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

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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.


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.

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… Read more »

Con­grat­u­la­tions. :) This is very inspi­ra­tional. Con­grats again!


Very inir­i­ta­tion­al! BTW,.my name is,Jennice as well,with a dif­fer­ent


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!


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


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.

The Natural Haven

Love­ly, I love see­ing more and more PhDs in the nat­u­ral world. I know the jour­ney and it is worth every long night in the lab :)


Con­grat­u­la­tions on receiv­ing your doc­tor­ate Geniece! 

I notice I tend to cut my hair when I’m about to enter new phas­es of my life. Big chopped and went nat­u­ral when I got engaged, and after I get mar­ried, plan on cut­ting my hair again. Even when I was relaxed, when I was ready for a change, I cut my hair. Spir­i­tu­al­ly, its a new begin­ning…

Nature Girl

Sis­ta Doc­tor can edu­cate your mind and give hair care advice. You bet­ter werk that PhD!


Major con­grat­u­la­tions to you and your many goals! I caught “Aun­tie” Oprah’s speech on YT and it was inspir­ing.


I start­ed my jour­ney over in Octo­ber 2013. I can retire in 5 years and I’m let­ting my hair grow to see how long it will get for 5 years and also tak­ing bet­ter care of myself inside and out. I love it bet­ter this time.


con­grats on reach­ing both of your goals!


CONGRATS ON YOUR COMPLETION OF GRAD SCHOOL!!! What a major accom­plish­ment!! what did you get your doc­tor­ate in? I am in the process of look­ing at schools for my doctorate.…it feels like it is time to start that por­tion of my journey…not sure what I want to do it in yet..just know it is time.…I am so proud of you and find you to be such an inspir­ing wom­an!!!


Wow this was an inspir­ing read! I am hap­py to know that there is one more pro­fes­sor of col­or that will teach and moti­vate our diverse lead­ers of the future!


Beau­ti­ful sto­ry Doc­tor and con­grat­u­la­tions.


Con­grat­u­la­tions on the growth you have achieved in every area of your life.


GBU what a great sto­ry!


con­grat­u­la­tions, geniece.


Con­grats Dr. Gene­ice!!!! Beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten! You’re always an inspi­ra­tion!


Con­grat­u­la­tions and more bless­ings on your future endeav­ours.


Very inspir­ing indeed.
Well done and con­grat­u­la­tions on both achieve­ments.
All the best for the future.

Love JAH

I total­ly agree with this essay, pre­ser­vence is the key to achiev­ing any and every goal.…congratulations Dr.! You’ve inspired anoth­er nat­u­ral­is­ta to aim high­er and achieve more


This is beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten. I enjoyed read­ing it.


She’s such an inspi­ra­tion, I pray I can have the same per­se­ver­ance and endurance as I fin­ish my next two years of under­grad and go to grad school.


Won­der­ful sto­ry and jour­ney. Great way to reflect on life. Thanks for shar­ing.

Ernie Jackson

Con­grat­u­la­tions Dr.! Your sto­ry was a good great morn­ing read.