Our first 500-word essay contest is in the bag and I have to say that, for the first one, it went pretty damn well. I also have to say that I was disappointed that so many of you who entered didn't follow the simple directions l laid out and explained in the simplest of terms. I had to disqualify over half of the entrants because they were submitted without a "by-line" under the title. I had no idea who wrote them! Just because your name is in your e-mail doesn't mean you can leave it off your essay. I drag them all into a folder and read them all at once at the end of the month. If your name isn't on your essay I'm not going to know who wrote it. Sounds like school doesn't it?
Hopefully, next time, I'll get all the submissions as I asked for them-- in a Microsoft WORD document (or a format Word can read), attached in an e-mail, bearing the author's name. Not only did I have to disqualify entrants because they were submitted without a by-line, but I also had to disqualify several more because they were too long, too short, or in a format that Word couldn't read. In fact, the winning essay was sent in as a PDF file which was a total pain in the ass to convert to Word because the formatting was way off and I had to click back on almost every word to get it in paragraph form. I toyed with the idea of disqualifying that one too but it was just too good. So, while Word can read PDF files, I'm not going to accept any more of them sent as PDFs. Just a plain document attached to an e-mail, 500 words, with a by-line, on the subject of my choice. Come on guys, it really can't get any simpler than that. There's no reason for me to have to disqualify over half the entrants. Please follow the rules that are part of the contest!
Now that I'm done bitching, let's get to the good stuff. The topic for this month was: "WHY I STARTED BODYBUILDING". The top six finalists are:
Roger F. Honts
Steve Gardener, aka ‘Mobster'
And the winner is.............
The Image Looking Back
By Kris Pitcher
Any woman who thinks back to being twelve years-old gets that same wince on her face recalling the pain of uncertainty in the pit of her stomach accompanying her coming of age. Girls are forever changed by the years of wading through teenage life. Body image lying in a heap, discarded like last year's sweater. Her sense of self is slowly chipped away.
From that time, we walk around in our suits of armor, protected from the world. We are insulated, and invisible. I remember being back stage at a contest the first time, mesmerized by the frenzy of chaos. The voice of the girl in my head was telling me as I stood in my invisible self, I could never do that.
Eight years would pass with trips back stage supporting my husband's pursuits. I'd become the consummate contest‐day trainer, I was great at that role, and bodybuilding was his sport.
He asked if I wanted to maybe train for a show. It was like a switch was turned on. That began my bodybuilding pursuit. I had come a long way on my own repairing my body image through my 30's yet this process has transformed not just my body, but myself.
I am focused, and committed. I am up before 5 AM hoisting on my weighted vest as I step on the treadmill. I measure each three-ounce meal, and put protein powder in shakers. My pill‐box is loaded with omega 3s, multi vitamins, and minerals. This control and dedication demands determination and unwillingness to quit. It isn't just what you do that gets you to contest day, it's what you don't do. I don't do social things at work. I don't stay up late. I don't celebrate or medicate with food. I say, "No thank you", and "None for me". This takes assertiveness and unwavering strength.
My preparation took 20 weeks. During that time thoughts can get away from you. In those fragile moments of exhaustion, self‐doubt slips in. You see your vulnerability. Finding your way out of feeling depleted and deprived takes mental strength. You face uncompromising truth each week on body composition day. It takes a willingness to be accountable. It takes trusting the process, and doing the work.
Today, I see a lean, muscular and proportioned physique. I see the strength of my calves, the curve of my lines, the striations in my shoulders, and a powerful femininity from within. There is an undeniable sense of self.
I've replaced my old unwarranted conceptions for a new self‐definition. Putting the pieces together, through bodybuilding, has helped that fragile girl ensure she's anything but invisible.
Looking in the mirror on contest day, I am struck. The woman looking back has shed her armor, and she is confident. She is strong and sure of her sense of self. She is ready for competition, and not surprisingly that image looking back, is me.
On the surface this is a very well-written piece. Other than that, I started out not really liking it and I set it aside. I didn't even think it had anything to do with the assigned subject. Then, after I read all the other entries I thought more about this one; it actually never left my mind even after reading all the others. But why did I initially not like it? At first I think I didn't because it conjured an image of obsessive behavior that I find more and more prevalent these days, especially among female competitors - like the chick in the gym carrying the gallon water jug. Maybe I was being too hard on Kris so I read her essay again. When I got to the part where she says, "I am focused, and committed. I am up before 5 AM...." It made me think of my girlfriend who is up at 4 AM every day doing her version of the same thing. In my girl I see commitment and drive-- the kind I used to have back in the day. That made me smile. Yeah, I thought, Kris gets it; that is what it takes. You do have to be almost obsessive; you do have to say, "No thank you" and "none for me," and you do have to limit your social engagement and not "medicate" with food, and all the other things Kris mentioned. At least while getting ready for a show you do. Dieting for a contest is probably one of the hardest and most challenging things anyone will ever do, and so few people ever do it because it's just too hard. If it wasn't, everyone would walk around muscular and ripped. And as we all know, most people don't. Kris' essay actually inspired me and made me feel good about being a part of something that changes people's lives and makes them feel empowered.
Kris' essay won not for any of that though. It won because it made me feel something. Through her writing l could feel the sense of self she dragged out of the armor. This is good stuff. Her husband's idea that maybe Kris should train for a show is perhaps the literal interpretation of the assigned subject matter, however the end result - as portrayed by the writer - certainly indicates that Kris definitely should have trained for a show. Good writing evokes emotion. Even if those emotions are negative- as mine were on the first pass. In the end, I couldn't keep my mind off this essay even after I read all the others. It stirred something inside me and made me think. That's why it won.
Good job Kris!! Make sure you e-mail me your shipping address so we can send you your SPECIES prize package!