I am so in awe of Diana Nyad. Her story is nothing short of inspirational. I consider swimming to be one of the most challenging sports out there. While I would love to finish a triathlon some day, the thought of just swimming one mile is exhausting. (I blame it on my huge muscles and the fact that I sink immediately. Note: if you know me, you know this argument doesn’t get me far.) Just one mile of swimming for Diana, though, is like an ultrarunner running the hundred yard dash.
In 2013, Diana Nyad swam 110 miles from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. Without a shark cage. At 64 years old. Nearly 53 hours in total. Take that in.
This was her fifth attempt, her first attempt was in her late twenties and her three others were in the few years before 2013. During these attempts, she faced incredible danger. From lightning storms to the box jellyfish, most marathon swimmers would be lucky to be alive after just one attempt. The sting from the box jellyfish alone is enough to kill a person and Diana faced multiple stings during her many attempts. She has willpower and strength that is quite frankly, unfathomable.
What I find to be the most inspiring part of her story is that between her late twenties to her training in her sixties, she didn’t swim once. She was an avid swimmer in high school, but when she failed in crossing to Key West in 1978, she essentially stopped swimming altogether (with the exception of her Bahamas to Florida swim right after her first attempt). Then, in her sixties, she found the motivation once more to begin training and try again. It is so easy to become complacent in our lives, to be comfortable. We don’t change our careers because it’s easier to go about the daily grind and look toward retirement. We don’t meet new people because we’re comfortable with the people we know. We don’t try new things because we’re afraid of the unknown. Diana could have easily kept on with her life at sixty and been comfortable. But would she have been satisfied with the way she led her life? Absolutely not. She needed the Cuba swim. She didn’t let age get in the way. It is easy to read about someone who has been a world-class Olympian their whole life and think “I could never do that.” But reading Diana’s story makes you realize you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. She was not a swimmer for 40 years. She just set a goal and busted her ass to accomplish it. (Caveat: she has more mental strength than arguably any other human but regardless, you see my point.)
As an atheist myself (sorry, mom), I also appreciate her world outlook. She does not believe in a higher power, she does not think God was with her on her journey across the ocean. She says,
“I learned through my own life’s journey that one makes oneself a champion and all the other things one becomes. With the philosophy that we are all exactly where we should be, learning the lessons we were put on Earth to learn at exactly the time we were meant to learn them, that everything that happens to us happens for a reason, that every moment of our lives was meant to be just as it is – well then, where is hope? Where does will come in? Where is the inspiration to change and better oneself?”
I’ve always held the philosophy that everything does happen for a reason. However, I don’t disagree with Diana’s statement above. I don’t use this as an excuse to be complacent in my own life or to just have hope that everything will work out okay. Rather, I’ve found that when I look back at past events in my life, events that seemed at the time to be terrible (I lead a very blessed life so “terrible” is a strong word), they all worked out wonderfully in the end. For instance, when I look back at my parents divorce, something that seemed horrific at the age of fourteen, I realize that I would not be where I am today had they stayed together. Chain of events: my parents get divorced, we move to Broadalbin, NY, I go to Lehigh, I get a great job in NYC, etc. I know for a fact that I would not have gone to Lehigh had we not moved and I would not have moved if my parents had stayed together. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without those events. (Not to mention I now have a kickass almost-step-dad, my dad is happier than ever and hey, two Thanksgivings/Christmas’/etc ain’t so bad!) Everything happens for a reason in that when something rough happens, I am motivated to see how I can turn those things around for the better. I think Diana might agree.
If you’re looking for a motivator in life, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, I think Diana can easily provide that in Find a Way. She is a true inspiration. There is so much more to be said about her, but I don’t want to spoil anything if you choose to read it yourself.
Also – I highly recommend listening to this on audiobook. I did about half and half between Audible and Kindle. Diana reads it herself so you get to hear all her emotions seeping through, an excellent way to get the full experience of her story.
I likely won’t be posting for a bit as I am on vacation to California for all of next week. I’ll be in San Diego for four days and San Francisco for five. Maybe I’ll change things up a bit and post about my travels when I get back. Any advice on restaurants/things to do/etc is welcome and VERY appreciated 🙂 Thanks!
Also looking for advice on whether or not I should eventually devote time to reading Infinite Jest. If you have read it, I would love your opinion. I’ve received mixed reviews (not on the book, but if I should read it) thus far.