This One Experience Taught Me Patience and Persistence

By nature, I am not a patient person.

I’ve always been this way so I can’t blame it on social media, or our instant gratification culture. It’s just my personality - I want what I want when I want it, and that’s usually right away. I think it’s because I’m a researcher and a planner, so I put a lot of effort into making a decision, and thus when I come to a conclusion, I want the payoff right away. I did all the work of figuring things out and making a plan, so I deserve the results as soon as I complete that work, right?

If only life worked that way. In fact, most of life doesn’t work that way. Everyday we do work that we don’t know is going to pay off. We might have an agreement that it’s going to pay off, or other people may have gotten a good result, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll get the same result. Right now, I’m typing this on my lunch break at my corporate job - on Thursday, I expect to be paid for the work I put in over the last two weeks, but something weird could happen and I might not get paid. It’s an extreme example, but yall get my point.

I’m also not very persistent. I think it’s because growing up I was allergic to everything outside in nature, and I loved books. So instead of rolling around in the grass, I just wanted to stay in my room and read (also I wasn’t allergic to the books, but I was allergic to the grass). While my brothers spent years pursuing athletic pursuits, I had short stints in karate and volleyball before I gave them up for pursuits that came easier to me.

For years I walked around believing that patience and persistence were not in my wheelhouse. I have lots of great skills and qualities but patience or persistence were not among them. I told myself this story for YEARS. Until one day, I realized that it wasn’t actually true anymore - I just simply failed to recognize what patience and persistence looked like in my life.

What made me realize that I had these talents after all? I had an “aha!” moment when I reflected on my natural hair journey.

I spent most of my life relaxing my hair, and I decided to go natural in 2008. Originally it was simply a goal to grow out my relaxer and get to know my natural hair texture, and then see how long I could grow it out. By 2011 by natural hair reached my brastrap when stretched and it was a major time commitment to detangle, wash and style it every week. So in October 2011 , after much research, I decided to start locing my hair. I knew that it would take some time to get the gorgeous locs that I saw on other people, but I was commited to the process. I spent two years battling frizz and shrinkage, and trying to make my hair look presentable while it went through the initial locing phase. In that time, i learned to look past what my hair looked like day to day, and to trust the process. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew eventually I’d have the type of locs that I initially coveted. I grew so detached from the process, that I didn’t even realize that I’d achieved my goal until a friend pointed out to me how long my hair had grown. I’d survived the shrinkage phase and come out on the other side with the hair I’d always wanted. I’m now 7.5yrs into my locs journey, and I regularly get stopped and asked about my hair.

During the two years of the “ugly” shrinkage phase, I could have given up. I could have said “forget this!” and combed them out. Or I could have stressed myself out worrying about how my hair looked, and felt bad about myself. Detaching from the process, and making the active decision to just stay the course, is what allowed me to have the patience and persistence to go through the difficult time.

So why have I been thinking of myself as someone with no patience or persistence? Because the one place where I’ve struggled with this the most is with my body acceptance journey. Over the years I’ve had periods of weight loss and gain, and judge myself over it. I’ve tried lots of different strategies - tracking, daily weighing, challenges - and while I’ve had periods of success, nothing has really stuck. I know what to do, I just struggle with consistency and continuing to stay the course.

Thinking about my hair journey has allowed me to reflect on the type of person I really am, and what works works for my life and my personality. Giving myself more credit, and also grace, has gone a long way in changing the narrative that I’ve told myself around patience and persistence.