Getty / Jeff Kravitz
Michal Walther
June 29, 2016 11:05 am

I grew up in a family where bold self-expression was frowned upon. As someone who’s quirky and has never really fit in, it was difficult to grow up with that kind of mindset projected onto me. It also didn’t help that I went to a school where everyone was required to wear a uniform and something as minute as patterned socks were banned. In many ways, it seemed that self-expression in and of itself was banned. I couldn’t be myself at home or at school, where could I? The truth is, for a really long time, I couldn’t.

When you take away someone’s freedom of self-expression, you essentially take away their agency. And when you take away someone’s agency, things go awry for that person. I felt as if I wasn’t in control of my own life, and that terrified me. Someone else was deciding my haircut, the color on my nails, the clothes I wore, the music I listened to. I’ve always been the more eccentric one if my family, so my parents paid especially close attention to things I did or wore. I found myself feeling ashamed for wanting to be different.

Since the age of 10, my inspiration has been Hayley Williams of Paramore. She embodies everything I’ve always wanted to be. As a kid, I dreamed of having brightly-colored hair, wearing crazy-cool eye makeup, and having neon-colored jeans. I also dreamed of being in a rock band and would attempt to imitate her mad head-banging skills in the bathroom where no one could see me. Let me just say that head-banging is an art not easily mastered; but I digress.

For over eight years, all I could do was dream about the day I would leave for college, because hopefully then I would have the freedom to be myself. Even after I left, though, I still felt as if I couldn’t fully express myself because I was afraid of how my parents would react. To do this day, their voices are still in the back of my head, shouting their disapproval. I remember the first time I dyed all of my hair a bright color. I was 19, and chose purple. I remember thinking, “If Hayley can do it, I can do it too.”

As soon as I lathered my hair with that bright dye, I felt this sense of joy wash over me, and I began to cry. It was the first time that I looked in the mirror and smiled at myself. I really liked the person in the mirror. She was confident and looked truly happy. Even though my parents would highly disapprove, I didn’t care, because for the first time ever, I felt as if I had a sense of agency; I had control over who I was, and it was an amazing feeling.

Dyeing my hair was the first step in truly becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be. It gave me the courage I needed to carry out all the other things I’ve wanted to do. I’m proud to say that I’ve tasted the rainbow. I’ve had red, pink, purple, blue, yellow, and green hair. Hayley recently started up a hair dye company, goodDYEyoung, with her friend, Brian O’Connor, and I plan on supporting them through and through. I hope to try every one of their colors. I’m so glad that she has created a safe space for people like me to boldly express themselves without judgment. From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful.

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