The reason why I started growing a beard (and what little hair grows on the back of my head) a few months ago was that I had gotten fed up with shaving. I had perceived it as expensive and time-consuming, and I was cutting up my neck all the time without giving it enough time to heal. I stopped shaving and started to feel a sense of freedom. I used to shave in the shower, and now my showers were shorter. I didn’t have to care about how closely shaved I was when dressing up to go somewhere. I didn’t have to pay for razors or shaving cream.
I ended up having to still pay for razors and shaving cream, albeit a little less, because I still shaved around my neck. It didn’t take as long, but I still had to, for comfort if not looks. Then I started having to buy shampoo. So, even if I didn’t buy razor blades and shaving cream as often, I still had to buy them in addition to something else.
Then I started to notice that I was focusing too much on the beard. I was growing it out with the intent on having it long. I ended up developing a bad habit of playing with my right side burn, twirling it with my fingers. I couldn’t decide how much hair I should leave over my glasses. I was constantly stroking the beard (and not thoughtfully) and was self-conscious of the fact that I never shaved down to a good beard line. Finally, while I didn’t look too bad, it just wasn’t my style. I wanted to try for the more goth look, and it wouldn’t work the way I had my hair.
So I went to the barbershop and got my head and most of my face shaved. I kept the mustache and goatee, and as long as it is right now I’m really digging this look. Of course people have told me it looks good—people always say that when one changes their look to be polite, don’t they? Nonetheless, I honestly believed people this time. Most importantly, I like it much better than what I had.
Then I got to thinking about freedom. What does it mean to be free? To answer that question fully I would have to write an entire book, and even then I’m sure somebody would disagree with my answer. But this whole scenario got me to think about shifting my position on what freedom really means. For a long time I thought that to be free that means that I would be able to do whatever I wanted to do. But now I’m starting to think that to be free means not doing having to do what I don’t want to do.
A teenager gets a car with the freedom to go wherever she wants. But in reality, she’s free to not be cooped up in her parents’ house. Freedom of religion is freedom from somebody’s religion. And perhaps this can be extended to free speech. Is freedom of speech the freedom to say what you want, or the freedom not to be forced to think what somebody else tells you?
That’s a lot to take from shaving one’s beard off. But it make sense in my situation. First, I was free to not have to shave anymore. Then I was free to not get distracted by my beard all the time.
I’ve been thinking about giving up alcohol again, although not for the same reasons as last time. I don’t seem to handle alcohol as well as I used to (or, I’m not as able to ignore the ill effects the next day as well as I used to). I have one beer and the next morning I get a screaming headache. When I first gave up drinking I wanted to be free from the addiction to alcohol and all of the problems it was causing me (or more realistically, the problems I thought it was causing me—but that’s another blog post). Then I broke sobriety because I wanted to be free from the self-imposed dogma that drinking was evil. Now I’m thinking of giving it up so I can be free from the headaches.
I haven’t made up my mind on that one. It could just be that I had a few bad beers or too much too quickly, or a combination of the two. It doesn’t happen all the time. Besides, I’m heading up to Portland, Maine tomorrow. While I’m there I wanted to go to a Smuttynose festival that was being hosted by this craft beer bar in town. It’s not the main reason I’m going, but I want to swing by while I’m there. I could fight temptation, or I could cave in and see how I feel the next day. I’m free to chose.
Or is it more of a freedom to not have a choice?