Becoming Big: How Weight Gain Helped Me Find My Personal Power
What does it take for a woman with a job, two cars, a garage full of stuff, a husband, and a master’s degree to leave it all behind in exchange for a truck full of surfboards and sleeping alone on a Mexican beach?
I was running away from heartbreak. My husband, who had been clean and sober for years, shattered my world when he began using methamphetamine again.
But he wasn’t the only one with an addiction. I was fighting an eating disorder.
Then I found out I was the carrier of the BRCA1 gene, making me 80% likely to get breast cancer and 45% likely to get ovarian cancer.
It struck me much later that I had to be emptied of everything before being open enough to receive much more.
In that moment, I hit an all-time low in my life. I knew that surfing was the only thing getting me out of bed.
So I quit everything. I loaded up my boards and drove to Mexico with no real plan except to explore as many surf spots as I could, as cheaply as possible.
A month later, I was staying in a 9’x9’ cabaña that stunk of dead fish and leaked rain. The toilet didn’t flush, and the shower was a bucket.
It might as well have been heaven on earth. I couldn’t have cared less about the the lack of running water when I had perfect waves and the world’s best tacos.
Just a few weeks into my trip, my car broke down in a town known for having some of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world. I had to wait over two weeks for the repairs. I began to question my plan, or lack thereof. My savings account was getting lower by the day, my car wasn’t getting fixed, and the worst part was that the waves were too big for me to surf.
My depression, which had been temporarily displaced by excitement and novelty, had come back. I felt trapped—trapped by myself. I discovered the meaning of the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
One morning the waves were so big that they shook my apartment building hard enough to wake me. I watched the waves that day, feeling sorry for myself. As I watched, I saw for the first time a woman surfing a 40-foot wave.
That moment was a bit like being woken up from a deep sleep. The excuses I was choosing to believe in order to avoid the responsibility of my personal power were stripped away. On that day, I let myself believe that
I could surf waves like that, too. But with that came the realization that I could actually do anything I wanted to do—anything.
There was no amount of validation for my body from men that would make me feel loved, no amount of food that would make me feel full, no amount of surfing that would make life pleasant enough.
There was just me. And I was powerful.
I knew that I alone held the key to health and happiness in my very own hands.
It was terrifying: both learning to surf bigger and facing my own personal power. I would spend the next year battling both the ocean waves and my inner demons. I went to Hawaii and Indonesia and back to Mexico chasing swells around the world. I gained 30 desperately needed pounds. I began a brand-new career as a writer—something I always wanted to do but was afraid to try.
Then one day, almost exactly one year later, I was surfing at that very same powerful beach. The waves were big, bigger than I had ever surfed. I was scared and excited at the same time.
A perfect-looking wave was heading my way. It looked huge, and it looked fast. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to ride anything that difficult. But I heard a woman’s voice call out, “Go, Melanie, GO!” As I spun my board around, I noticed it was the same woman who had inspired me to live bigger just one year ago by ridding that giant wave.
The moment where I needed to leap to my feet was terrifying. Reassured by the cheering behind me, I committed to it.
That wave was so much more than the best barrel of my life. That wave was every excuse I had ever believed about being small getting washed away. I had become bigger than I had ever been before, bigger than I ever wanted to believe was possible.