My name is Melissa, I’m 48, and I'm a work in progress. Right now, I’m in Washington, DC, staring down an overpriced coffee, pondering life and where my next chapter begins.
I’ve been to the foot of Mount Ararat. I’ve snorkeled with sharks in the Andaman Sea. I’ve been held at gunpoint by Chechen Mafiosi and stood at the bottom of the stairs of Air Force One. I’m fun at parties. I’ve rolled naked in the snow after a Russian sauna, been knocked into a sewer in Uzbekistan, and on the first day of my current job, I was blessed by the Dalai Lama. I’m a storyteller, a total geek, a devoted friend, and I’m as capable of loving and being loved passionately and fully as anyone else you will meet.
I’m also fat.
With many people, that’s all they see, all they care to know, and all they think I am.
It saddens me when people judge me exclusively on my physical form. It kills me that many see me as less human than they are—less worthy of respect, dignity, decency, or love—because of the curves of my body. It infuriates me that I still sometimes let it bother me.
My mom was a pilot—a WASP—in WWII. She dealt with bigotry, ignorance, and even aircraft sabotage for the honor and duty of flying some of the most exciting—and dangerous—warbirds ever to grace the sky. She always told me to take chances, follow the more challenging path, and never let anything stop me. I try to remember her advice every time a stranger randomly passes judgment on me for my weight.
I am not defined by my body. Neither are you. Definitions are limitations. Defy definition, embrace your quirks, be good to others, and be as happy as you can. As for me, I’ll keep moving forward, with joy and adventure in my heart.
Here’s a little of my personal philosophy for getting through this life:
- You are your own best advocate—for health, for work, for choosing the life path you need to take. Don’t wait for others to take you by the hand and show you the way.
- Do crazy adventurous things, even if you get hurt now and then. You will have amazing stories—and possibly awesome scars—to share for the rest of your life.
- Don’t be afraid to love people, even if some don’t love back. Just know when to cut your losses and move on. (Still working on this myself.)
- Buy your own roses. You deserve them.
- Carve out a little portion of time every day to do something creative or something that feeds your passion. And share what you make! If you put it out there, you can’t hide in fear of rejection. Good, bad, ugly, totally unabashedly cheesy—boldly embrace what gives you joy.
Recently, I resurrected my long-dormant blog and cleaned off my drawing table. I find contentment in the moments I steal to draw or write, and I’m grateful for the indulgence of friends on social media in encouraging me for what I post—my tentative steps toward a real creative leap of faith.
A few weeks ago, I found out that my job is likely ending around Christmas. Facing down 50, I have to re-invent myself. Is this the time to take that huge creative leap? I think and hope so. Who knows what I’ll find on the flip side.
Time to hold my breath, count to three, and jump. Care to join me?