I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hot Saturday afternoon in southern Virginia, my sophomore year of college was just kicking off and I was sitting in my car staring at the rearview mirror in disbelief. I’d just left the barbershop and much to my dismay the barber had completely butchered my haircut. My lines were uneven, my fade was too high, and I didn’t look or feel good about walking on campus later that day. At that moment I decided it was time for a change.  It was 1997, Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell were ripping up the NBA, and a couple guys from Atlanta taught me that it was kind of cool to be an Outkast.  I made up my mind. I was going to grow my hair out and get cornrows.

It was a curious decision. I’d never grown my hair out  long before, and I was pretty sure that when I returned home for Christmas break my parents would be less than thrilled about my new look. I was certain I’d have to deal with some stern lectures,  but at least I wouldn’t have to deal with any more bad haircuts!

Two months into the semester I felt good about my decision. My hair was growing. I was saving money as I didn’t have to pay to get a cut every week, but most importantly some of my “co-ed” classmates had begun to notice my curls that were growing. After about 3 months I began to get to frustrated. My hair was becoming long and unmanageable. It was too long to try to brush or style, but not long enough to put into cornrows. After talking to a few friends I discovered that I’d reached the dreaded “in-between” stage.

Anybody who has ever attempted to grow their hair is familiar with the in-between stage. That is the point when your hair is most difficult. During this stage it is the hardest to manage, and it may be the most “unattractive” to look at. A lot of times the in-between stage is when people give up on the new look they were seeking to achieve.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot people and groups of people who are frustrated with the in-between stages of change in this country.  Current events have created an intense desire for change. The energy to do something different to make a difference is strong. And now more than time in my life I’ve seen people all across the country willing to invest their time, energy and other resources in order to make a positive change in their communities. Economically. Legally. Politically. Socially. But many of us are frustrated because we feel like change isn’t happening fast enough.

I can appreciate the frustration. When I want change and its taking too long I get upset. I get tired. I get fed up. I want it now! Not soon. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, or next year. I want it NOW! Unfortunately most change doesn’t happen overnight. We have to deal with the in-between stage. The stage where we don’t look good. We don’t feel good. Nothing seems to work, and giving up feels easier then pushing through. But those are the times when it is MOST important for us to persevere.  If we are ever going to achieve the goals that we desire we have to stick with it. We have to get through the in-between stage.

Giving up is easy. Pushing through is the hard part. But pushing through is where the magic happens. Pushing through is what makes us stronger. There is strength in the struggle. There is joy during the journey. The planning is more important than the plan.

A good friend recently reminded me of the struggle that people of Montgomery Alabama endured during the 1950’s Bus Boycotts. It took 381 days to achieve change. It took a lot of people, with tired feet, and legs. It took a lot of talking, a lot of thinking, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of sweat, a lot of disappointments, and a lot of hard work – until one day something happened. And laws were changed. But it didn’t happen overnight.

So remember, if you are change agent – in your home, your community, your city, your job or wherever else you spend your time don’t give up at the in-between stage. Keep pushing. It takes two to tango, but only one to start the music. It’s easy to start to music, but much harder to keep it going. Take on the challenge to make sure the music of change never stops! Never stop singing. Never stop dancing. Never stop growing. Have faith in and trust the process because it will all be worth it. Never let anyone or anything stop you from putting in the work to achieve your goals. Not even a bad barber or a bad haircut. Keep pushing.