Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A last hairah

Crikey, I have a big forehead.
I'm growing out my hair. It looks terrible at the moment but I'm hoping things will magically improve. Not that there's any historical evidence to suggest it will. I've grown my hair twice before, and in both cases it was generally agreed by all my friends and family to have been a bad idea.

But hope springs eternal. The idea was planted in my head a month or so ago when Jenn and I rode out to the Gower, a peninsula just to the west of Swansea that is listed as an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

It strikes me as so quintessentially British that there is such an official designation. And it is a designation that is so quintessentially British. Only the people of this soggy archipelago could turn a random phrase into another layer of bureaucracy. No doubt there exists, too, an official designation for A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit-Down. Surely it is possible (through a series of examinations, of course) to be awarded official He's a Bit Funny You Know status, which then makes one eligible for disability payments. 

All I can really tell you about Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) is that there are 46 of them in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I can't really explain what they are except to say they are kind of like the UK's national parks. But, see, explaining what the hell a national park is in Britain is equally challenging. And dude, I work for the national parks. 

Where was I? Oh, that's right. Hair. Jenn and I went swimming at the beach and I hadn't had a haircut in about a month, so I was beginning to look a little shaggy. The seawater managed to style my hair in such a way that, if I squinted and used a lot of imagination, made me think I looked kind of just a tiny bit like Matthew McConaughey.

And, really, that's a good enough reason to do just about anything. But also I suppose the idea of growing out my hair got into my head (see what I did there?) because I was thinking a lot about my then-upcoming 20-year high school reunion. Or rather, I was thinking about all the things one thinks about in connection to a 20-year high school reunion. Age and where I am in life and so on. Through this, some part of me decided I should grow my out hair again -- while I still have hair to grow.

A last hairah, if you will.

I'm not yet sure how long I want to grow it. At the very least, I'll take things this far, which is more or less how I was wearing my hair when I first moved to Wales 8 years ago. If I can be bothered, I might carry on to something like this, which is how I was rocking it just a few months before that. I'm not entirely sure how easy the latter would be when trying to stuff it into a motorcycle helmet, though. We'll see.

What's interesting to me about this sudden hair-growing business is that there seems to be an emotional reason for doing it, some subconscious statement I'm not sure I understand. As I say, I have grown out my hair twice before, and can now see a few patterns. Specifically, in all cases I have been exhausted with where I am. Not so much with where I am in my life, but where I am physically.

The first time I grew my hair long was during my final year living in San Diego. With the power of hindsight I can now say some decent things about America's Finest City but at the time I hated it. Hated it. Remember back in 1998 when Chris Jericho decided to list all the wrestling holds he knew? Similarly, I carried in my head a long list to explain why San Diego was one of the worst places one could ever have the misfortune of visiting.

Yes, it had beach and mountains and year-round agreeable weather, but it also had a whole lot of self-absorbed people who didn't give a damn about protecting those things, an untamed urban sprawl, and a corrupt local government that cared only about attracting tourism dollars but not about using those dollars to improve the lives of residents in any way. And if you were trying to get by on the salary of an associate producer at a local TV station you found yourself feeling very much like an indentured servant -- slipping ever deeper and more inescapably into debt.

So, when R got accepted into a master's degree programme at the University of Minnesota, and we knew we'd be leaving San Diego, I pretty much clocked out. I grew my hair, I started wearing T-shirts to work, and I stopped making any effort to socialise. San Diego wasn't my place anymore. I was just killing time; for me, it was as if we were living in an airport.

I loved that St. Paul. Still do. But within three years I was growing my hair again. This time because we were moving to Wales. I hadn't fallen out of love with good ol' Pig's Eye, but had become infatuated with the idea of moving to Britain, of finally earning a college degree, of having a life that I imagined people might be jealous of at a high school reunion (a). So, again I clocked out of where I was, again I grew my hair, again I wore T-shirts to work.

Eight years later, there are no terribly solid plans for Jenn and I to leave Cardiff. But I have clocked out, nonetheless. I'm wearing T-shirts at work, I'm growing out my hair, and I find it hard to be social.

There are plans to leave. We've been telling ourselves and others that we want to move to St. Paul in 2019 (b) but that date is pretty far away. As I've said many times before, God hates plans. Five years (or, well, 4 years, 10 months and 7 days) is a too-long time to plan for reliably. We can work toward something, can have a goal in mind, but all kinds of things can happen in the next 1,772 days that could change things entirely. It is a leaving date too nebulous and too distant for me to have clocked out.

But I have, man. I am so tired of this city (c). Tired of this region. It wears on me. Objectively, I can see that South Wales isn't the worst place in the world. I mean, hey, I'd choose Cymru over Cambodia any time. But emotionally I am so defeated by it all. And I find myself in a mental state of just waiting to go. Like sitting in an airport, waiting to be allowed to board a plane.

Some part of my brain has flicked the switch on this place. I'm ready to leave. The next 1,772 days cannot pass quickly enough. To pass the time, I'll be growing my hair.

____________________

(a) It seemingly always comes back to high school reunions for me.

(b) I feel it would be poetic if we were to arrive on 4 July 2019, choosing Independence Day to mimic the scene in Avalon when the family patriarch arrives in America for the first time and thinks the fireworks are for him.

(c) See, from this point I had planned to write quite a bit about how displeased I am with every facet of South Wales, but that demands too much energy. There was a time when i could rant for hours, scream against this place with such vitriol it made me sick. But now I can't make myself care that much. I just want to go.

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