When I was young, I had straight hair: golden, shiny, long curly hair. People would say, “Olivia, your hair is beautiful, don’t ever touch it.” In a sense, I felt quite pompous because of my hair. I knew people were attracted to it. My mother called it mermaid’s hair and I took extreme pride in the comment. I loved the attention my hair drew; it became key to my identity. Being young and blind to cultural and social cues, I flaunted my hair and reveled in the jealousy of others.
But then I grew up. I stopped living in the trance of my innocence. I became aware of the culture of my family and I didn’t know where I fit into that.
Being African American, Filipina, and Caucasian, I was surrounded by many cultures at a young age but grew up in a town where the ethnicity was mainly white which was reflected in my appearance with my long, straight, golden hair. The blonde hair that tickled my back as I walked side to side was a label for things that I didn’t understand at five years old, and that was my heritage. My hair was not the type of hair that you would see on a little black girl.
My African American family and my Filipina grandmother would always have something to say about my hair. It was too frizzy or too straight and never right for their standards.
As I grew older and insecurities rose, my hair became frizzier, longer, and harder to manage. During my middle school years, I was confused and grappling with a loss of identity. With no relationship with my heritage, and trying to guide myself through my pre-teen years, my hair reflected the struggles I was facing. My hair was developing, and so was I, but I didn’t know how to control it. It and I were lost, and this struggle for a sense of identity lasted years.
Then something happened during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year where I felt a sense of need. So, I cut my hair, all of it, and I felt fantastic. A fresh, ear-length, haircut was what I needed to not only feel confident but awake.
My sophomore year of high school was a major awakening for me and my relationship with my ethnic identity. I understood the history of blacks in America as I began to read poems from Maya Angelou and read about corrupt African American communities in the works of Toni Morrison. I explored music relating to the struggles of black men and women, and began to experience my culture. I also felt a need to connect to my Filipina heritage as well. I began to cook more of my grandmother’s traditional Filipino recipes and shared them with my friends and family that didn’t understand my culture.
My hair reflected the feelings that I was developing for my culture. It was curly, big, darker in color, and felt like me. I finally accomplished the sense of identity that I had been searching for in my young teenage years. I wasn’t just a girl, living in caucasian town with frizzy uncontrolled hair. I was a woman, who knew what she wanted and who she was who just so happened to have big curly locks on her head.
Now, I love my hair just like I loved it when I was a little girl. I am able to bounce my curls all day without feeling the judgment of my family. I don’t care about what people have to say about my looks and how I am not enough in terms of my heritage.
I don’t know much about most things, but I do know that some things are just supposed to happen, and some are not –
I know that the moon is supposed to rise in the east and that dogs are supposed to bark at each other through chain link fences and that pomegranates are supposed to stain my shirt sleeves
and I know I would never want to be inside when they sky looks the way it did tonight.
But I’m not so sure that things are supposed to be like this;
I am not so sure that the pepper tree I stopped at today is the same type of pepper tree that I grew up with. It didn’t remind me of home in the same way they usually do. It should have been familiar to me, and it wasn’t.
I’m not at all sure of people like you, and I am not sure that the world should be melting and that we should all just be okay with it.
How should I be allowed to miss things before they’re gone? How can I possibly miss you when my hands are on your face and you’re standing directly in front of me? I’m not sure how that is even possible, and yet I do.
I must remind myself to look up every once in a while.
I wish I could say it to you, but we are on a strictly no communication basis.
The only thing we share now is our existence and hatred towards each other.
It’s sad… my greatest love turned into my strongest hate.
happy birthday, you’re an adult now.
I hope you move far far away and buy a house of your own thousands of miles away from here,
but I hope you’ll be happy.
I still wear the necklace you got me for my birthday. People tell me I should get rid of it, and I probably should, but I can’t because its the last piece of you I have left, and, as much as I want to, I can’t bring myself to let you go.
I want you gone but I want you happy,
I want you to feel awful for what you did, but I want you to come back to me.
I want to hate you, but I want you to love me…
because I love you still.
So happy birthday, thank you for the memories, the laughs, the smiles, and thank you for the love we shared.
I hope one day it will overcome the hatred we share.
Last year, something horribly tragic occurred on a large road about a quarter mile away from my house. In the early morning, around 4am a car crashed into a tree carrying four teens, three of them dying on impact. It was horrific, I didn’t learn about it until later that day. However, the night of the accident I had a horribly lucid dream in which I woke up in my bed and it was pitch black. The only reason I could see anything was because of the pale blue tint to the pitch black night, my windows were open and I could see out into my street. All of the sudden a shuddering scream arose in the distance, so prominently loud, accompanied by millions of other screams; the world was crying around me, falling into indescribable chaos. I was confused to begin with, until I could feel the feel screams shift as if they were a wave, the amplitude approaching my street, and it was in that moment that I completely froze. It felt as if every soul, petrified in doom, burst out in a thunderous cacophony of deafening terror, a vocal representation of the gothic interpretation of hell. I was unable to move. It felt as if the screams were searching, surveying the world for a single living thing, for me, and any movement I made would lead them straight to me. So I waited, I sat there and waited as the apex of noise approached, peaked, and as it passed I simply awoke. I checked the time to see if I could return to sleep and I saw that it was only 4:30 in the morning so I could get back to sleep, it took a while but I returned to sleep peacefully, although still bothered by the dream I just had. I woke up that morning with the dream lingering in the back of my mind but without much worry attached to it, so I went about my day as if nothing had happened, because to me, nothing had. We went out to lunch, on a different road from the wreck, and when we returned we came down that road where my father told me about the conversation he had with one of our neighbors earlier about the wreck and how it had happened there early in the morning yesterday. And as the words left his mouth the feeling of dread became so strong that I couldn’t speak. I just sat there dumbfounded as we approached the site of the crash where a candlelight vigil was being prepared.