|Photo of Diana Nyad, courtesy of www.kcrw.com|
"I have three messages: one is we should never ever give up; two is you are never too old to chase your dreams; and three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.”
I’m not a swimmer. In fact, if there are two sports I never took to and have no desire to start, it’s swimming and running. Most certainly, it’s because my attention span isn’t what it needs to be in order to sustain either of those. In other words, I’m kind of a wimp.
Which is what makes Diana Nyad’s historic swim so awe-inspiring to me. Here’s a woman who, at 64 years old, isn’t anywhere close to winding down (although, she might deserve a little breather now…). This was her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida; her first attempt was when she was 29. Her last fourattempts have been since she’s been 60.
It's not her age, but her words (no doubt crafted over the hours she spent in the dark water, rotating one arm in front of the other and fluttering her legs over and over) that we should pay the close attention to.
Never ever give up. As a parent whose kids play sports, this is one of the lessons I want them to learn. So what if you aren’t the best or the quickest or the most talented? That’s not the point. The point is to keep trying, in spite of setbacks and frustrations. Now I can add, “And it’s not like you got stung by a jellyfish in your mouth like Diana Nyad” in order to further reinforce that message.
You are never too old to chase your dreams. Kids might not understand that lesson right now, but as adults, we can. She’s not just sharing wisdom about sports. She’s reminding all of us, even if we aren’t athletes, that we can dream of something and set about achieving it. Become a writer, become a singer, change careers, pursue a passion, find those things that will make your life an authentic representation of who you believe yourself to be. Chase. Your. Dreams. Surely, whatever it is you want to do will seem a lot easier than plunging your face into cold, dark salt water thousands and thousands of times and wondering if your shark spotters have managed to stay awake.
It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team. I suspect Diana was referring specifically to swimming, but we can consider this lesson in broader terms. Sometimes, we think we’re alone in this life—that our struggles are ours alone and that our failures are debilitating and shameful. We turn away from help and we shy away from helping others. But one of the most important concepts to take away from sports as a metaphor for life is that we’re interconnected and interdependent. Diana had an entire team of people on her exhibition. Those people weren’t allowed to provide physical support (like, hold her up), nor was she allowed to touch the boats. But they navigated and swept for predators and monitored her. Isn’t that what life’s “game” is about? Finding a team of friends and/or family to help you search your way in the dark, keep an eye out for bad people and situations, and check in with you to make sure you’re okay.
When I think about swimming, I become very conscious about every breath—even though I’m nowhere near water. Having watched Diana Nyad’s dream come to fruition and hearing her words about sport and life, I think (maybe) I can breathe a little easier now.
For more information about Diana Nyad’s amazing journey: