Locks of Decisions

When my friend arrived at the coffee shop, I handed her a list of Chinese phrases I had written ten minutes before. Short hair, professional, suitable for an internship, easy to maintain, whatever the stylist thinks. Thirty minutes before, I had been planning to get a trim; I had never cut my hair shorter than my shoulders. But after hearing one of my friends mention that she let every haircut she got up to the stylist, I realized that my reluctance to change my hair derived from a greater fear of taking a risk.

Though I have taken risks in the past, most have rested within the characters of my fiction stories. With their choices, I could plead innocence; it was the character's decision to share who they were, and I was simply allowing their choices to become public in my writing. But with a choice even as simple as a haircut, my decision would have a lasting effect. I would need to trust someone I had never met while knowing I would be the only one to blame if it backfired. I have struggled with perfectionism in the past, and I realized that my avoidance of decision-making stemmed from this greater fear of choosing the wrong path.

Really? I was worried about something as small as a haircut? But as usual, my mind listed everything remotely connected to my appearance and determined this simple choice to be a monumental decision. Of course, if my hair looked unusual when I went to my internship, my coworkers might not take me seriously, and thus my entire professional future would be at risk. If I decided I preferred long hair, I was stuck with the shorter look for months, knowing that I had tried something different rather than trusting my old decision. The closing ceremony of my summer program was only a few weeks away, so the last photos from our experience would immortalize my choice.

But then I thought back to my friend's confidence in herself and in others, realizing how much I admired how easily she was able to trust someone else with her appearance. She talked about how she found it fun to try something new each time, ending each haircut with a surprise. For her, this was not a terrifying decision, but rather an exciting adventure. And as I thought about it, it really was; no matter how dramatic the choice felt, my hair would eventually grow out again. I might as well try something new while I was here; if it did turn out to be a mistake, it would combat my perfectionism and remind me that nothing ever lines up neatly -- something I love in stories but often forget about in the waking world. If I liked it, my risk would be a success, encouraging me to take other risks.

So after overthinking and attributing an excessive amount of importance to cutting my hair, I ended up with a cut that barely reached my chin. And I loved it. I made yet another choice following the haircut: that I would take more risks, chances that could lead to new opportunities even if they seem terrifying at the time, before leaving Taiwan. Because what fun is life without a little bit of risk?