Relaxed to #naturalhair
Doing the big chop is not the only way to becoming natural. Transitioning is another solution that is often used in the natural hair community. This is when you grow out your natural hair without cutting your relaxed ends.
There is no right or wrong amount of time to transition. It all depends on your natural hair texture, how straight your chemically treated hair is, and how much care you are willing to put into it. Wanting to wait until your natural roots reaches your shoulders seems like a good plan until you realize that you will have to not only detangle your coily roots, but also fight with that line of demarcation which is where the relaxed ends meet your curls. Transitioning hair is the most difficult to detangle because of that, which is why if it's not done correctly it can cause breakage, which can make you natural sooner than expected. I personally did not transition and decided to do the big chop after a month for that reason.
If you decide that you do not want to deal with the two textures, you can use protective styles like weaves or braids. Only thing I suggest is to not leave them in for longer than a month and a half and to not do them too tight. Doing the opposite can lead to breakage and would make the protective styling counterproductive. If you don't like extensions,you can definitely wear your transitioning hair out. You will just have to always use rods if you want a curly style or be careful with heat damage if you decide to wear it straight.
Having a successful long transition is definitely possible! If you have any questions on this process, please leave me a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.