Big Changes…

… require some serious prep-work, and deserve a new hairdo!

I am gearing up for some big news. Can’t say much about it yet, but watch this space and I should be able to make a more definitive announcement in mid-June. Nevertheless, I am taking the first steps towards this big change and it involves a lot of self care.

Little changes towards a big shift

There is no better time than the present to address the things in your life that need change. Whether it is your work, relationships, friendships, or your home… why wait? We often put things off and I got a little tired of waiting for the right time. It’s not for everyone, but I started all at once with a number of small and large changes that help me create the life I really want.

Change 1: Cleaning & organising my house

In the past few weeks I have cleaned up every closet in my apartment. This involved carrying about six bags of things I haven’t used in at least a year to my local charity shop. Trying to be ruthless, I got rid of things I love and things I didn’t even remember I owned. There is no point loving something and it sitting in a drawer unused. I’ve also come to the conclusion I prefer space over things.

It is amazing how clarity in your home brings peace to other areas of your life. I won’t miss a thing but I will enjoy how easy it is to clean my space, and how bright it feels.

Change 2: Doing things I feel passionate about

Some time ago, I saw a documentary called “From Fat to Finish Line”, in which a team of people along various places of their weight loss journey run a relay. The documentary spoke to me and hit a deep nerve. Since that moment I wanted to sign up to a relay run like it. Trouble is, there are not nearly as many in Europe as in the US, but I found one. In June I am going to run the London Cardiff 24 hour relay, with Wolfpack running. The timing is interesting too, it so happens to be just before I am embarking on a new adventure (still to be announced!). It almost feels like it is meant to be, and the relay is a punctuation. The end of one part of my life and the beginning of something new. My spring cleaning also included an overhaul on how I look at things, and while I’ve never been the type to put anything off, I am now ever more committed to making the time for things that I am passionate about.

Change 3: More self care

It can be hard to admit when you are not good at something. I’ve been practising and I am now a little less afraid to admit that I’ve not taken very good care of myself. Probably for a long time, but worse in the past few years. Partially, my desire to help others often sees me take a back seat. At other times work has gotten in the way and I’ve had to learn to both delegate and say no at times. It’s not only OK to need time to care for yourself, it is necessary. Finishing my PhD raised a certain expectation that work-life balance was going to fall into place somewhat on its own. After all, I was no longer juggling multiple jobs. That’s not how it worked out. Instead, I needed to learn how to create some balance for myself. We’re not there yet but I’m trying to take opportunities for moments of calm during the day.

For a person who skipped lunch on almost a daily basis, to get more done, taking a few minutes here and there to unwind is actually hard work. If there is a tool that will help me do it, I am willing to try it. So I’ve bought a fitbit (it tells me to get up once an hour at least and walk around), I downloaded an app called “Away” (it plays calming music), and I have started seeing (and making time to make the appointments) a nutritionist and a personal trainer. It has been about 8 months since I’ve had a professional hair cut. In part because I struggle to find an appointment time that works for me and a stylist that gets what I need. Together with the relaxation apps, and the fitbit, I found a stylist that helps me take the necessary time to decompress and recharge during the day. While getting the haircut out of the way at the same time. Completely by chance I found out about The Chapel, a salon based in Islington (but they have 3 more locations). It takes a lot for me to trust a new stylist with my hair, because I’ve had more disastrous haircuts than I care to count. There were two reasons I even stepped through the door at The Chapel, and the two things I’ve never seen before in another salon:

  • You pay for the time spent on your new hairdo. If all you need is a quick trim, you are not paying the same price as an elaborate haircut. Being the type of person who keeps it simple and doesn’t take hours in the chair, this really appeals to me.
  • The Chapel makes a point of treating your time with them as an opportunity to decompress and relax. From the scented candles, down to the relaxed atmosphere. Free drinks come with the haircut, and yes wine is also on the menu!


Having fun at the Chapel

Those who know me well, also know that my hair has always been an after thought. A necessary evil to deal with once it needs a trim, and notoriously difficult to do anything fun with. It’s not that I don’t want great hair. It’s more that I’ve been unable to find a way to achieve it. 50% genetics (fine limp hair) and 50% not meeting the right professional who could give me a cut that suits me and tell me how to maintain it.
That might be changing! Even if my hair is still structurally the same, I walked out of The Chapel looking and feeling very different from how I walked in. It made me appreciate even more that sometimes taking a break, means you get to be a lot more productive afterwards. It’s not worth it to keep going without taking some time to unwind because you burn out. In the longer term, you burn out in the medical sense. In the short-term, or just throughout the day, you get so tired that your output decreases exponentially as the day goes on. This is not rocket science, but a lot of people I know and work with operate on the same ‘go go go’ principles that I’ve used.

The Chapel in Islington is set in an old pub, and many of the original features (like the windows) remain. It gives it a really interesting look and the space is tastefully designed around that. It’s not overwhelming, which helps me relax. The experience starts with a welcome drink on a sofa in the waiting area. Tom, my stylist, shows up before I can finish my shot of hot chocolate though. He sinks into the sofa next to me and starts with just a casual chat. No mirrors. No awkward grabbing through my hair. He wants to get to know me a little bit better and understand what will make me, and my hair, happy. I love that I get to have this chat on the sofa and not have to watch myself speak in the mirror.

After we work out what I’d like to do with my hair, and what will look good on me, we go downstairs. I get lathered up and receive a little scalp massage. Back upstairs there is a glass of red wine waiting for me by the chair, as well as a small snack of roasted nuts. With every passing minute I am feeling better and better about my decision to spend my lunch break getting a haircut.

Tom starts to work on my hair while we chat and I steal sips of wine. I can’t help but feel very decadent for a random Thursday afternoon. He explains how he is layering my hair, and how it is going to give me more bounce and definition. Just what I am looking for to brighten up my face when I wear it down.

By the time my wine is done, so is my new look. After a blow-dry, he introduces me to what is changing my life: finishing spray-wax. He uses it sparingly, instead of hairspray, to help my hair stay in place without it looking or feeling like I’ve used any product at all.

You might wonder, why would I go into this much detail about a hair cut? That’s because it wasn’t just a hair cut. It was an experience on par with getting a massage or a spa treatment. And I needed it. Buns and knotted ponytails were not going to work for much longer, and I am looking at spring in a different light this year. Spring cleaning to me is not just about organizing, purging and cleaning my apartment. It is about so much more. More time to pursue actual life, and things I feel passionate about. More moments of relaxation, so I can give my 200% the rest of the time. I’m going to need it too, with the changes coming. They alone demand a new look, and a new outlook on life. Where better to start than with me, and with what surrounds me? This experience was a big part of taking these steps forwards, towards what’s coming in June. Like I said, watch this space. I’d love to say more, but if I did… it wouldn’t be a surprise!

Here’s to facing a new phase in life, and all the interesting adventures that come with it. And this is how I will be facing it!
the chapel salon islington image

(Also, check out Tom’s Instagram feed for inspiration and instant hair-envy!)

Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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