This semester I have been lucky enough to be studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. I am living with five other girls in an apartment in the city center, and I am loving every moment.
One of the first nights that I was here, I randomly suggested cutting my own bangs to my roommates, and to my surprise, they were all in. All they could say was “yes!” and “why not?” I had never been met with such strong positive attitudes towards something that would pretty significantly change my outward appearance.
Back home, my friends from high school and college, who have known me for years, always hesitated when I would suggest an appearance makeover like bangs. They said that it wouldn’t look bad per se, but it just wasn’t me. This always turned me off from the idea. Except for an accident in kindergarten involving a safety-scissor haircut from my older brother, I’d never had that hairstyle before.
So, with scissors only slightly more sophisticated than safety scissors, the most viewed Youtube video of “How To Cut Bangs” in hand and a tiny bathroom chock-full of eager roommates, I made the cut. Well, the cuts that is. I was sawing off chunks of my hair, and I was grinning and squealing the whole way.
I immediately sent pictures to all my closest friends and to my mom, of course. They have always been the people I look to for support, advice and humbling honesty when I need it. As I clicked send on the picture I had taken 10 different times to make my hair look least atrocious, I realized that it simply did not matter. My hair literally–and I mean literally–did not matter. It wouldn’t change my life or anyone else’s or make me a different person (even if it did give me something to write about for an article).
I thought changing up my classic hairstyle would be the most groundbreaking thing of the near present. But as I’m sure we can all see, it wasn’t. And I think the perfectly mundane nature of this self-made haircut was just what I needed.
No one, not even my closest friends or my sweet mother, spends their days pondering and mulling over my hair, my appearance or even me, for that matter. The only person who gives a damn is me. That’s it. No compliment, no response to my first Instagram post with my new hairdo would ever really, deeply matter to me. I’m surrounded by beautiful people who love me, but what I do, how I look and my every little action are just little moments and little things that I get to have for myself.
What matters is how I feel. Was I confident enough in the past to change the way I look and not beg for compliments afterward? Maybe not. This silly little act of spontaneity is exactly that: silly and little and quite unimportant in the grand scheme of the world. But how cool is that?! I can chop my hair, wear some crazy outfit, paint my nails midnight blue or crimson red, sing Mamma Mia songs at the top of my lungs and skip around town arm-in-arm with my best friends, and no one cares.
I can be myself or experiment with versions of who I want to be and the rest of the world will hardly bat an eye. Fishing for compliments will leave me feeling dependent and self-conscious. Why bother with what others think when they probably don’t even think that much about anything but themselves anyway?
We’re all hardwired to have our own lives at the forefront of our thoughts, so there’s no need to feed my ego and imagine that the rest of the world is looking as incessantly at the length of the pieces of hair that fall above my eyebrows as I am.
This simple revelation—that we are all really living in our own kind of bubbles—has truly liberated me. I’m not afraid to buy a shirt from a store without asking the opinion of someone around me first. I’m not afraid to cheer for the losing team at a sparsely-attended Irish football game. I’m not afraid to rave about a Pitbull song that I’ve rediscovered and can’t stop listening to.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a scaredy-cat. I hesitate before speaking in class, and my heart beats really fast when I have to ask anything extra of a waiter or clerk at a store, and I’m not at the point where I could fully shave my head. But at least I know that one Dr. Seuss saying we’ve all heard is really true: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
I’ve got lovely people who don’t force me to fit into a mold and who will help me sweep up my hair trimmings. I’m getting close to not even thinking about people who would mind the things I do. I’m quite convinced, though, that no one is really minding me at all, but if they are, maybe they should pick up a pair of scissors and get to trimming.