The Year of Letting My Hair Loose


Antonella Saravia

Last year, one of my favorite people in the world walked up to me mid-party, tapped me on the head, and said, “Este es el año del despeluque!” (“This year, you learn to let your hair loose!”)

I can’t tell if it happened because that stayed with me or if she simply just saw it coming, but it was the year that I truly let it all go. It was a year of chaos. A year full of questions that surfaced with no intention of being answered.

I felt lost most of the time. I felt deranged in moments, but I felt alone more than anything. When you take a long, suspicious look into the mirror and you have 2 inches of hair (all around) staring back at you, things look intense. I got lucky. I was the only thing that fit in the frame, and so out of sheer circumstance, I began to focus on myself.

I don’t know how, but something withered away—some top enamel coat. With the gradual fading of this coat, I started feeling different. I learned to say the things I was thinking, to wear the hair that I was given, to write whatever was there, and to go for what I wanted. I stopped explaining why I wanted to be an artist and instead I started being one. I explored the ins and outs of everything, unfiltered.

I was speaking to an old friend this weekend about the shame and discomfort that came along with this unleashing. I made so many mistakes, so many things outside of the things I wanted, but it all helped me figure out with certainty the list of things that I didn’t want.

In the unleashing of one’s self, you start to see new corners. You start to notice the things that you do to keep from getting hurt, from being judged… the things we do to be liked. And when you see them for the first time, I have to admit it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to think how hard we try to not be ourselves, and how much hope goes into every move we make. You also become aware of how slim the odds are that you will always get the approval you are so desperately pining over.

Funnily enough, when the new year hit I asked my fairy Godmother what this year’s theme was and she said, “Curiosity.” At first, what she said didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. What do you mean? I’ve been curious all year!

But as I stopped to think about it, I realized that that wasn’t entirely true. The last year was about awareness: the awareness that I was wrong about a lot of things, the awareness of anger when things don’t go as planned. I ran into the dark, hair flowing behind me, drumbeats banging at my chest, and eyes wide-opened. I jumped. I braced myself for the scars I knew I’d get. I cringed ahead of time for the rules I knew I’d break, and all the while, despite the fear of getting caught, I learned to let the music play for the adventures that I knew I’d find.

But now that I knew who I was, it was time to focus on what I needed. Wait a second…needed? What did I need? Is it different?

Curiosity makes sense now. After you run frantically into the night, wailing at the moon, letting feelings float about you, there will come a time to settle down and listen. Discovering what one feels requires that one overlooks the rules one believes to be true, fears one believes to be fact, and agreements one made a long time ago that don’t make sense anymore. And now that I have the answer to that, it’s time to refocus on a new one: “What do I need?”

I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but this year, I began to see some clarity and light. With each month that this year has offered, I have moved forward, always stumbling a bit here and there, but also completely owning my way. I get frustrated sometimes because it’s a process, not a switch that flicks on or off. I wish I knew better, but in so many ways I am gradually getting to that version of myself that really knows better, and is constantly doing better. As the year comes to an end, I look back and realize that I don’t have to brace myself half as much. I’ve learned when to slow down and enjoy or when to pivot quickly and get out of the way.

The curiosity of “What do I need?” led me this year. My friend was right.

And though I still don’t know where I’m headed with this clearer sense of self, I stick to Bowie who said, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

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