Next week, I turn 26 years old.*
Twenty-six is an interesting year to me. I’ve now lived a quarter-century of life, which is both a lot yet nothing at all, in the grand scheme of things.
It’s also funny to me because **cliche warning** I’m settling into what it feels like to no longer be the youngest version of myself. While I still (hopefully) have plenty of life to live, I no longer feel beholden to some of the habits I kept simply because I was younger and it was what everyone my age did.
Call it maturity, close-mindedness, or pretentiousness, but I feel like I’ve been drunk at every type of party or bar I could be drunk at. While it was a lot of fun even a couple of years ago, binge drinking is no longer appealing to me and honestly doesn’t have any utility.
Does that mean I won’t ever do it again? Probably not. I’m sure I’ll grab a one-way ticket to Litty City again someday.
But I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where I don’t feel like I’m missing out when my 22 year-old neighbors throw a kegger at 7 AM on St. Patrick’s Day or when my friends get blasted into another dimension on the weekends.
With age and experience, I’ve become more secure with my actions and feel confident in behaving more rationally without justifying myself.
And while I still find myself doing things that are motivated by the desire to please others on occasion, I believe I’ve cut back significantly. I’m trying to get better at saying no and am proud of the progress I’ve made in that department.
I’m at peace with living life on my terms and it’s a place I enjoy being in. It’s a state not achieved without struggle (confusing double negative I know, sue me) though, but I’m also learning to enjoy the process.**
Why am I spewing all of this narcissistic nonsense you probably don’t give a shit about? Well, I am a self-proclaimed and often-accused narcissist, so there’s that.
But I think it’s worth noting that there was one definitive moment that my self-confidence really took a major leap over the last two years. It was one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made, but arguably had the most profound impact.
It may seem trivial and foolish, but I think anyone going through a similar struggle can agree: deciding to give up on my sad hair and going bald was one of the best, yet most nerve racking things I ever did.
Realizing I was going bald
While I’ve had a receding hairline for pretty much ever, it’s hard to tell if your hair is thinning from the crown of your head. That is, unless someone takes a picture of the back of your head from two stories up and shows it to you. Then it’s pretty obvious.
That’s what happened in the winter of 2017, where I was talking on a panel at an event and a photographer got a shot of us from behind and sent it to the group. Being the self-centered goober I am, I looked for myself in all of the pictures. This is what I found:
The average person may not notice anything too incriminating, but I naturally freaked the fuck out and instantly emailed one of my best friends and fellow panel members to lament:
God bless your heart, Bodecker. I think he was trying to let me down easy, but those two hours of waiting for a response were not kind to me. The internal panic began.
This was my first ego death regarding my hair. I had always thought I wouldn’t have to worry about balding until at least my late thirties. I was wrong.
So, I did what any reasonable person would do in my situation: I ignored it for as long as possible. I was busy traveling and having fun, so the whole fact that I was losing hair like MC Hammer lost money in the 2000’s didn’t really bother me too much.
Then, this picture was taken in November of the same year:
And despite me looking as sexy as ever, I finally realized that this hair thing wasn’t getting any better on its own. I had to do something. Anything, really. I wasn’t going to make this sorry excuse for luscious locks work.
So, I bought some Rogaine. Long story short, it sucked. I know it works by thinning out your hair so new thicker follicles can grow in, but I was impatient and truthfully didn’t see myself putting chemicals on my skull twice a day for the rest of my life.
At that point, I pretty much had no other options. I figured I could hang onto my sickly lettuce for a few more years; I mean, if I got my hair to look just right, I felt confident. But that meant I was constantly checking my reflection, wouldn’t dare wear hats or sweat whatsoever, and despised the whole concept of wind.
That made me feel pretty pathetic. It made me feel like I had no agency over my situation. It sucked and I was not going to let my hair just fade away like that. Nope, I was going out with a bang.
The first clean shave
So, on December 31st, 2017, at the age of 24, I confronted my biggest fear and took a Bic razor to my dome. I went bald in my early twenties, something I never thought would happen, even a year prior. It happened fast and I was honestly pretty shook in the early months.
Going bald is a fucking strange thing because people instantly notice, but don’t know what to say to you. It was fun to see people’s eyes dart up at my chrome dome, then back to my eyes, then back to my chrome dome in disbelief. It always cracked me up how people I didn’t know well wouldn’t say anything even though their whole body language screamed surprise.
That’s why I just said the proverbial “to hell with it” and started addressing the elephant in the room. When I met people I hadn’t seen in awhile, I’d just open with “guess who’s bald now?!?” like it was a good thing or something. It wasn’t a good thing, really. But it wasn’t a bad thing either. It just was what it was.
People understood. I could tell some of them judged me or felt bad for me. In a way, it was a filter to see who my real friends were: polarizing life choices help show people’s true colors.
While the first few months were difficult, I ultimately got used to the new look and genuinely grew to love it. I stopped impulsively checking my reflection in every window like a goofy chimp would, invested in some dope hats, and could take naps without ever having to worry about fucking up my hair. All wins in my book.
When you go bald though (or make any really sort of dramatic life change, I suppose), there are two distinct moments you need to get through. The first is the actual change in real time: the first time you leave your house with your new schtick on display. The second is the first time you post a picture of your new persona on social media for the world at large to see. That can be nerve racking.
Most people were pretty supportive of my change. Some weren’t so impressed and distanced themselves: I had girls that I liked literally stop messaging me. Oh well. While rejection in any form is not a pleasurable experience, it was a worthwhile opportunity to find out where I stood with a large portion of those that truly cared about me.
Because, let’s be honest, if you judge someone solely based on how they look, you’re a piece of garbage I want nothing to do with. I thank them for being transparent though: it made it easier to weed them out of my life.
I’ve been rocking the Vin Diesel special for over a year now and it’s hands-down the best decision I’ve ever made. Better than living in a van for a year. Better than going out on my own to start my business. Better than buying a Kimbo Slice Fight Club t-shirt.
No decision, exercise, or practice has given me more self-confidence than going bald and letting my depressingly thin hair go. Nothing has made me more comfortable in my own skin than this seemingly inconsequential choice.
I can’t control how my hair grows. Sure, I can try and stop mother nature from running its course like Brian Urlacher did***, but I just fundamentally don’t believe in it. To me, that feels like putting a band-aid over your insecurities. It may solve the issue in the short term, but deep-down you’re just masking the symptom of you giving too big of a fuck about what others think.
As I said in my TEDxUIUC talk, no one actually cares what you look like. People are too obsessed with their own appearance and problems to waste more than a passing thought on judging you. Get over yourself.
For me, losing my hair was the equivalent of being thrown in the deep end of the “not giving a fuck” pool. As a vain person, it was frightening. Yet, I survived. And now, on the other side, I’m more confident than ever. Going bald didn’t stop me.
It wasn’t easy. There was heartbreak. There was rejection. There was a lot of self-doubt and loneliness. But, you know what, life goes on. I have so much to be grateful for and, if you’re reading this, I bet you do too. Don’t let trivial matters like your vanity consume your life.
Because no one cares.
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*I know, no one cares.
**This may seem trite and you may roll your eyes, but I still live by this: Happiness = Reality — Expectations aka process >> outcome
***Restore, if you pay me, maybe we can talk? Otherwise, hard no.