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OHS Observer

Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

1 a.m. Cuts

Digital self-portrait with exaggerated bangs by Kara Lee.
Digital self-portrait with exaggerated bangs by Kara Lee.

I like to imagine myself as one of those giant buckets, mounted on the tops of water park structures in Cancun, gradually being filled up by a steady stream. For every inch the water level rises, the bucket tips two extra degrees. At some point, the bucket screeches and children in colorful rashguards scream as the bucket empties its contents over their heads. The bucket unleashes a mini flood.

Except for me, that steady drip of water comes from thoughts and happenings that stack up. One drop is from a TikTok video I saw last Tuesday over cereal — a girl DIY’s her bangs at home and the comments applaud her for the successful product. Another drop is from a convenient conversation I had with my mother, during which I selectively heard, “Do whatever you want with your hair. It’s yours; not mine.” Then there’s also my extreme frustration with the inordinate number of financial panics covered in AP U.S. History (1819, 1837, 1857, blah blah blah). I’m on my second hour of trying to commit the events of Black Tuesday (1929) to memory. My mental state is that of a crazed chimpanzee. It doesn’t help that today is the last day of Spring break. Well, technically, today is the first day back; it’s currently 1 a.m. I feel a need to do at least one memorable thing before class resumes in approximately five hours—something other than rotting in bed.

All these little details are accumulating until somehow I’m in my bathroom with scissors in my hand. My scissors are dull. They are the hot pink fun-sized child-proof ones that were given out by my second grade teacher. I pay no mind to my apparent lack of appropriate tools. You see, I’ve hit my tipping point. There is no real going back now that I’m determined to cut myself curtain bangs.

I start by watching some YouTube videos for instructions. “Section a portion of your hair”—got it, simple enough. I pull some face framing strands to the front of my face. The rest, I secure back with a hair tie and some bright yellow bobby pins.

“Now snip a little bit about an inch below your nose”—oh fudge. I look down at the black locks of hair on my vanity top and then scrutinize myself in the mirror.

Problem A: dull scissors cannot cut hair very well and leave asymmetrical zig zags.

Problem B: I snipped “a little bit” too much. I now have half—the front-facing half—of a bowl cut. Think Edna Mode from Incredibles minus the iconic-ness.

The thing about giant tipping water buckets and floods is that once the havoc begins, it feels impossible to stop midway. There is no partial tipping of the bucket, no gentle splash that lies someplace in between serenity and absolute chaos. And so even though my brain is screaming to stop cutting before the damage gets worse, the scissors stay glued to my hands. I snip a little more because the bangs are uneven. Just one more cut and I can fix this, I tell myself.

This second revision leaves the hair looking worse. So I cut another centimeter off. Then more and more and more.

At some point, I stop caring. Or, well, I still care, but it’s a strange, perverted form of care. The bangs can’t possibly get any worse, I think, so I carelessly revise. I snip away almost randomly, hoping that somehow fate will be on my side. I’m playing an all or nothing game — since I’ve already messed up, it doesn’t matter if I botch the entire cut.

I spiral like this a lot. This pattern of making one mistake and letting it become into a larger disaster, I see it often. As I said, I’m a giant bucket. I tip and I flood.

Like sometimes I wake up and realize that I’ve slept thirty minutes past my alarm. I check my phone for the to-do list that I’ve drafted yesterday and feel an impending doom. Realistically, I will only get halfway through my action items, but I’ve lied to myself that I’m superhuman. I’ve told myself that somehow, I will manage to write two essays, finish a lab report, and catch up on last week’s English readings. I know this is not true.

I know that at the end of the day, there is an inevitable disappointment waiting: I will return to my list and see that only half is checked-off and sigh. Then, I’ll build the next day’s list. I’ll stack on more tasks on top of my unfinished ones because deadlines are chasing at my heels. The new list will be even longer and unattainable. This pattern will go on as my lists get longer, and my hours of sleep get shorter.

Call me a pessimist, but suddenly the thirty minutes I’ve lost to sleep feel like the end of the world. I’ve committed some grave sin that I’ll never be able to make up for. As a result, I mentally label the morning of Monday, February 24th, with a glaring red “FAIL.” When I sit at my desk later that day, brainstorming what to type on a fresh document, this label looms over me. Anxiety and guilt and a certain pointlessness to everything eat at me, until I can’t focus on the task. Then I spiral.

At some point, even giant buckets run out of water and life turns stagnant. A strange calm takes over, bringing with it a sort of clarity. This comes to me when finally, I don’t have much more hair to cut. At that point, I stop snipping, and I stare at myself.

I hate my hair.

Why did I do that? I should have, at the very least, stopped after the first cut.

It’s 2 a.m. though, and I’m too tired to mourn my hair for longer. I go to sleep.

In the morning, life has not ended. Of course, I am still marginally horrified when I look in the mirror. But I manage to brush my home-made bangs to the side with some bobby pins. When I keep my hair down, the cut doesn’t look too bad. Although, as a warning, if you see me in person, don’t ask me to tie my hair up unless I have a hat on hand.

When I come downstairs for breakfast, my family gets a good laugh out of the new look. A solid twenty minutes is spent arguing about which animated character my hair most resembles. Edna Mode is the undisputed winner — I told you so! Lord Farquaad comes in as a close second.

Remember, I told you I imagine myself as a giant bucket? One that tips over and floods emotions when overwhelmed? I’m going to add some additional elements to that picture now: encasing the water park structure, the territory of the bucket, is a fence. And beyond that fence are beach chairs, with blue striped towels and people tanning on their backs. My family lounges on a rented Cabana, sipping virgin Pina Coladas without a care in the world.

Beyond the fence is beyond the reach of the flooding water.

The world didn’t end when I cut my hair or overslept by thirty minutes. The world won’t end when I forget to turn in my homework, when I finish second-to-last in a golf tournament, or when I get a C on a test. Sure, it felt that way inside the fence. But that’s just inside the fence. There’s so much more beyond.

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