I updated my profile picture on Facebook the other day, or maybe I should say I re-posted for the third time a current profile picture. Despite the fact that photo has graced my profile at least two or three times already, this posting seemed to pull in the “likes” (25) and the comments (5). I like this particular photo. A lot. And while I truly appreciate the sentiments, I also find them odd, seeing as how the photo isn’t new.
Then it hit me.
Maybe five years back I was gawking along a shiny bank of windows when I caught my reflection and realized I had no real idea who was looking back. I’m not sure I would have recognized myself—and I’m talking my SELF—in a lineup. I wasn’t sure who I was, but whoever was looking back at me wasn’t it. It spooked me, sure enough, because today I look back and know unequivocably that it was my tipping point for life.
Now, the online dictionary defines a tipping point as the crisis stage in a process when a significant change takes place. Other definitions add more layers of meaning, like “the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development” – and I LOVE that one. The Tipping Point author Malcom Gladwell defines it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” Maybe there’s something to that, because Sam Parker at Givemore.com holds that at 211 degrees water is hot but at 212 degrees, it boils. When it reaches the boiling point, it creates steam, and steam can power a locomotive. In other words, 212 is a tipping point. Things happen.
For me, my tipping point – my 212 – was nothing more than my hair. Yep. Hair.
Growing up, I sported a nice head of hair—such a glossy, deep, dark brown that it appeared black in most photos. Healthy, beautiful hair whose thickness meant I never could stand to grow it long. In the ‘70s it was the Dorothy Hamill wedge (remember that?), and (for a very short time) a perm with lots of curl, and from the ‘80s on, a variety of basic haircuts, never much longer than chin length and always layered. At the same time, thanks to my dad, the white inexorably marched through my strands of glossy black. At first, it added depth. After a while, apparently a little too much depth. “It’s time to color your hair,” said my hairdresser. And we were off.
As I followed the path that’s apparently automatically set for women, we went lighter and lighter until one day I woke up and was blonde. When I made an occasional request for my natural color, Jon would say, “honey, your natural color is gray. You can’t go darker than your natural color.”
What did I know? I complied. Sometimes I wrangled a splash of red, but red and my complexion aren’t on friendly terms, and soon I’d be back to blonde. That’s where I was when I spied myself in that window. I gazed for what felt like hours but what was probably only moments—although enough of them to net a few glances. Over the next several days I’d catch my likeness in a mirror and stop, bemused.
Finally I made an appointment and asked Jon to “severely frost” my hair because, gasp, I was going to let it go gray. I vowed to swallow my fear of looking “old.” When he finished and swung the chair around so I could see the mirror, I thought I saw a glimmer of someone I knew there. My interest was piqued. And my tipping point had tipped. From that day I ventured off on a journey of discovery and development. I’m immensely grateful for that.
I think that, up until then, I’d lost some kind of authenticity. Not because I colored my hair—although I do think that was a part of the “symptom” of the inauthentic me. You can say that who you are is deeper than skin and hair color, and I’d agree. But I also know that, for me, allowing my hair to go naturally gray was what tipped me over into shedding anything inauthentic from my life. It allowed me to rediscover and redevelop my sense of self, of who I am and what I value.
I rather consider it as “What You See Is What You Get” or “WYSIWYG” Living. So I think it’s become an emblem of my authentic life, a badge of acceptance about who and where I am and what I believe and do. I like it. Best of all, I know exactly who’s looking back at me from the mirror.
And that? Well, THAT is priceless, indeed.