Rise Above the Fear By Learning from the Past

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Just the Way You Are

I sat in the stylist’s chair at some fancy salon at a now non-existent Mall.  I had decided to get a perm.  It was the horrible hair era of  1977.  A quick wash and trim and then I waited for what seemed like forever for the stylist to roll my hair.  My mom had left me there and had come back to check a couple times.  While I waited, Billy Joel’s classic song, “Just the Way You Are” floated throughout the hi-fi speakers at the salon.

I looked at myself in the mirror as Billy sang, “Don’t go changing, to try and please me, don’t change the color of your hair…” I glanced at the door and hoping my mom would show up and take me away.  She didn’t and I went through with it. One of the worst decisions a fourteen-year old girl, just starting high school could make.  I looked like a brunette poodle, and not in a good way.  And to make matters worse, the hair around my forehead and my widow’s peak had been burned off at the roots.  Luckily, my bangs covered it, for a time.  That is until it started to grow out and I had one-inch stick straight hairs sticking out.  I tried to blow dry it out and have Farrah Fawcett wings, no chance.

Looking for a Change a Chance

I had wanted something different than what I had.  I had hoped that technology and a good hairdresser would change all that; as if looking like a permed-out Barbra Streisand would make a freshman in high school feel better about her looks.  I should have stuck with the Dorothy Hamill cut I had in junior high.  Maybe not.  It seemed that I always wanted more or something different than what I had.  Most pubescent girls do.

Being Different is OK

I was an odd duck and I was friends with many different types of people from different grade levels and different stations.  I had lunch a couple times in the large quad with a senior girl who had cerebral palsy; I had a brother severely afflicted with the same condition and so Monica’s hardship never bothered me.  I thought she was smart and very funny.  She decided to run for Treasurer and asked me to be her Campaign Manager, a poodled-cut freshman.  I don’t know what she was thinking.  Apparently, I didn’t know what I was thinking either because one-month later, I stood in front of the entire student body with fried hair and delivered a speech with a shaky voice and shaky hands, but I had done it.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I had conquered so many fears, in one fell swoop, that it didn’t matter that my hair was falling out and that my candidate lost by a landslide.  I had won.  A small but impactful victory. I had silenced one of those inner voice that screamed self-doubt with streaks of terror.

What Are You Made of?

Sometimes, we are given challenges to do just that:  Challenge.  To see of what we are made.  To prove our metal.  To rise above the fear. To grow and maybe even be able to say, with all conviction, “Ok, I tried that and it didn’t work for me. I don’t ever have to wonder about that again.”  And then the next time, the next new venture, it isn’t as scary and the doubts are fewer, less persuasive.

I have said to myself, in the dark of my room, when no one else could hear, “You are strong. You will succeed.”   And that was just last week.  Some lessons take longer to learn than others.


“Maybe everyone can live beyond what they are capable of.” – Markus Zuzak


by Rayanne Thorn



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