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    an intertwined confession: my love for braiding

    an intertwined confession: my love for braiding

    an intertwined confession: my love for braiding

    Right now, my very impersonal high school resume includes a jumble of meticulously chosen words from Listed in the surely overlooked “skills” section of this one-page brag sheet are “interpersonal communication”,  “leadership”, and “creativity”, meaningless expressions that don’t really say anything about me. While my most cherished skill would seldom come into practice at college or Homewood Parks and Rec, I find it to have a greater capacity for impact and sincerity than my “attention to detail” would. 

    I am skilled in the bending of a young girl’s greatest treasure: her hair.

    Most importantly, I can braid my 9-year-old sister’s hair, who cannot go a day without her signature braided ponytail. 

    Every Hispanic kid is familiar with the braiding rite of passage. The muted moments in the morning as your Mami calls you over to do your trenzas. You sit still and quietly. You brace for the slight sting of the tightly grasped fistfuls of our thick dark hair, and the even tighter bonding of three strands into one. You thank Mami, head off to school, and play hard without the worry that your fastened waves will come loose on the playground. You sit the next morning, and do it all again, because this is how your mom loves, cares, and protects you. Soon you’ll learn how to do it too.

    I remember proudly showing off to my mom how I had picked up on her skill; I used my dolls as subjects. Knots, fragments where I struggled to keep two ripples from involuntarily mingling, humbled my practice. When my little sister had grown hair long enough to graze her shoulder blades, I could finally practice on the tender head of a girl who needed it – needed me.

    The search for purpose has come to mean “beyond-the-self” grandiose actions, everywhere, all the time. Philanthropic individuals and companies continue to impact paths never to have crossed their own, proving that one can trigger ripples of change in the world simply by caring for others–communities far removed from our own.

    We must see the bigger picture.

    But seeing the world beyond ourselves can be beautiful and human in our personal lives, too.

    Taking five minutes of my morning to brush my sister’s hip-length hair and bind it with her favorite hair tie provokes an unexpected joy in me; her excitement is infectious and her need one that I am happy to fulfill. 

    Braiding her hair every day gives me a purpose beyond myself but so intricately entwined with who and what makes me me.

    I used to feel more and more frustrated every year I got older: sometimes incapable of carrying out my passions to the best of my ability, not wise enough to know exactly what I want, and defenseless against comparison. I mean, who can be great living at the same time as Stevie Wonder, the first sixth-grader to have a No.1 single? The “greats” made it difficult to see the great that I had already achieved in my lifetime.

    A simple act of service, whether it be braiding a friend’s, a teammate’s, or a little sister’s hair, hushes this outside noise. We feel gratitude: for the gratifying nature of the mundane, for the security of love from those who know you the most. 

    Braids are the prettiest microcosms: waves woven into one body, a union; a mesmerizing capture of culture, both of femininity and homeland; expressive beauty harnessed into a neat figure – kempt enough for others; flowing waters that still the uncontrollable and fulfill the most basic of needs. My braiding expertise has assured me that if and when I pursue greatness, I will have the purest of intentions. After all, what is better than a kid knowing they can count on you?