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Credit: Gillian Diebold

I was sitting in my room one lonely night before winter break when my friend messaged me over Facebook — pop! — asking whether, for the new year, she should do a balayage on her hair.

My first question was, “What is a balayage?” To which she responded that a balayage is when the edges of your hair are dyed a different color, “a sunkissed … colour, similar to what nature gives us as children,” Elle UK says. I’m not sure Elle UK’s definition is applicable to everyone, as nature gave me jet black hair that looks blue when the sun hits it, but sure, I understood the concept. 

And my second question was, “Is this like the senior year equivalent of the ‘Junior Year Chopping Your Hair Off?'” She wrote, “Hahahaha yeah, basically,” and finished, “I just want to do one final reinvention before college ends.”

Her statement seemed to imply that after college there would be no room to reinvent yourself. As if somehow, after college, although we would (hopefully) undergo many different life stages, meet many more people who influence us, move around at least once or twice, we’d still look and act the same as we did at 22 — a strange thought. 

And it also seemed to imply that college went hand-in-hand with reinvention. She said “one final reinvention” the way people say “one final meal” before heading to the executioner’s chair. Her tone suggested that the “one final thing” has been a treat we’ve been able to enjoy only in conjunction with a certain time in our lives. Reinvention goes with college as eating goes with living.

The whole exchange intrigued me. This winter break, I had been struggling with my own reinvention impetus over something as simple as whether to continue wearing red lipstick.

Credit: Gillian Diebold

This decision meant more to me than not wearing a certain color. It was an Achillean choice between a promise of glory and the reality of peace — only I was leaning towards the latter, in true affront to Achilles. I was considering giving up red lipstick because I was tired of trying so hard, tired of trying to make myself seen. Perhaps now I could finally accept myself as I was, au naturel, a quiet and meek girl who, despite preferring the spotlight, understands best how to move in the shadows.

But part of me refused to give up red lipstick for the very issue my friend and I were discussing. I had reinvented myself so many times in college that I didn’t want to reinvent myself again. Each time brought me temporary insecurity over whether my newest incarnation would be accepted. 

I had been wild Amy, Christian Amy, slightly-pretentious-European-wannabe Amy, and now that I felt I was coming into my own skin, becoming Amy Amy, whatever that meant, I wanted to change once more. If I changed now, when would it end?

But as I thought about it some more, I questioned whether red-lipsticked Amy was the “real Amy,” or whether she was another persona I wanted to maintain. I wondered whether my friend’s words were right, whether reinvention was indeed a good thing, and whether now, in college, was the best time to do it.

Most of us fear reinvention because it precedes the unknown and usually follows bad circumstances. Changing ourselves for the most part occurs out of necessity, when our old selves have run the clock and can no longer survive their environment. 

But if our old selves aren’t fit to survive their new environment, wouldn’t it be better to shed them altogether?

Reinvention can be good because it brings us closer to our real selves. Like editing an essay, reinventing doesn’t mean that we’re erasing everything we had before. We are tweaking it, refining it, uncovering the original spark hidden in the chaotic mind.

And college is the ideal environment to reinvent yourself because everything is always changing. Since every semester your friend groups, your classes, even your jobs and daily routine can change, there are few constants in your life to judge you or hold you back if you do want to try something new. You can put on as many personas as you like until you find the right one.

After college, when our lives are stable, when we have steady jobs and see the same people all the time, we really won’t have as much freedom to experiment. We’ll have too much responsibility thinking of our finances and our family to focus on ourselves. 

So, in the spirit of my friend, I’ll pull one final reinvention before college ends and forego the red lipstick. And if it doesn’t last — at least then I know something else I don’t like.

AMY CHAN is a College senior from Augusta, Ga., studying classics. Her email address is chanamy@sas.upenn.edu.

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