How My Journey to Waist Length Hair Paralleled my Journey Through Harvard Graduate School

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When you begin any journey you look towards your future goal, outline your objectives and decide the steps necessary to meet your goal. This is what I did 3 ½ years ago when I began my hair journey. There was another aspect of my hair journey that motivated me along the way. During this season of graduations and the commencement of new beginnings I’d like to share how my hair journey taught me unexpected lessons about other areas of my life.

I began my healthy hair journey at a time when I was rather frustrated with my hair. It had been 5 years since I went natural and my hair was at a stand still. It felt stuck and needed to change my approach to hair care. My hair wasn’t the only area of my life in which I felt stuck. Around the time that I decided to revamp my hair care regimen I found myself feeling uncertain about my future in graduate school. Like my hair progress, I felt uncomfortable and considered a drastic change.

I am not romantic about hair care. I don’t believe that there are life altering existential questions that result from retaining length or solving the issue of single strand knots. However, I do believe the lessons we learn from the simple and unexpected aspects of our lives can teach us lessons we can apply to more important areas of our lives. In changing my approach to hair care I learned to be more patient with my hair. When I saw that a change in method yielded valuable results it reminded me that my graduate education was a race of endurance and that even when I felt like giving up, consistency and perseverance were, in the long run, necessary to my ultimate success.

Perhaps one of ways my academic journey most closely paralleled my hair journey was the length goal I set for myself in the fall of 2009. I told myself that I hoped to reach waist length by the time I received my doctorate. Now, of course if I completed my degree more quickly than expected and didn’t reach my hair goal, well that would actually be a good thing. At the time I set the goal my graduation seemed a long way off so a goal that would take me 3 or 4 years to reach was realistic. As I twisted and tucked, moisturized and sealed my hair, I also analyzed data, drafted chapters and read books and articles. The longer my hair grew, the easier I found it to style it into a simple updo when I presented at conferences or interviewed for jobs. Over time I stopped stressing about hair growth and as I became more comfortable in my own skin, I grew more confident in my academic pursuits.

So often when we start a journey the end seems so far a way that we are tempted to give up before we begin. The passage of time, however, is inevitable and we can spend that time pursing our goals or wishing we had not given up.I started my graduate career just after college less than a year removed from my big chop. I wore ear length twists to first year theory seminars and cute puffs to the library. Years later, PhD in hand, I’ll be styling waist length as I stand in front of college undergraduates when I begin my next journey as a college professor. My hair journey, like my academic journey has been long and eventful. It is a journey that isn’t over but one that I am happy to reflect upon and share with you.

Has your hair journey coincided with major life events?



Island girl raised in the most royal of NYC's boroughs. Proud nerd, social scientist, educator and recovering awkward black girl. When not listening to NPR, trying to grow spiritually, or detangling my fro, I'm searching for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.


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31 thoughts on “How My Journey to Waist Length Hair Paralleled my Journey Through Harvard Graduate School

  1. GO ON, GIRL!!!!!, or should I say Dr. Geniece. Congratulations on your wonderful achievement! I really enjoyed reading this piece. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Congrats! I know how hard it can get sometimes in a Ph.D. Program. Finished mine last year. On to new challenges!

  3. I LOVE this story–perseverance and hard work pays off in every area of life. I follow Geniece’s Youtube channel and she has gorgeous hair and a beautiful spirit to match!

  4. This is such an inspiring story for me. I started my PhD program last August along with making a decision to wear my natural hair out at some point during this journey. I have been natural for about nine years now, but never wore my hair out. I would wrap it, put in sew ins, and twists (extensions). I slowly am coming to the realization that I want to be comfortable in my own skin. Part of this is wearing my hair out and celebrating it. I’m slowly getting there. This PhD journey is allowing me to learn so much about myself and I want to enjoy it fully. Thanks for sharing this story, as it helps me to see that my goal is achievable with patience, perseverance, and determination.

  5. I’d love to read more stories like this. Wonderful, inspirational article. It was about so much more than hair. Congratulations, Dr. Geniece!

    • I want to show my affection for your gsteroeiny supporting those people that must have assistance with your question. Your real commitment to getting the solution throughout turned out to be particularly good and have in every case empowered women like me to arrive at their pursuits. Your personal helpful report indicates a great deal to me and further more to my fellow workers. With thanks; from all of us.

  6. Thanks for the kind words everyone. Whatever your journey, be it hair or otherwise, is within reach. To borrow the Nike slogan: Impossible is NOTHING!

  7. Oh waw, this has just motivated me to go for it for my MA degree. And yes my hair journey, that spans 7 years as of november 2013, has coincided with some major life events that I don’t have time to outline here. Thank you for inspiring me and coming to the same realization I did: patience is key.

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