s nearly intangible, but the shift in the way you approach your surroundings and the way they approach you exists. Having a unique look reminds you every day of how it felt to be on the inside looking out, and you start to wonder how you used to react to people that look like you do now.
However, your hair will grow on you (pun intended). After all, your appearance isn’t the most interesting thing about you. While your hair may be vibrant, your personality is still your most colorful attribute. Dye fades, but you persist.
You’ll start to forget about it, and so will everyone you see regularly. As you continue along, your hair becomes a fact of life until you choose to change it again. Whether you go back to a natural color, touch up your roots, or jettison yourself to the other side of the color spectrum, this moment of you will always exist, and you’ll never lose the perspective you gained as a result.
Getting used to being “the purple girl” in a year where your hair is one of the only features people can see on you is an interesting case study. In retrospect, I don’t know how many of the choices I’ve made this year can be attributed to my new hair as opposed to my new life at college. But in a way, they’re one and the same. The purple was a physical manifestation of an internal change that made me itch to try new things just for the hell of it. I’ve given myself the freedom to explore giving into impulse and speaking up when I have something to say. Perhaps I’d have done the same as the brown-haired girl I used to be, but the purple was a catalyst that I can’t shake the significance of.
While I’ve moved on to blue for the spring semester, the rush of making such a drastic and obvious visual change to myself and the opportunities that came as a result will never leave my bleach-addled brain.
If you’re contemplating making a change in your appearance, I encourage you to consider this: As college kids, we’re at the time in our lives where change isn’t only expected, but encouraged. We’re pushed to find ourselves in the murky waters of a world that makes it hard to find your footing. Perhaps starting fresh with a new coat of paint could help you in your search for solid ground.