Tangled Up in the Past

The climatic moment in the movie Tangled comes when Rapunzel’s long, magical hair is suddenly cut short. It's a symbolic representation of transition — the beginning of a change in the storyline. I thought about this as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, holding a pair of rusty kitchen scissors to my auburn hair. 

Throughout all of my life, my hair had always been long, slightly wavy, and right above my waist. Unfortunately, it was not magical, but I felt a sense of connection nonetheless. My long, naturally red hair was present in all of my memories, in every photo, and that was the image I recognized myself as. To me, it was not just hair; it felt like a piece of my identity. 

blonde woman holding camera outside

But my personal connection to my long hair was no match for the changes and stressors of my freshman year of college. After turning in my last assignment for the day just minutes before 11:59 pm, I made the impulsive decision to cut my own hair. Moments later, I was standing in the bathroom, holding nearly a foot of my detached hair strands in my hand. Initially, like with any big change, my thoughts were immediately filled with regret. But after some frantic Facetime calls to my friends and a few days of learning how to style my new shoulder-length hair, I realized that not only did I have a new found confidence, but I had unintentionally sent myself on a journey of self-reflection. 

I realized that cutting my hair really did mean something bigger than just an impulsive decision. As much comfort as my long hair had brought me, cutting it felt like the first step to embracing the new lifestyle changes I was facing. As someone typically paralyzed by the fear of change, my long hair provided me with a constant in my life, but cutting it proved to me the growth that happens outside of your comfort zone.

hair cut long hair

Starting college is full of new changes, and even in the midst of a pandemic, my life had changed drastically within just a couple months. I had moved out of my childhood home, and I felt like who my long hair represented was incongruous with the person I was becoming. My long hair held versions of myself that I no longer felt connected to. It was a shy 10-year-old, a careless 13-year-old, and a 16-year-old who so desperately wanted people to like her. 

And while I wouldn’t be who I am today without these versions of myself, cutting my hair gave me the push to step into the mold of the new confident, empowered person I had become. As much as I wanted to hold onto the comforts of the past, I had transformed mentally, and I needed the confidence to be willing to take risks and embrace the changes that were still yet to come. 

Just as Rapunzel’s hair symbolizes a new part of her story, my haircut was a physical manifestation of the new chapter of my life.