Diana Nyad…I have to confess, I wasn’t really aware of who she was until I started seeing a few posts on Facebook about her fifth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. I’m not particularly interested in sports (except Brazilian soccer!), and although I’ve always enjoyed the water and swimming, I never really followed it as a sport.
But something caught my attention about Diana Nyad. First of all, her name. I had a feeling it wasn’t the one she was born with, and sure enough, she adopted the moniker, which means “water nymph”—so I knew there was no doubt in her mind as to who she was. Then, as I began to read more posts, I was struck by the sheer tenacity of the woman. She had tried to swim that stretch four previous times (the first time in 1978), and had failed, mostly because of vicious jellyfish stings and bad weather.
And yet here she was, back to give it one last try. And at age 64! She succeeded this time—over 100 miles of ocean swimming, 53 hours in the water swimming steadily except for treading water when her support team fed her. I thought, what gives a person that kind of determination? Almost a stubbornness?
Nyad herself had this to say before the swim: “There’s a fine line between having the grace to see that things are bigger than you are and to let your ego go, and there’s another edge over that fine line where you don’t want to ever, ever give up, and I’m still at that place.” And yet she also said that that this would be her final attempt. If she didn’t make it, she would have the grace to let it go.
I got so caught up in her story that I stayed up almost all night the second night of her journey, checking Facebooks for updates and praying for her safety in the dark, cold ocean waters. I was absolutely riveted. I wanted her to make it so badly. I was obsessed.
It made me think about my own life, and I know I’m not the only one. So many of us have niggling feelings of regret for the times we “gave up,” for whatever reason. Maybe we were distracted, tired out, frustrated, or just plain lazy. But the regret was there, like an itch you can’t get rid of.
So seeing this woman, who is no longer a girl, seize her life and embrace it the way she has done—fearlessly, never turning back—was an inspiration that hit me right in the gut. When I got the news that she had made it to Key West I felt as if a whole bunch of my own self-imposed barriers had collapsed. I was renewed, and I know a lot of others were, too—and not just older women, or even just women. Nyad’s story is for everyone. After all, our dreams are who we are. As she put it herself after her triumphant arrival in Key West: “We should never, ever give up.” To do so would be to turn our backs on who we really are, on our destiny.