My friend Stephanie and I shaved our heads to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation and what seems to the world like a charitable endeavor was really a big F-you to our boss.
Together Steph and I raised $5000 for the organization and raised awareness through our friends and family and colleagues about the group and its mission to expand research for childhood cancer treatment. We were considered by everyone to be incredibly benevolent human beings. Courageous. Generous. The fact that we would give up our hair to help kids with cancer made it look like we were very very good people.
But the truth is that I shaved my head for completely un-altruistic reasons. Sure, I am totally down with cancer research for kids. I can't imagine anyone on earth not supportive of that cause. But I did not shave off my beautiful long blonde hair for kids with cancer. I shaved it to avenge my friend.
Steph and I had worked together for several years before the head shaving bonded us for life. I remember the moment we met. She volunteered with the non-profit organization where I worked and was creating an informational event at her college for the cause. Stephanie wanted to borrow the organization's display board for the event and I told her, regrettably, that the only way she could do this was to come pick it up. So she did. Without fuss or concern she drove from the Inland Empire into downtown Los Angeles with her husband and three young children, the smallest in a stroller, to pick up the board and giveaway items for the event she had created.
I was in complete awe of this young woman with little kids. Her cheery, uncomplaining commitment to educating and inspiring people about our cause amazed me.
After that Stephanie became a vital member of the volunteer program and often oversaw events in her community and across Southern California. Eventually, the volunteer coordinator position became available, a paid position. Stephanie got the job and was a perfect fit. She understood the volunteers and what they needed and what they were going through because she herself had come up the ranks.
During that time I had moved into a different role within the organization and was not her direct supervisor, but we maintained a close relationship and she regarded me as a mentor. I felt honored to be in that role and remained incredibly impressed with Stephanie's compassion and drive and perseverance. There were times when I didn't feel as if her immediate supervisor was providing her with the direction and support she needed and deserved. I found myself fiercely loyal to this young woman who had impressed me since day one.
After several years as volunteer coordinator, something happened quite abruptly. Stephanie's boss, who was also mine, eliminated her position and created a new position. In an HR snafu, the job description for the new position when out to the entire organization before Steph met with our boss. She called me and said, either I am getting a raise or I'm getting fired. But since the new job description included requirements that she did not have, we both knew that it was the latter.
I immediately called our boss and proceeded to yell, for an hour. I was furious. Getting rid of Stephanie was incredibly disloyal and shortsighted and wrong. There have been many times in my life when I have been pissed off, but I can remember as if it was yesterday the seething anger I felt that day at this decision to fire Steph. I was angry because I felt she, and I, had been betrayed.
There were probably a lot of reasons why our boss made the decision to change the volunteer coordinator position, potentially very valid reasons, and ultimately it was not my decision to make. At that time in my life and in my career I often thought I knew better than our boss and I built up resentments about his decision-making and perspective. Eliminating Stephanie's position and eliminating Stephanie from our company was, at that point, further evidence that our boss was not making the right decisions. Letting that go of those feelings is another story, one I will write soon.
On Stephanie's last day of work I had the privilege of walking her out of the building and to her car. I cried. Thinking about that moment as I write I'm crying all over again. I was outraged and distraught. But most importantly I wanted to find a way to stick it to my boss for this decision.
Stephanie didn't have trouble finding another job. She is one of the hardest working people I've ever meet and soon had an interview with St. Baldrick's. She would help coordinate head shaving fundraisers for childhood cancer research. It was a perfect fit. Steph asked if I could be her reference and I was thrilled to talk about my very favorite volunteer turned volunteer coordinator.
When the hiring manager from St. Baldrick's called, I gave a glowing review and told the lady that if Stephanie got the job I would be her first head shaving fundraiser. I would shave my head for Steph. The woman gave Stephanie the job, but several months later I still had not shaved my head.
Finally, in February, I called Steph and said I need to do this. I made a promise to shave my head if you got the job and I need to deliver. Stephanie said she had made a decision too, she would shave her head as well. We would do it together. I had one more great idea. We would host the shaving at the corporate office of the organization that I still worked for and that had let her go. We would bring together all of our colleagues and and have a pizza party and shave our heads. I asked for money from every executive and coworker and from her former boss, all in the spirit of F-you.
So while it seems on the outside to be an incredibly altruistic act, shaving my head was really driven by revenge. It was a celebration of friendship over betrayal. A last hurrah for a colleague I felt had been mistreated. Under the guise of charity I gave my boss the middle finger.
What I found in trying to raise money was that a lot of people did not think shaving off my long hair was a good idea. People resisted funding this misguided change in hairstyle. So I set up two accounts, one to save my hair and the other to shave my hair with a promise that whichever received the most amount of money I would do. They accounts ran neck in neck but I wanted to shave it and so made many appeals that people support the shave. Ultimately, shave won, but Steph told me later that she had walked in with a blank check ready to donate her own money so that we could shave our heads together.
Stephanie shaved first. Surrounded by people who admired her and without our former boss and attendance (he had a meeting that kept him away but did give 100 bucks for the shave) she emerged from under her hair as a powerful and beautiful woman. The transformation was incredible and I was ready for my own.
As my hair fell away I felt renewed. I looked strong. Powerful. Without hair we looked different and amazing. Rubbing each other's newly shaved heads we laughed and cried. We were really glad to have raised $5000 for childhood cancer research, we were proud of ourselves for that. But we knew that this event was really for friendship.
Stephanie and I remain tied together in a fierce commitment to each other, as well as in commitment to causes we love.
As it turns out, shaving my head was a brilliant move because just a year and a half later I was diagnosed with cancer and my hair fell out during chemotherapy. When the doctor told me I'd lose my hair I shrugged and smiled and said knowingly that's OK, I look amazing bald.
So, while I don't think saying F-you to your supervisors is the best way to live life, sometimes doing something unexpected and generous and bonding is the very best way to move beyond resentment and anger. Now when I think of how Stephanie left the organization I'm not pissed. I look at the pictures of our head shaving and I know that nothing will break our bond. That we are fierce together. And that something incredible and wonderful comes out of every unexpected upset in life.
A Bit About Me
I am Tenaya, a communications strategist and public speaker telling stories that connect, inspire...and laugh.