How a hairdresser and journaling expert spends his Sundays

When John Casey was unable to work at Jack’s Barber Shop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which closed for several months in early 2020 due to the pandemic, he created The Sustainable Journaling Project, a four-session Zoom workshop. The push of it? Be simple. Write every day. Mr. Casey is a shining example of practice; he’s been writing every day for seven years.

Mr. Casey now juggles haircuts and regularly teaching journaling workshops for individuals and groups, including, most recently, a transmasculine group. Mr. Casey made the transition in 2014, the year he started journaling and also enrolled in hairdressing school. It has been “an extremely busy year for me,” he said.

Mr. Casey, 54, lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, with two roommates.

SACRED SPACE I wake up around 6 a.m. and take a whiff of Dulera. I have a lung disorder called bronchiectasis which causes me to have a chronic cough which has been very bothersome for the past year or so. After that I will do my yoga stretches. Usually I play sacred choral works. I was a growing religious Catholic, and that’s one of the good things I got from that experience. I keep a mason jar of water in the fridge overnight because I heard somewhere that drinking cold water in the morning is good for the metabolism, which may or may not be true, but now I feel like it cold water in the morning. Every other Sunday I inject testosterone. I will do this right after I get out of the shower, when the body is clean and there is less risk of infection. I’ll take it in the morning because if I do it in the evening I’m afraid the adrenaline rush will keep me from falling asleep. I’ve been doing this since 2014, and it’s still scary.

WRITING RITUAL From around 7:30 am to 8 pm, I will write the day before in my journal. Personally, I think the best time to journal is at night, but I’m usually too tired to do it. Mornings work for me because I’m alert and still remember the night before. I’m on the ADHD spectrum, so reviewing the day before helps me improve my executive functioning. It also helps me remember things that maybe bothered me the night before, or good things that happened that I’m grateful for and want to pay attention to. I log digitally, one entry for each day, and each month is its own file. On my first day off each month, I’ll reread the previous month’s entries. I feel like in western society we don’t have a lot of rituals, but it’s a ritual that I really like: commemorating the transition to a new month.

EGGS, NEWS If I complete an intermittent fasting cycle, I will have breakfast between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. One of my favorite breakfasts is boiled eggs, which I think is the best way to prepare eggs. I’ll almost always scroll through the New York Times headlines and check out local infection rates. I want to be able to communicate this information to the rest of the salon staff. When the Delta variant sent an alarm, I had to send a group chat asking everyone to go back to masking. I fell into the role of keeping people up to date with what’s going on.

THE HABIT Basically, I’m sharing ways to keep a journal simple and not overthink it while talking about the value of doing it everyday to make it a habit. I feel like some people use social media to document their lives, but creating posts isn’t ideal for record keeping and doesn’t provide the space for reflection that writing an entry for newspaper done. I try to schedule classes on Sunday mornings, which is often when people are free. If I teach a class, I will spend at least an hour reviewing my grades before it starts. Once done, I’ll spend some time editing my notes and writing follow-up emails.

ACCOMPANIEMENT I often do a haircut or home haircut or haircut at my house on Sunday afternoons, so after breakfast I will check my hairdressing equipment to make sure everything is loaded and that I have clean towels. I recently had a haircut for my roommate who lives upstairs on the second floor. By that time in the afternoon, I had switched from choral works to Chet Baker, because he and I are both fans of Chet Baker. I try to tailor the music to whatever I think a client could be.

SOCIAL HAIR CUT About once a month I go to New Jersey and cut my mom’s hair. I also used to do haircuts for my dad, Bill, who passed away in 2018. He had Asperger’s syndrome so it was difficult to talk to him. But doing his haircuts was a good way to give him a safe space where he could associate freely. This is one of the things I love about being a barber: people no matter where they are in their level of functionality or social comfort feel that safe space where they can talk about anything. . It was great to have this opportunity with my dad. Ditto with my mother.

THE CALL It was the summer of 2014 when I literally woke up one morning, opened my eyes and thought, “I should be a hairdresser. That year I also started talking about my gender dysphoria and decided to move forward with the transition. As I was learning how to be a barber, I realized how valuable it would be to provide a safe space for people in the queer community, especially non-binary gender people. I’ve been cutting my hair myself for a really long time, and I’m sure it has everything to do with gender dysphoria and feeling uncomfortable asking a hairstylist what I wanted. When you are gender non-conforming, it is often very difficult to communicate to strangers how you want to present yourself.

FITTINGS I will speak with my mother, Eleanor, and sometimes my two sisters, Ann and Sarah. Recently I drove to South Slope to see my friends and their baby. I appreciate having a car, just so I can get around quickly to see my family in New Jersey.

PRODUCTIVE DOWNTIME I will come home from time to time with friends and prepare the food a bit, as I have work from Monday to Wednesday. My brain is pretty much useless after 9 am, so I could journal or watch part of a movie. It’s rare that I’m just sitting there; I usually do other things while watching a movie, like fixing face masks or folding laundry. I think gender dysphoria hampered my ability to mature for a while. I still feel this need to make up for lost time.

BREATH OF THOUGHT My evening journaling is always very brief – quick notes, a quick synopsis of the day. The next morning I can look at what I wrote the day before and expand on it if I need to. I always like to have a few minutes to go over the day and bring it to a close. I could end the day with a glass of whiskey. Right before I go to bed I’m going to make sure I have a mason jar of water in the fridge and then take another puff of Dulera.

Readers of the Sunday Routine can follow John Casey on Instagram @sustainablejournaling or @johncaseythebarber.


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