This is one of ten shortlisted entries for our Things To Do Before You Die contest. We will try to make the winning idea happen.
The entries on the shortlist are:
"Inform The World About Lyme Disease" - Beth Ross
"Improving The Lives Of Dogs" - Emily Grossheider
"Becoming A Regular Size" - Will Holt
"Seeing Through Photography" - Jeremy Braun
"Live Like We're Dying" - Jonathan Winegarden
"One Wish Before I Die: Let Women Lead" - Claire Charamnac
"My Wish For A Buried Life" - Ashley Calarie
"The Dark Has Its Own Light" - Mary Rose Betten
"Thank You For Being A Teacher" - Caroline Cretti
"My Wish: To Be A Professional Pinup Model" - Alicia Leeman
When I saw the Facebook posting on 'The Buried Life' page about a contest with the Huffington Post at first I scrolled past it thinking I never win anything. But then I went back and read it a day later and thought, why not? If they can play basketball with the President, it can't hurt to try and cross something else off my list. So, I submitted a short story about #42 on my list - Do a professional pin-up style photo shoot.
Here's a little background of how that item made it on my list and how I started my list in general. I've always struggled with my weight since as long as I can remember. Being a chubby girl in middle school and high school was not fun. Dances were like a John Hughes movie with me crying on the floor in the corner of a gymnasium like Molly Ringwald. I excelled in classes but had very few friends outside of class. I joined the soccer team in high school to make friends, but I kind of sucked at it and hated running so I quit in my junior year. By senior year I was extremely depressed and I almost didn't make it out alive.
In college, I was a little more active and I made friends quickly. Just walking around campus and being involved in various intramural sports, I lost about 50 pounds. I had a lot of fun, but still didn't have much self-confidence. I focused mainly on my grades and not as much on my social life. I graduated with honors but still no idea who I was or who I wanted to be.
Then I entered the real world and started working full-time. I got stuck in the routine that many people do- work, eat, sleep, repeat. I didn't think I was unhealthy. I never ate fast food. But slowly, over time, the weight I lost in college came back and then some. I didn't think much of it. My clothes got bigger and eventually I was limited to shopping in the "plus size" stores, but I still looked good. I changed jobs after college and ended up working just outside of Boston for a large Biotech company that was mostly people my age and I was climbing the corporate ladder and having fun with friends along the way.
In October 2006, one of my friends invited me to go to a Halloween party with her. I went shopping for costumes and had to go with the "one size fits most" options which were kind of limited. Eventually, I found a plus sized little red riding hood costume that looked cute. I actually bought several costumes and tried them on at home and realized that the "one size fits most" didn't really fit me. Thankfully, the plus sized little red riding hood did fit.
The night of the party I got ready. I did my hair in pigtails and curled the ends and tied it with little red ribbons. I put on the costume and looked in the mirror and thought, "DAMN, I look good!" My friend picked me up and we went to the party. We had a great time drinking and dancing and partying late into the night with all our friends. The next week at work, one of the guys that was at the party sent out pictures he had taken at the party. I scrolled through them checking out all the great costumes and remembering some of the funny moments of the evening. Then I got to a picture of myself and I was horrified. Unlike the image of myself in the mirror the night of the party, for the first time in a long time I saw myself the way other people saw me. I was "Not-so little red riding hood". My mental picture of myself was a lot skinnier than the actual size I had become. How did I let myself get so big? And how was the image in my brain so much smaller than what I actually looked like?
That picture was the wakeup call I needed to make a change. That day I went to the store and bought gym clothes and started working out. There was an onsite fitness center at my company and I started using it almost every day. At first, I walked on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes at a time or did the elliptical. Within the first 3 months I had lost about 30lbs. I had to use safety pins to hold my pants up. In the spring of 2007, I had lost close to 60lbs. The fitness center had an incentive program based on the Army fitness test which included 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit ups, and a 2 mile run. I dreaded the run, but I wanted to see if I could do it and then improve. I finished the first 'run' on March 28th in about 22 minutes and thought I was going to die, but I was determined to get better and I trained using a walk/run program and over the course of six weeks I shaved 2 minutes off my time. When I finished the second run, my trainer suggested I run a half marathon with her. I laughed at her. How could I run 13.1 miles if I barely made it 2 miles? She convinced me and I started training.
In October 2007, I finished the BAA Half marathon. I couldn't believe it. If I could complete 13.1 miles, what else could I do? A few weeks later, I hit a huge milestone. I lost 100lbs!!! I went from a size 22/24 to a size 8. I didn't do it using diet pills or surgery or a fad diet like Atkins, South Beach, or Weight Watchers. I did it by working my butt off, literally. I made a lot of small changes over the course of a year and changed my entire lifestyle. I was determined to never let myself get to such an unhealthy size again.
In my head I started making a list of all the things I wanted to do now that I was more active and a much smaller size - Some simple, some a little more adventurous. I could go to the movies now and not put the armrest up to fit comfortably in the seat. I could use a normal sized towel instead of a 'bath sheet'. I could shop at the Gap and Express. I could go to Six Flags and fit in the rollercoaster seats. I could go skydiving, there's actually a weight limit and I had never been below it before (I still haven't crossed that one off my list, but I plan to this summer). The possibilities were endless.
Over the next year, I continued to run and found out that I actually liked running long distances. I completed a few more half marathons and a few shorter distance races. Then in October 2008, exactly a year from the date that I lost 100lbs. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. It was an amazing experience. It was not easy, but every step of the way I thought to myself "I lost 100lbs to get here". I crossed that finish line and I never looked back. I was hooked. I registered for my next marathon the day I got home from D.C. Since then I have completed 9 marathons, including the 2010 Boston marathon. I ran for Dana Farber and raised almost $10,000 for Cancer research. Last year I completed my first half ironman triathlon (1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike + 13.1 mile run). I did the Tough Mudder New England obstacle course race in Vermont. I even did the "Goofy Challenge" in Disney which consists of running a half marathon on Saturday and then the full marathon on Sunday. This year I did the Race Up Boston Place stair climb event for American Lung Association running up 41 floors, 789 steps as fast as you can- twice!
I added #42 - do a professional pin-up style photo shoot - to my list because I want to get rid of that "not-so-little red riding hood" mental image and replace it with a better one. I love the pin-up photos from the 50s with real women showing off curves in all the right places with their clothes on - confident and sexy, powerful and playful. The idea terrifies me a little, but I really want to be that person that everyone else sees and I want to feel as beautiful as I know I look.
I've come so far and accomplished so much and I still struggle with this one little thing that seems so simple, but is the hardest hurdle for me to get over - Making my brain catch up to my body. I'd love to cross this one off my list. I know it's a long shot and that there are probably more epic items on other people's lists, perhaps more meaningful, or more exciting, or bigger and better, but to me this one little thing is so much bigger than what it looks like on the surface. It's not just a photo shoot. It's something that I really think will help me see myself in a new light and give me the self-confidence I've always lacked.