I wonder how people who get within striking distance of the summit of Mount Everest, only to be turned back by harsh weather, feel afterwards. Was it exhilarating just to get within reach? Or does that just make the pain of non-attainment all the more intense?
I may find out on Monday. I’m that close to achieving my lifelong dream — penning the caption of an actual, printed-in-the-freaking-magazine New Yorker cartoon.
By my amateur polling of friends and family, it’s between me and Amy Thomas of Centerville, Mass. and according to this blog post, as the first entry listed I’m in pole position (no offense to Robert Carlson of Sherwood, Ore., the obvious dark horse).
It’s certainly cliché to say “It’s an honor just to be nominated” and most of us on the brink of instant stardom don’t really mean it. I certainly don’t. I mean, all that training, the mental gymnastics, all those freezing early-morning drives in my Mom’s van to cartoon captioning practice … I didn’t go through all that just to get a participation trophy. I show up to win. So much of anything competitive is the belief in yourself, the result of overcoming numerous, thought-to-be-insurmountable obstacles, that, at least in my case, you don’t end up at the finish line lacking a strong conviction you can win.
But alas, this particular contest is known to be, at best, inconsistent. The main “problem” is that voting is crowdsourced. Many finalists have cried, “But mine was better!” Scores have lamented, “That caption is only possibly funny for people from New York!” Even giants stumble in their pursuit of this fabled prize; the famous film critic Roger Ebert submitted hundreds of captions before ever even getting chosen as a finalist. I made it on my fourth or fifth try.
But I’m hooked now. Win or lose, I will keep playing. I believe my best work is yet to come.
And oh yeah, please vote for me.