How I Finally Transitioned My Hair — Without A Big Chop

I was 8-years-old when I had my hair relaxed for the first time — much to my mom's chagrin. She had dropped me off after school at the hair salon so that I could have my hair pressed and curled for my birthday the next day. I guess the stylist didn't feel like dealing with my thick head of unprocessed hair — I was her last appointment of the day, after all. So, before tackling my strands with a curling iron, she put a mild perm in it to make it more pliable. My mom was pissed. Me? Thrilled. I was looking like the front of a Just For Me box.
In retrospect, I get why my mom was so irritated. That stylist was out of bounds, for one. But I also knew that she probably wanted to preserve the health of my hair for as long as possible. And like most things, mom knew best. I put my hair through it over the years: relaxers, touch-ups, and harsh Dominican blow-outs that involved 450-degree flat irons after sitting under the dryer for nearly an hour. Then, when college came, I tried my best to keep up with the baddies on campus by wearing a weave. Sew-ins are a protective style that can help hair grow, but it didn't help that I was still tackling my leave out with a hot flat iron so that it'd blend with my 22-inch waves.
By the time I reached 25, the thick black hair that once brushed my shoulders was thin, short, and basically see-through. Fed up with the breakage and broke from bi-weekly salon appointments, I decided to wear protective braids for a year while I figured out my next move.
Each time I took my braids or twists down, I noticed that my hair was growing... and looking pretty healthy in the process, too. I was tempted to play with my new curls — I just had no idea what to do with them. So, I decided to challenge myself to go totally natural for 30 days — no weaves, no braids, nothing. I knew that this would be a tough one. Watching tutorials and reading all of the natural hair blogs is one thing... having my hands in my own hair is another. So, how'd it all go down? Read ahead to find out.