Reflections on Losing My Hair

In the abstract, I’ve always known that my hair would fall out. The fact that it would probably happen sooner, rather than later, prompted me to try to grow it out this past spring. It was sort of a joke, but people seem to like it. Right now it’s the longest it’s ever been, but that probably won’t last. Every time I take a shower I notice a few stray hairs come out, and I’m told that process will only accelerate until I have to either invest in a Lebron-style headband or, in the words of Charles Barkley, “come home.”

This change has coincided with some other big changes. I’ve moved across country, and although I was initially very distraught to leave my friends, family, favorite restaurants, and beach behind, I am settling into what will probably be most of a decade in Cambridge, MA. It’s too bad they didn’t found Harvard in Santa Monica, but I have found a yoga studio, a climbing gym, a Chinese restaurant, and an “urban oasis and organic café,” so I don’t feel like I’m missing too much. Except for friends and family and, of course, the beach.

I’ve also been having a reflective week not just because of where I am but because of where I’m not: Burning Man. Last year, I had a radically self-transformative experience in the desert, and much of what has gone on in my mental world over the last year has been an attempt to try to tease out the consequences and significance of that transformation. It was a transformation that was painful in many respects—I realized that the person I am now is the largely formed version of my self and that whatever I do with the rest of my life I will have to do it with and from this self. That doesn’t mean I can’t, in the words of Plotinus, keep carving my statue every day, but most of the marble has been knocked away and I doubt I can turn the rough form of an overthinking intellectual into, say, and instinctive athlete. Not, I think, that I would—but I can’t.

Tonight the Temple burns in Black Rock City. A year ago I promised myself I would do whatever I could to be there. I’m not. I’m disappointed, but I know intellectually that I made the right decision and I, maybe more than anyone should, respect intellectual knowledge even as I struggle against it.

I listened to the Beatles today—“There are places I remember,” the song goes, “all my life, though some have changed.” A few days before I left for Cambridge I went hiking in Topanga with many of my best friends. At one point we stopped, debating whether to go back to where we had spent an idyllic hour protected from the beating sun under the canopy of a massive, low-slung tree. Grayston turned to me and said, “you know, you can go back, but it won’t be the same.” He was—and always is—curious about what’s beyond the next bend, and he convinced me to be curious as well. So here I am, thousands of miles away from the people and places I love.

 I’ve been remembering a lot of places this week. All those places do have moments, of lovers and friends whom I still can and do recall, and as I move forward I hope to remember them and return to them, even though they will never be the same. I just hope that, hair or no hair, I’m someday able to come home. 

© Henry Gruber 2013