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Meet Your Neighbor - An interview with Lynn Arena

By Cheryl Perreault, Columnist

my kids will say "Mom...are you doing hair today?" And I say "Ya...probably"...and it's a Sunday. I'm always in that mode and it's fine. It's who I am but it's not who I am defines a part of me but it's not all of me. I try to keep my work separate from my family time and I know a lot of people have trouble juggling all that. I try to keep my time separate... work is work and family time is for family

Lynn Arena is a resident of Hopkinton who is a wife and mother of two young children and also works as a popular hair stylist in the Metrowest area. Arena acknowledges that she is often first and foremost recognized in town for what she can do for people's a stylist. However, it is obvious that it goes beyond hair Arena expresses an ageless sense of awareness, gratitude and compassion in her ability to synthesize life experiences and deeply understand and care for the people she interacts with in daily life.

Thank you for having me here in your kitchen which is a very nice, warm, bright and welcoming place to be on a rainy fall morning. I have gotten to know you as a person and as a hair stylist the past 16 years. I knew you when you started work at a barber's business and you went on to work at two other hair salons after that.

Yes I work at Richard Francis Salon in Ashland right now

And you do a great job. I know you are very successful, sought-after hair stylist there. I was just curious about your observations....over the years what do you think contributes to your success in work as a hair stylist? Work ethic?... talent?...attitude?

I really like people and I like hearing what they have to say and what their wants and needs are. I enjoy people... I like doing people's hair ...but I like the interaction with people and I like hearing everybody's story and I think I'm good at that...not just the physical part of doing people's hair... I'm pretty good at doing that too...but I enjoy the interactions with people and I think sometimes that gets lost in our society...we are so focused on Facebook and Twitter and everything so... non-interactive. I enjoy the...sitting back in the chair and the back and forth talking with people...and valuing one another and listening to what they have to say.

Can you recall one of your best moments that happened when you were at work?

Probably doing a bride's's always a nice moment. Most recently I had a girl get married in July...I've done her hair for many years and I had the privilege of going to her wedding and taking part by doing her hair. It was just lovely and it's great to watch someone go through the before, the during and the them shine and make them feel beautiful on the inside and out. It is a great moment. I've been told that we make people feel really good and I didn't realize how much so until this girl...she's not a "hair and make-up girl" at all... and she just looked stunning.

You must see a lot of milestones that people achieve in their lives as a hair stylist within our community?

Absolutely... the salon atmosphere I am in now definitely welcomes children... but a lot of moms like to come in and escape and don't bring their smaller kids in. But as they get older, I get to see them grow...children of kindergarten age and all of a sudden, they are going to high school and then college...You get attached...and watch people grow and become who they's all part of the journey. It's kind of cool and's that interaction with people that I enjoy. I'd be sad if I didn't have that kind of a connection with people.

Do you find yourself connected to work after hours?

I'm always connected to my work. My friends ask if I can give a kids will say "Mom...are you doing hair today?" And I say "Ya...probably"...and it's a Sunday. I'm always in that mode and it's fine. It's who I am but it's not who I defines a part of me but it's not all of me. I try to keep my work separate from my family time and I know a lot of people have trouble juggling all that. I try to keep my time separate... work is work and family time is for family.

Why might the work you do for men and women be good for them... beyond looking good?

A lot of people go in and talk and identify with you or you identify with them.... and for lack of a better word they vent. They come in and it's their de-stressor. Especially where I work's an environment that's supposed to let you come in and relax and relieve the stressors of your day. And a lot of the time you find similarities in your lives and you vent back and forth and it's more than just "the look". I mean the look is important but it's also the human quality again of hearing each others stories...and of listening and being a listener and it's always listening to where people are at in life. Like they might say "Oh I'm getting married" or "Oh I am going to have a baby" and it's always wanting to look good for that important part of their life as well as the in-between kind of goes hand-in-hand.

Do you hear a lot about stress in people's lives or what do you think is something that causes stress for most people?

Time...everybody wants more time...Everybody's over-scheduled and running and trying to find more time. Everyone's probably means we all need to slow down a little bit...

Do you have any suggestions for people to better cope with stress?

Minimize...minimize...prioritize and minimize...but not everyone can do that you know.

How about when you were growing a child did you want to be a hair stylist?

Yes, it's funny my mom was here the other day and told me ever since I was little I was brushing someone's hair or putting make-up on somebody...always caring for somebody. I actually went to college for a few years pursuing nursing which maybe one day I will fulfill... but the caring human qualities of both of those careers was what I was drawn to. Obviously, everyone wants to look good and I was drawn to that and it just jelled from a young age. I was always curling someone's hair or spraying someone's hair or doing someone's hair...Barbies and girlfriends and sporting events and before dances... it was always "Lynn can you do my hair?" And they would line up before an event and I would be doing everyone's hair.

Did you grow up in Hopkinton?

I grew up in Southboro actually ...not far from here..20....25 (laughs) years ago.

And what do you think you learned and took with you from your early family experience growing up in Southboro?

I was very fortunate to be in a nice town, I had great parents. My mom was very big on family values and morals. I just always held these kinds of things close to me and knew that I would want a family similar to that and I was fortunate to grow up in that area and have that kind of upbringing.

