I recently had a few friends get haircuts which were shorter than they’d intended. About a year ago, I encountered the same issue myself so I know that it can take weeks to reinforce the damaged self-image that comes with a less-than-ideal haircut. Just when you think you’re used to your new look, you glimpse yourself in a mirror and are shocked, once again, by your own reflection. And, for some reason, it’s not enough to tell yourself that it will grow back.
But it’s not just dealing with the short cut until it grows back. It’s also about the time in between the “too-short” and the “normal.”
The time I somewhat-unaffectionately call the awkward middle.
The awkward middle is a phase which occurs in the transition between short and long hair-styles. Even if you like your short cut, you still have to progress through the awkward middle phase to return to anything long.
And there are points where you feel completely horrendous.
If you don’t know what I’m referencing, you’ve either never grown out short hair (or bangs – ugh!) or you were blessed with an iron self esteem, unbreakable by even the most unsightly blemish. Or you’re a man. If you fall into one or more of those categories, bear with me. I promise there’s a point to all this.
While trying to encourage my friends that their new styles didn’t look nearly as bad as they thought, the topic of the awkward middle stage of re-growth came up. And my response was far more poignant than I intended:
You just have to live through the awkward middle.
And suddenly, we were talking about much more than hair. Suddenly, we were talking about life.
You see, the awkward middle is a perfect metaphor for transition periods in life. Yes, they can be awkward. Yes, they can be unsightly. Yes they can be uncomfortable. They can even be embarrassing. But they’re necessary.
With the possible exception of hair extensions (but does that really count?), there is only one way to go from short hair to long hair: time. And, similarly, it takes time to transition from one phase of life to another. Even if phases seem to butt up against one another, there is still a period of transition internally as the mind shifts from one role to another. And no matter how smooth the transition may be, from the inside, it will almost definitely be awkward.
And it can take a long time. Or at least seem that way.
From the outside, working for two months, six months, a year, two years at a job you hate while waiting for a better one to come along may seem like a short transition period. Once it’s over, it will probably feel short as well. But while living it? Ages will stretch on into ages as you wonder if this awkward middle stage will ever end!
But it will be worth it in the end.
Waiting to close the distance on a long-distance relationship can feel like an eternity. A painful, awkward, eternity. But it’s a time that must be navigated like any other transitional period.
And it will be worth it in the end.
Finishing those classes you hate to get the degree you must have for the job you know you’ll love. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Necessary.
And it will all be worth it in the end.
Because the nature of a transition is change. Every true transition is leading somewhere or becoming something – something new.
But life shouldn’t end during these awkward middle times. You have to live through the awkward middle. If you focus only on the time following your escape from the awkward middle phase, you’ll miss out on the life in between. Life doesn’t end because you’re in a transition! If you look only to the future, you’ll miss out on the life you can live in the middle phase – in those times between the glimpses into the mirror that remind you that your hair is not at its best. While in the awkward middle stage: don’t forget to live!