9 Life Lessons I Learned After 4 Years with Locs

nadia dreadlocks lessons learned

February 18, 2022. This day marks four years that I’ve had my locs!! 

You know what this means?! I basically just earned my bachelor’s degree in dreadlockology, or locology for short. Sounds prestigious, I know! Hence why I wrote a deeply inspiring article— please hold your applause till the end. 😉 

In all seriousness, I’ve been reflecting on my loc journey up until now and realized the many things that it has taught me thus far. 

You may ask- does someone need to get dreadlocks to become enlightened or learn the lessons I did? HA! Absolutely not, but I thought it was worth it to share.

1. Live a life without regrets. 

I remember the day I decided to get dreads, as well as the many conflicting thoughts I had leading up to that moment. On the one hand, I loved the hair style on other people. But what if I hated the way it looked on me? Would people judge me? Would this decision put my job in jeopardy?

I had way too many questions, so I did what any rational person would do…I sought out the help of dreadlock gurus on YouTube and binge-watched everything I could find. 

Finally, I came to a satisfying conclusion. Life is short and hair grows back (for most of us, anyway). So without questioning my thoughts any further, I took the leap. 

Since then, have I missed my straight hair? Sure I have! But only a handful of times. I genuinely have no regrets about locking my hair.

2. You get to define your own standard of beauty— don’t try to fit someone else’s. 

We live in a world plagued by filters and photoshopped images. As a result, our society’s standard of what is beautiful has reached a level that is basically unattainable. 

You know what, though? I say, to hell with it!

The most beautiful things in life are imperfect and free. And dreadlocks are an exact reminder of that. 🙂 

3. People are much deeper than stereotypes. 

How many times have you heard “Do not judge a book by its cover?” Probably more times than you can count.

I think it’s human to make generalizations about people based on first impressions— not that it’s okay to jump to conclusions without getting to know the person or make assumptions solely based on looks— but it’s completely natural for thoughts to pop into our heads.

Now, I’m sure you know, there are many stereotypes associated with the dreadlock community, and the majority of them are not good. 

I’ve been asked so many random questions with respect to my locs (for the curious, the list can be found here) and I love the reactions of those who invest a minute in me and learn that I don’t meet hardly any of the stereotypes. 

In the process, I’ve also learned not to take anyone’s judgements to heart. Some people are simply misinformed.

4. Break free of your comfort zone. 

A wise person once said: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

Nothing brought me out of my comfort zone quicker than going out in public with my locs. At first, especially, I felt people staring at me everywhere I went. I could not go unnoticed. It definitely made me uncomfortable (particularly on the days when I couldn’t tame my hair) but I learned to live with it. 

Fast-forward four years. It doesn’t even phase me that my hair is ‘different’. My locs give me a sense of freedom that straight hair never did.

5. Learn to let go of the things you cannot control. 

Dreadlocks have a mind of their own, seriously! One day they cooperate like well-behaved children, and other days they are unmanageable rebels. It’s on those days that you have to learn to inhale, exhale, and let go. 

It’s a lot like life, wouldn’t you say? There are so many things that we have no control over. When you let go of the outcome or expectation of something, you start to live in the present.

6. We’re constantly evolving. Take a moment to look back and see the progress you’ve made.

Dreadlocks are ever-changing. In the day-to-day, it doesn’t feel like my locs have experienced a drastic transformation. But when I look at photos of my day one, year one, year two, etc.. I’m shocked to see the difference! 

In the same way, there are times where my life feels stagnant. Since 2020 especially, I often felt like I was in a slump that I could’t get myself out of. I’m certain that lockdowns and restrictions had a lot to do with it, but in retrospect, it was a time where I grew a lot, both professionally and as a person— I just didn’t take the time to look back long enough to even notice. 

7. Be patient. Anything meaningful in life requires a long-term commitment.

Anyone with dreadlocks can attest to the fact that they demand a great deal of patience. Not only do you have to commit to keeping them clean and healthy, but more importantly, when they’re in your head, they’re there to stay (for some time, anyway). 

Here are a few cool facts to give you perspective on the level of patience they require.

  • Locs go through a few phases to reach their ‘maturity’— we’ll call these phases baby, teen, and adult. Depending on a person’s hair type, it can take as little as a year and as much as three years to reach the adult phase!
  • Not everyone goes to a professional loctician but I do. My first appointment (for installation) took 8 hours, plus one stretch break. My annual maintenance appointment takes between 4 to 5 hours— and that’s only to touch up the roots!
  • Washing dreadlocks is quick and easy but drying them takes almost an entire day. The thicker your locs are, the longer they’ll remain wet. Mine take an average of 8 hours to dry completely. 

Dreadlocks serve as a great reminder to stay committed to the things that are important to you. 

8. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. 

Throughout my loc journey, I sometimes caught myself comparing my dreads to someone else’s. Theirs looked perfect, and mine were full of loops. Their roots were tidy and evenly sectioned, and mine were disheveled. Etc, etc. Eventually I learned to hush the negative voice in my head and started being kind to myself. 

You see, every person on earth has one thing in common: we are all different! Everything that makes us human— our DNA, fingerprints, personality, set of beliefs, life experiences, etc— are unique. In a similar way, each of my dreads are different and unique, and I’m okay with that. 

9. Learn to love yourself. 

“Love yourself” sounds kind of narcissistic, so I like to re-word it and say “embrace every part of your being”.

For as long as I can remember, the opinion of other people always surpassed my own. One of the things I give my dreadlocks credit for is that they helped improve my self-esteem. Learning to be at peace with messy hair despite the possibility of being judged as a result of it moved me from a place of self-hatred to a place of self-acceptance. 

I’ve learned to embrace who I am. Wild hair, free spirit, lover of people, nature, and everything in between. This is me, take it or leave it. 🙂 

Dreadlocks taught me to live life on my own terms. And I found much freedom in doing so. What has your loc journey taught you? Let me know in the comments.

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