My hands shook as I cut a chunk of my hair. Oh, no. It’s shorter than what I intended it to be. No turning back. It would be ridiculous to have one side of my hair shorter than the other. I took a deep breath and resumed cutting my hair like it was a perfectly normal thing to do at 3 a.m. Melanie Martinez’s songs were playing while long strands of my hair fell to the floor. I sang nervously, hands still shaking, knowing that I was going to get into trouble for this when my parents woke up in the morning. Why the hell did I do this?

When the last chunk of my hair was cut off, I stared at myself in the mirror and felt two things. One, the fear of what my parents would do when they saw this. Two, looking at myself with short hair was like seeing a long-lost friend. I had been growing my hair for seven years; it was all the way down to my knees before I decided to cut it all off. After seven years, I finally started feeling more like myself.

At 13 years old, our family converted to Pentecostal Christianity. I made my own choice to be baptized with water and fire. I thought that I knew who I was and who I wanted to be — a loving Christian girl who would always do things the right way. I wore long skirts and long sleeves, fasted, prayed, read my Bible. The church was always loud every Sunday service. In it, I found peace. I found a community of people who were loving and supportive, and at the time I thought that was all I needed.

But, going deeper into Christianity, the more I started to feel that there was something wrong with me. Every time I sang a song that wasn’t for worship, I felt guilty. Every time I had sexual thoughts, I cried to God to forgive me. Every time I wished I wasn’t a Christian, I thought that the devil was whispering in my ear.

What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just as obedient as everyone else? If you love God, you shall follow His commandments: That’s what I’d been taught. If I was having trouble following His commandments, did that mean I was just wicked?

There are plenty of things that I found I didn’t like about Christianity. Things that made me feel conflicted about where I personally stood. The more time I spent in church, the less I felt like myself. Wearing long skirts and having long hair, I felt like I was an actress playing a role to please the audience. It wasn’t me anymore. And I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

Heart pounding with both happiness and fear, I couldn’t sleep that night. I could not help but imagine all the words that my parents would say once they saw me. But, despite being scared, I truly did not care. Once I got out of bed that morning, I braced myself for the scathing words I had expected to hear.

 All that I got were two disappointed eyes staring back at me. I knew they didn’t understand. I knew that this was far from what they wanted. But I was simply tired of not recognizing who I was in the mirror.

I do not hate Christianity. It is simply something that does not feel right for me anymore. It is not aligned with who I am, and who I want to be. I am not a good Christian girl anymore. Here I am, a year later after having cut my hair, happier than ever. My hair has gotten longer and it’s bright pink —  something that I never imagined I would be able to have.

Here I am, and, yes, I dyed.

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