When I was very young I thought that hairspray was something that one put on their hair in order to stop it from growing. I remember being excited over the possibility of preserving the perfect length of my hair. I looked forward to locking in a hairstyle and length so that I wouldn’t have to ever worry about my hair again. In fact, because of this misunderstanding of the purpose of hairspray, I often wondered why so many people experienced stress and concern over their hair? I never understood the proliferation of hair care products on TV and in the grocery stores. I also didn’t understand why there were so many beauty salons and barber shops out there. Didn’t everyone understand that they could lock in their hair length as well as their hair style, simply by using hairspray?
Of course, I later discovered my misunderstanding of the purpose of hairspray. I remember being disappointed when I learned that hairspray only held your hair in place for the better part of a day. In that moment of revelation I realized that my life, like the lives of so many other people, would be consumed with caring for my hair. After this revelation I experienced moments when I longed for my misunderstanding of the purpose of hairspray. I admit that I still think about it today. How cool would it be if there was a hairspray that could lock your hair into any length and style that you wanted!
You might not have had this same misunderstanding of the purpose of hairspray, but I bet you can remember a time when you believed something to be true; just to later realize that it wasn’t. And, I bet, you have experienced times when you longed for those simpler days, when you lived with this misunderstanding. It is perfectly natural for all of us to live with misunderstandings and it is perfectly natural to also have moments of longing for our past misunderstandings. This is called growth. Growth doesn’t come at the expense of what was before. Growth comes in addition to what was before. Nobody forgets what they have misunderstood. These layers of misunderstanding and growth are what forms the rings of our lives. If you could cut someone’s life down, like a tree, you would find ring upon ring of misunderstanding and growth.
We experience this reality every single day. We learn new things, but we don’t forget the misunderstandings that came before the learning and the growth. In the midst of all of this, we have moments of longing for life that was, with our misunderstandings. We long for when we didn’t have to deal with the growth that is caused by living in a pandemic. We long for when we didn’t have to deal with the growth that is caused by living with the acknowledgement that racism is a real thing. We long for when we didn’t have to deal with the growth that is caused by living with the understanding that not all police officers are the same. We long for when we didn’t have to deal with the growth that is caused by living in a world with fake news, social media, gender identification questions, homelessness, drug abuse, physical abuse, social isolation and death.
No matter how much we might long for an earlier time in our lives, when we could comfortably live with our misunderstandings, learn and grow we must. For the alternative is unrealistic and unacceptable. So, here’s to all of our misunderstandings, both past and present, that have caused us and will cause us to learn and grow. Oh, and if any of you have an idea about how we can make hairspray that will stop the growth of hair, I am in!