So yeah, I cut my hair.
Let's address the elephant in the room. For a lot of my close people, this may have come as a big surprise to you.
For those of you that don't know me too well, I’ll explain why: I went my entire life, up to this point, without ever cutting my hair. What started out as a decision based on religious beliefs became a personal decision to keep my hair as I got older. You see in Sikhism, we're taught that God has given you hair; modifying what he gives you is disrespecting his gift to you. Plus it is part of our identity to embrace uncut hair, and for men, with a turban to symbolize Sikhism-- so others can identify us from a mile away. I could go on about my religious beliefs, but I don't find any ownership in these words. I never owned these beliefs, that's the problem. I went about them, I regurgitated what I was supposed to say, what I was supposed to represent-- but deep down, it wasn’t me.
Does that make me a hypocrite? No. I’ve never really said I was a religious man. I was born into this culture and religion-- by no means am I ever rejecting the richness of my upbringing and culture, but it wasn’t my independent choice to value hair the way that I did, to wear a turban, and to follow Sikhism. But I did. And I had no problem with it until I faced hardship for being "different"; which is when I built resentment for having to do something I didn’t really believe in myself.
"I could go on about my religious beliefs, but I don't find any ownership in these words. I never owned these beliefs, that's the problem."
So as I got older, I began to let go of it all. Everything. I was attached to only what I believed in myself. I believed in wearing a turban, in keeping my hair; but I slowly became detached from being vegetarian, I began doing my eyebrows. In college, I started trimming my beard. I began to realize slowly that my attachment to hair was ridiculous. I, like my community, valued hair and the external identity more than anything else. In my community, there was an insane amount of emphasis put on appearing like a Sikh, rather than living righteously as one. People can be complete shitbags on the inside, but may “look” orthodox-- and that’s with any religion. The hypocrisy and judgmental sentiment of my community made me want to reject everything Sikh entirely-- and that disheartened me more than anything, but sadly that’s what I did. I pushed it all away. For everything that was shoved down my throat as a kid from my community, it was time for me to take my space from it all. From the guilt trips I, and many other kids, received from elders about not praying enough, to cutting our hair, to being too scandalous in our teenage years, to realizing everyone around me was leading double lives and hiding their own “shameful” sins-- I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. And it’s where I’ve been me for the past 5-6 years.
I let it all go, and I told myself that if I were to ever come back to any part of my culture or faith, it would be because it meant something to me. I would find my own way back, on my own terms, if I came back to it at all. You see nothing really works out when you're not doing it for you. Would I have made the decision to cut my hair if I truly believed in keeping it for the right reasons?
Well I asked myself why I wasn’t cutting it. Most of my hesitation came from what my parents would think-- and boy, that’s just not the right place to be coming from. I knew it didn’t mean what I thought it meant to me. So I rationally decided on what I did want-- I wanted a new look, I wanted something that would compliment my face better. And my uncut hair was just not doing it. So I did it. Sure it still took a lot of courage because my long hair has been my identity for 27 years! And I was afraid of the change and how things could possibly be different. But it was a dive I was willing to take. Do I need to explain any of this? Not really. I don’t care if anyone thinks of me any different. I know that I’ve always lived truthfully to myself-- and only want to exude my authentic self on the outside as well. There’s a lot that I value about my Punjabi culture and Sikh religion, I will continue to wear a turban proudly because that’s such a deep part of my life-- and something I will continue to represent not only for myself, but for every other sardar.
And don’t get me wrong, I do hope to come back on my own terms. To fall in love with something that is so familiar to me, because deep down, I do believe in it all. But that’s a journey only I can go on-- with God and myself. But for now, I’m choosing to work on everything within myself; my spirituality, my growth, my centeredness. You decide what works for you and you stick to that-- there’s no need in doing anything else.
So do what works for you. Make decisions that support that and those that support you will eventually come around. There’s no point in living any other way, it will only breed resentment and unhappiness. Those words took many years for me to internalize, so I hope maybe they’ll come a little easier for you.