It's funny to me how a couple of years ago, I would stay up late playing Xbox or partying in bars and now I'm this guy... jamming and working on hair. Always.
Life, if you listen to it, will lead you all kinds of different ways. There was a time when I was down on my luck, without a car, and only a grocery store job to prop me up. Working for the weekend, and living out my twenties like a frat-boy pledging. It was fun at first but eventually it got out of hand and I was heading down a terrible path. I remember my first trip to Frank's Barbershop (in Knoxville,TN) like it was yesterday. I had been chasing a haircut for years that I couldn't seem to find. I had a card from a guy who apparently was the "end-all be-all" in hair cutting. I pulled together the $25 it would cost to get a cut and tried to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the guy I wanted was unavailable but another barber, Jayson, had openings if I wanted to go with him. "Why not?" I thought. I'm too impatient to wait and I decided to take a chance.
I had to catch a bus that day from work to the barbershop. It was raining heavily and while life had been doing its fair share of kicking me while I was down, I was hopeful that a nice haircut and a break in a fancy place like Frank's would turn it around. If you've ever driven down Northshore in the rain, you know how deep the water puddles up on the sides of the road. I remember as soon as the doors closed on the bus it started coming down so hard I couldn't see. "Awesome," I thought. I sprinted to the railroad bridge right before Frank's and waited for the rain to slow down Thank God I remembered my rain jacket. I looked over at the barbershop and I saw nice cars rolling in; clients in suits and ties looking fresh despite the torrential downpour, how intimidating.
I looked at myself and tried to assess my situation. I was wearing old worn-out jeans and a Trader Joe's shirt. My shoes were wet but not too bad, my pants looked dry enough, but still I thought to myself, "there is no way I'm going to be able to sit in a barber shop and chat it up with those guys while I sat there like a soaked broke college dropout." But I swallowed my pride and decided to go in anyway.
The rain stopped, that's a good sign. I take a step out from under the bridge and at that moment, like a scene from a movie, a big truck speeds by and completely soaks me with dirty puddle water. At that moment, I had never been more frustrated in my life. I'm over it, I wipe the dirt and tiny gravels off my face and turn around and walk back towards the bus stop. "I'll shave my head. I don't care." I thought, "I will not go in there looking homeless." But then a few steps later, I look back. Why? No idea. A wild gut feeling that I suddenly couldn't fight. A little voice turning me in a direction I was uncomfortable with. Maybe I wanted my haircut that bad, maybe I felt bad for bailing on an appointment or maybe it was life gently whispering in my ear to grow a pair and pick my chin up, go see what happens. I don't always show it, but inside, I really am shy, awkward, and long to fit in.
I pulled my hood down, wiped the hair and gross stuff off my face. I found a dry spot under the bridge and wrenched my shoes as dry as I could and I headed to get my haircut. When I stepped through the door it was like nothing else. Pure class. I felt at home even if I was out of place (I wasn't in retrospect). The girls at the desk smiled, got me a root beer and showed me where to hang my jacket. True to form, I fumble the hanger at least 19 times. Trying not to soak the floor, I squeaked and squished all the back into the lounge.
When I met Jayson, he never mentioned anything about me looking like I swam in a mud puddle and he talked to me like he had known me his whole life. I was just a dude, getting his haircut by another dude. We would share barbers we followed on Instagram with each other, we talked about working out, my never-ending girl problems, and life.
The haircut and every single one afterwards, completely and utterly, changed my life. I eventually went from just having appointments to being a hair model for Jayson. With every cut I would walk a little taller, with a bit more purpose. I was abundantly more confident in myself. I didn't know where I was going but nothing was going to stop me from getting there. When he first told me to go to hair school, I laughed. There is no way, and what on earth did I know about cutting hair. Over time, though, I noticed that while I laughed I didn't stop thinking about it. I decided to take the thoughts seriously until my next haircut and by then it was too late. My heart was sold.
It wasn't going to be easy, but I was going to do it. I moved out of my little apartment and traded in my grocery apron for a night shift at a bar so I could go to school full time I had no clue whether I would be good, successful or even enjoy doing hair but i went and jumped in with both feet into student loans without even questioning it and I realized the night after I signed the papers, that I might be an insane person, I damn near gave myself a heart attack.
But there was no turning back now. The only option was to adapt and overcome, and I did. That day, so long ago, when I went to Frank's in the rain, I very well could have left. I could have given up when the original guy was booked solid. I could have turned around, ashamed of my car-less, mud puddle drenched, drink too much, sleep to little life. I could've shaved my head at home, but I knew for some reason I needed to be there. Where I was, when I was, and who I was with.
A wild hunch can lead you to the truth, or turn you towards a dead end, but it will never fail to teach you something.
For me, I found what I love. My passion. something I strive to get better at every single day. I found a family in my barbershop. People who I would not be able to imagine being without. Frank's saved my hair and my life. I hope that when everyone stumbles upon their own little Frank's Barbershop in their life, they will recognize it for what it is worth, and not pass it by because it's not possible or uncertain.
Explore your uncertainty, you'll never know what you might find. Keep moving forward.
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