The Hair


By Julia Cheung | Twitter: @julias30th

Nov_JuliaYes, I admit it. I have never been faithful to one hairdresser. This isn’t the hairdressers’ fault. It’s really a function of 1) my perfectionism and of 2) my insecurity.

I’ve tried a gazillion different hairstyles: long, short, medium and variations in between. Nothing satisfied. Nothing achieved the ends of being both flattering and trendy.

But this year, at the age of 33, I finally discovered the perfect hairstyle. My friend Maureen had ordered “bun makers” from the internet, bendy thin metal sheets wrapped in black foam. “Sock buns” were all the rage. Girls were wrapping a sock or a donut-sponge inside long hair to give the impression of a larger top-knot. Maureen’s “bun makers” were another variation of that theme. She gave me one. Lo and behold: it was my hair’s salvation!

Not only did the bun-maker yield a splendid top-knot, but it curled my hair. After a few experiments with product, I finally had long loose curls that gave the illusion of extra body that my fine straggly locks so desperately need. I was thrilled. Even more thrilled was I when another friend, Marie, introduced me to dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is a spray-on product that simultaneously sucks up grease and adds body. So nasty day-two hair can be magically revitalized, with body on top and curl on bottom. It’s the hair I’ve always dreamed of.

I share this because I am impossibly vain (God forgive me) but also because this year’s Great Hair Discovery (insert epic instrumental here) uncannily parallels a much more important discovery: a vocational one.

Lost and confused in hair-land is one thing. Lost and confused in career-land is another. And much much harder to navigate. 

I laugh about the hair. It’s been fun and funny journeying through the angst of having limp, fine, bodiless tresses. With hair, nothing’s truly at stake. I can honestly say I would be just as happy with curls as without. God has taught me that “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” Proverbs 31:30. But the career journey. Whew. That is another one altogether.

These days, a woman’s identity is wrapped so much more inextricably around what she does, rather than what she looks like. And for 30-plus years, I have been battling and battling and battling a deep-seated sense that I am not good at anything, not good for anything. I’m a jack of all trades, but master at none. An insidious voice whispers that I’ll never be successful at anything.

So with insecurities so deep, so dark and so deceitful, no wonder it has taken God 30-plus years to whittle down that pride and to clearly tell me what life-work He wants me to do. For insecurity and pride are simply two sides of the same coin.

I knew for years that even though I held an MA in English Literature, God wanted me to be a stay-home mom and put off career. When my children finally hit full-time school, my husband and I decided that I would go back to work for a short while to teach English so that we could start saving up for an adoption.

But God threw us a curveball. Through a series of unfortunate events, we ended up fostering two toddlers. Our entry into the world of foster care was unsolicited but gratifying. It seemed to fit our family even better than adoption did. So we applied to foster again. But just as the social worker called to confirm that a three-month-old baby was in the hospital ready to come into our home, events in our household took another wild and crazy turn.

Fostering was not financially viable.

It’s a looong story but the bottom line was: I would have to choose a different vocation. I was crushed. In a flurry of emotion and with the pressure of months of pent-up tears, I wrote out my life story, culminating in the recent catastrophic fostering disappointment. But I didn’t write casually like I would a journal entry. For the first time, I wrote with intention, with feeling, with direction. When I had finished writing, I saw that my writing was good. Years of editing student papers told me that much. It dawned on me that this piece of writing, unlike my other journal entries, needed to be published.

To my shock, I found that God had been tuning my voice through my personal journaling over the years. He wanted me to write and for my writing to be read. My inkling is that God didn’t clearly tell me, “Julia, write!” until now because God was taking time to sculpt and mold me into a person who would be equally happy scrubbing toilets or crafting stories.

Writing seems a bit more glorious than toilet scrubbing. But as it turns out, both can be equally fulfilling and meaningful, slipped under the umbrella of God’s grace, with the consciousness of His affirmation and guidance. And I am actually strangely glad that it has taken 33 and not 50 years for me to come to this recognition. Knowing my natural inclination toward ego and vanity and all.

I now realize that I will always write, whether I get paid to do so or not. Because I love to write. Because it comes naturally, because I can finally admit that crafting words is a natural gift, given by God. Because I know I cannot disparage the Creator by “writing it off” as a generally low-earning gift. (Ever heard of the starving artist, ya’ll? Not a myth.) Because money is not everything. And just like God unexpectedly provided The Great Hair Discovery, just when I wasn’t looking for it, so will he unexpectedly provide everything that I need.

So, if hair is a woman’s crowning glory, may mine glorify God. Thin or thick, straight or curly, good-hair-day or bad-hair-day—cue music—“I surrender all.”

Lord, do with my hair … and with my writing … what You will. 


Julia -crop headshot for biosJulia is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children. She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales, an emotional egoist and a curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at