When did you move to Hopkinton?

I moved to Hopkinton when I got engaged to my husband in 1999. Ive been in and around this area for 15 years. It's funny, our paths would cross times before when we would see each other before we met and we found we had so many common connections in the people we knew. So we met, we dated, we got engaged and we will be celebrating our tenth year anniversary next year!

Happy anniversary It is a big milestone.

It Is...especially nowadays! Its good! (laughs)

So to backtrack a went to the Southboro Schools?

Yep, I went to Southboro all the way from elementary to high school. Southboro is regional with Northboro High School. From there I went to secondary school for hair dressing and barbering. I got two licenses and went on to do some more academics for college in nursing and thought I wanted to change. Then after having an "inner journey" I decided to stay with being a stylist and it's been good.

Can you tell me about your family now?

I have been married 10 years, have two children.. a boy and a girl ages 7 and 5... and they are both in school all day.

So what are some things that you like to do as family?

We love to camp. We love to go to the beach. Any given moment you can drive by our house and see us playing wiffle ball or football outside. We love to read and play games. We have Connect Four tournaments. We love to just hang out and play. I just enjoy the whole process of watching them grow and seeing them connect the dots and it's probably one of the greatest things I have ever done...becoming a mom...(laughs)... I might ...well up! My husband... first and foremost and my children...its been a great's been awesome.

You're living the women's American have it all in a way... to have a career and a family and all that it brings from these different worlds How do you deal with that? How do you balance it all?

Well first and foremost, I consider myself very lucky every day and I thank the "powers that be" for what I have. I know there are a lot of women in the world who just don't have the opportunities or the relationships that I have. I'm just lucky and I think a lot of people forget and they need to be appreciative of where they are at and what they have and of the people around them. Like you said...balance...I try to make those moments...of scheduling everything and making things happen and be there for everybody... but I still try to find time for myself because that can be hard. But I'm lucky. I'm very lucky to be where I'm at.

What do you like to do for yourself?

I love to read and exercise when I can find time ...and go for walks. I would love to say I go to the salon and get my hair done, but I am there all the time so I don't do that (laughs). I also like to go and find some time alone...but not too often because then I miss everyone and want to be back with them. But I love to read. That's my time at night when everyone is in bed and I can read...That's my "down time".

And is there something people don't typically know about you?

That I love history and to read read about times before. It never used to appeal to me as much but the older I get, the more I like to learn about times gone by and the way things have evolved around here and in the world. It's just interesting to me. But my friends would laugh at me right now if they heard this...they would say "WHAT?" (laughs)

But it's more than just about dates to you...

Well ya....It's stories...again, it's human stories . Everybody's got a story to tell and I think sometimes as kids when we were learning things, we were bored to death by the way it was presented. But it's all stories and it's about people's paths and journeys for us to learn from and live's just interesting.

In present thinking about life and its meaning...and all you have learned and observed in your life and your work...what do you think is one of the greatest challenges of this life?

I think sometimes people fall into an ideal that they think they have to follow a certain path based on other people's opinions instead of following what they truly want to do...teenagers and even adults. You will hear people say "I wish I could do this or do that but I never could because..." for A B or C reasons. But it's just about being true to yourself. There's social norms that people feel like they have to fall into and I think it's a hard thing for people to do. I think they want to but they don't know how to, so they fall into maybe a cookie cutter kind of way... I try to keep things simple and try not to take things too remember what's truly important and it's not..."stuff and status" starts from within and with family...that's what I believe. I think everyone gets caught up in what everyone is going to think. I feel bad for some people because I don't think they have that benefit of experience to see how if you lived your life a different way, maybe you'd have a better result or be happier. I guess we just have to keep things in perspective about what is important .

What is one of the best things about your generation...people of your age that you can say "Ya...that was a good thing about our time..." ?

I feel like we were the generation that was right before technology...the internet... and all of this "plugged in" stuff. I think we are fortunate to have the benefit of both...we remember what it was like before technology...when the cell phones and cable just came to the area...we didn't have the internet. That came out when I got out of high school and I remember saying to one of my girlfriends, "What is this internet thing?" And now we have the benefit of both. My kids look at this thing (phone with cord attached on the wall) and ask "what is that?" And I keep it there for a reason ...ya it works and it's from 1959! ... I love that I have the access to them (technology) but I also love that I have the reference that I can remember and know what it was like before all of that stuff...when things were slower...simpler...easier. It will be interesting to see what happens when my kids get older and how I will deal with cell phones and all that...because as much as it's important to have are going to forget how to talk to each other and they will say things they wouldn't normally say.

Lastly how about your children's generation...what do you see as one of the good things about the younger generation coming into the world?

They have the benefit of knowledge and technology in a different way. I'm thrilled that my daughter is in a classroom that has a Smartboard. I didn't even know what a Smartboard was. I went in the classroom and said "What is that?" I mean she is five and that's great...that have that benefit. So that's wonderful for their generation. And empathy...I think we are really good about teaching our kids empathy. I see a different side of least in my own...a caring and compassionate side and I hope they follow their dreams and know they will have the benefit of all this technology to follow their dreams to fulfill their path ...I hope.

To watch the HCAM program of this interview, click here.