I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I am almost always the biggest (fattest) person on almost every single travel media trip I am on. I am often the only person of color, which is always interesting. I am sometimes almost always the oldest too, but that’s not as obvious sometimes. Definitely not as obvious as my physical self.
I was recently on a trip where the tour guide didn’t know I could speak Spanish and referred to me as “la gordita” (the fatty), when speaking to her partner. I said nothing.
I’m sure you’re wondering how that made me feel and I will say that I was surprised, not because I wasn’t “the fatty” in my group (because I was), but rather because she was so confident that I wouldn’t understand her and it was unprofessional. I mean, to me she was, almost from the moment our group met her, “the ahole”, but I didn’t say that out loud out of respect for her.
And though there are moments where I have been overcome by the insecurities over my weight (read about the time I hiked the summit in Vail), I spend more time not worrying about it because I never think I can’t do things I set my mind to. I may be scared, but I never worry that I can’t do it because of my body being what it is.
I say all this now because I was moved by the comments from a reader and friend when I shared this picture:
I may be the gordita in most of my press trips, but I am also the first one in line for all the fun.
She said she wanted so badly to zip line, but worries that her weight will be an issue (I know her, and it isn’t) and it reminded me of when I go zip lining and have to have the extra belts and straps attached for my boobs and my ass. I am almost always the only one that needs the extra stuff – and take the extra time for it, but I don’t care.
Because what I know that those who judge me don’t is that I don’t let anyone’s opinion of me define how I live and want to live my life. And it’s not always easy, because words are a powerful thing, but I had some help with the process.
I have often shared how I grew up and I was very, very lucky to grow up with a father who told me from a very early age that I would never be loved, that I would never succeed, and that I would never be happy because I was, in his eyes, not thin enough.
And I am not sure I ever believed him, because I always felt I was destined to be happy, and loved, and successful. It’s one of those things I always knew. It’s one of those things you have to believe in to make reality.
Now that I feel I am all those things, I have nothing to stand in my way, because my father was wrong, as were the people who thought I would never make it to the summit, as has been anyone who doubted me.
How people define us and limit us, be it for our weight, or race, or gender, or age, isn’t how we have to define ourselves. I am living proof of it.
There are people out there living their lives on the borders of limitations society has placed on them. They won’t travel, or pursue their passions. They won’t seek out their joy wholeheartedly or express their voices loudly. They believe what others tell them is their truth. And I say, take your power back and screw the haters. No one has the right. We all deserve to give ourselves the chance to be as happy as can be.
So, yes, my dear friend who I know is reading this, and anyone else who may find this relatable: you can zip line. You can do anything you set your mind to. It may take you longer. You may need extra support. But you can do it. And if they call you the gordita, that’s OK. If they are lucky, they’ll get to see all the other awesome things you are too.
You are who you are. Let who you are be defined by you, not by others and learn to be happy on your own terms.