I wanted to be brave. She was sweeping when I walked in. It was just her and me in the salon. She greeted me and came closer to ask how I was. I had been practicing. What to say. I had never said it to her before. Two of my sisters had done it. And supported me. But the words seemed stuck in my throat. It was now or never. I pushed through my shame. “I need your help,” I said. “I want to transition to gray hair.”

“I always feared my gray hair would make me different. … No longer young or pretty,” writes Janet Anderson-Murch. “I had much to learn. It was never about the hair.” Photo courtesy of Janet Anderson-Murch

Change is hard. It doesn’t matter that the change is good or bad; it is hard either way. I have been coloring my hair for 30 years. Stopping is difficult.

I remember the day it started. I had recently given birth to my first child and was 28 years old. I worked in an office building and a female manager approached me and laughed. I asked what was funny. “I just realized how much gray hair you have.” And I, with the self-esteem that comes from youth and a changed body after childbirth, made the first appointment I could at a local hair salon. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I always feared my gray hair would make me different. Unaccepted. No longer young or pretty. I would be less than. I had much to learn. It was never about the hair.

Self-acceptance is a hard-won victory. I am not 28 anymore. I require reading glasses. In fact, stronger magnifications as the years go by. Slipping on the ice, which I have succeeded in doing twice this week, is not as easy as it used to be. It hurts. My pride more than anything. But covering up who I am is no longer an option. Finding what makes me happy and letting go of the rest is the real adventure now.

For me, I find joy in the silence of the woods watching squirrels dig in the snow. Or listening to my 6-year-old great-niece correctly answer a family game question of “Who was the composer of ‘The Nutcracker’?” “Peter Tchaikovsky,” she whispered. None of the adults knew it. I couldn’t even pronounce his last name.

A video chat with sisters on an early Sunday morning. My daughter calling just because. An old dog laying his head on my lap. My best friend and I laughing about the ridiculousness of life on a rare outing.

It’s hard to let go. I know. COVID-19 doesn’t help. Sometimes fear makes me want to hold on. Harder and harder. It’s OK to say it out loud. I’m scared. I am doing the best I can. And if I can let go of the 28-year-old brunette inside, I believe the 58-year-old, gray-haired child will come out and play.

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