Being natural has its perks, but it's definitely not easy. Can I get an amen?! My hair journey has been nothing short of strenuous. 

When I was in elementary school, I would rock cute braids with barrettes and sometimes beads. And on special occasions, like when I visited my grandma in Rochester, I would go to the hair salon and get a press and curl. I always relished the end results of a fresh press and curl, but the hot comb is lethal and I'm pretty sure that I still have burn marks on my scalp to this day.

I convinced my mom to give me my first (and last) relaxer at the age of 12 because I wanted my hair to look like the rest of the girls': straight and "manageable." But the chemicals ruined my hair, resulting in me having to get almost all of my hair cut off. It was the closest thing to a big chop I've ever experienced. My hair was too short to fit into a ponytail, and what made it even worse is that I had uneven bangs at the time.

Sometimes I would look at the store ads in the newspaper and see that one black woman who rocked a really cute naturally curly afro, and I would think to myself: I wonder if my hair could ever look like that.

All throughout high school and my early college years, I relentlessly put my hair through a very gruesome process, also known as heat damage. I did my own hair once a week, which meant I had to dedicate at least three hours to washing, conditioning, detangling, sectioning, blow drying, and sliding that 450°F hair straightener at least twice through each section. Every so often, I would go to the Dominican salon to have my hair come out bone straight, which meant blow drying, going under the dryer for an hour, blow drying again and then straightening.

"Ah, the fresh smell of burnt hair," said nobody ever.

The seldom times I would wear my hair in its natural state, I got so many compliments. At the time, I couldn't understand why, because I preferred my hair straight, smooth and silky. But somehow my friends convinced me that my hair was fine just as it was. So a million bajillion twist-outs later and a whole year (that is 365 days total) of no heat, and I was really beginning to feel myself. I had a new-found love for my natural hair.

I won't lie, a few months after I celebrated a year of no heat, I went to the salon and got a blow-out. They were having a special, can you blame me?

But can I just say that with time, minimal to no heat and patience (lots and lots of patience) my curls have become redefined. They are so much healthier than they once were. And although my hair has greatly improved, I am nowhere near what I truly envision — yet I'm loving every second of the process.

When you learn to embrace this crazy thing called your "hair journey," when you can genuinely look yourself in the mirror and catch yourself doing a doubletake because you are radiating beauty—that's the moment you find yourself.

And when you find yourself and truly embody every authentic aspect of you, self-love comes easily. You are no longer undermining your beauty because your beauty is evident. You are no longer secretly wishing your hair looked any different than it does because you've come to a point in your life where you've learned to willingly love your hair for what it is — magical.