“Quick, go to the kitchen!” was all I heard as I bent down to grab utensils to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner. I, unknowingly, looked up from the cupboard to find streaks of orange quickly eating through the hair on the left side of my head. It had come from a candle that was resting on top of the furniture itself. As I immediately took off in the direction of the kitchen, I felt the heat from the fire getting closer and closer to my own skin. Luckily, my mother and aunt saw me coming and got the water in time to put it out. I was always thankful that I never got a serious burn from that incident, even if it did leave behind an emotional one.
This happened at a time when most teenagers are excited for the future but also feeling lost: freshman year of high school. Going in, I always had reservations about my hair because of past ridicule from my peers and actively tried to make it into something it was not. I remember spending a lot of time obsessing over its length, style, and even natural color. Mainstream beauty standards consumed me, as I tried everything from a new diet to growth pills. I never saw any of the improvements, as it was never enough to satisfy my hunger for a new hairstyle.
When I looked in the mirror that night, I was finally forced to see my hair for what it was. While I was heartbroken to see patches of it gone, what was left of it finally made me realize who I was in that moment. I would never have the luscious, long locks of the models in the beauty commercials, and for the first time, that was okay. After break, I went back to school with a new hairstyle, opting for a straight look that swooped over to cover the part that had been burnt. An odd cloud of doubt was released from above me as my friends and I playfully joked over the unfortunate incident. This newfound confidence gave me the strength to prioritize my own feelings over others and remain grateful for all the blessings in my life.
As Thanksgiving neared this year, I had almost forgotten about this pivotal moment in my life until I was ruthlessly teased about it by visiting family members, and I think that is because I am much happier now with who I am and what I portray to the world. I am more rational, valiant, and honest with myself and the people around me. The evolution of my character has led me to become someone who is trustworthy, level-headed, and resolute. As graduation nears, I will soon embark on a new journey, and what I have taken away from this incident is that it is more important to be true to yourself than to follow, often unrealistic, societal norms. The evolution of self does not begin until one is content with who they are.