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“Don’t Cut Your Hair!”

October 15, 2015

It started with Wolverine.

wolverine

Four years ago I let my hair grow through the month of October in order to portray the X-men superhero. I’m taller and lankier than Hugh Jackman – and my hair is the wrong color – but it was just Halloween. A pair of old gloves with fake spikes and I was good to go.

Wolverine (2)

Wolverine is a tortured soul. Lacking any memory, he searches for the people who radically altered his mind and body. An anti-hero in the vein of Steve McQueen, he’s more interested in vengeance than justice. But along the way he meets the ‘good guys’ and is given a chance at redemption. His story is by far the most evolved of the X-men characters. He’s also a drop-dead sexy fucker.

Several months later, for no obvious reason, I hadn’t cut my hair. It’d reached that annoying length where it wouldn’t stay in place but couldn’t be pulled into a ponytail. Action was necessary.

Around that same time my life had become as unruly as my mop. I wasn’t satisfied with being a handyman and craved change. It was affecting my relationship and my parenting abilities. Something had to give.

On February 1st, 2012, I made a vow not to cut my hair until I’d won a contest, published a story, or otherwise kick-started a writing career. For the next several months I blogged weekly, then monthly, until eventually the posts trickled down to a yearly update. There wasn’t much to say: not published yet, still working, keeping the faith alive.

So why am I considering a haircut now, three and a half years later?

In a word: Halloween. There’s another character I want to impersonate, and this time I intend to do it properly… even if it means breaking my vow.

spikeSpike, from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is also a tortured soul. But unlike Wolverine, James Marsters’ character has no one to blame but himself. Humiliated for his lackluster poetry, shunned by the woman he loved and everyone around him, Spike embraced the darkness. He wasn’t an anti-hero but a villain in his own right – until he fell in love again. His story of redemption is one of the most compelling – and long-lasting – tales woven throughout the Buffy universe. In the bitter end, battling desperate odds with no hope for victory, Spike sits down and reads a poem – the same one that set him on his path so many years ago.

In writing, as in life, you can’t succeed by taking half-measures. You have to know what you want and go out and get it. My Wolverine costume was okay for trick-or-treating, but it wasn’t a commitment. And my vow, for all its enthusiasm, was naïve and poorly-defined.

What did I want out of a writing career: fame and fortune, literary immortality, an alternative to manual labor, or simply an audience – or some mishmash of everything? I didn’t know, and not knowing, I assumed I would get it all. So I began to study popular artists in order to learn what to do from the get-go. How to set myself up for success. And I have to say neither fame nor fortune impressed me.

confuciusConfucius allegedly said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

At the risk of contradicting such a venerable philosopher, there’s a subtle danger in turning your passion into your profession. Every job eventually becomes a grind. What happens when the thing you love to do becomes the thing you have to do?

Something must remain sacred. For me it is writing.

As for fame… well. It’s become clear that most celebrities are popular simply because they’re celebrities, and not because they have any particular insight into the human condition. They’re normal people that gain renown from some extraordinary achievement, then get shamed on social media for their political views or sense of humor. Of course there are exceptions, but by and large fame brings judgment, and I’m not interested in defending myself from people I’ve never met who think they know me by what I write.

I have, in short, achieved clarity. My writing goals are growth, insight, and the desire to spin a twisted yarn or two. I’m not trying to sell my words. I just want to lead the fullest life I can while the opportunity is available.

What is a haircut but chance for new growth?

me as spike spike3

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