By Lisa Huddleston
By now I’m sure most of you have heard a news report or read an article about the record setting swim by Diana Nyad over the Labor Day weekend. The swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage was impressive in its own right, but it was the remarkable attitude of the swimmer herself that made an impression on me. With lips still grotesquely swollen by the nearly 53 hours in saltwater, Diana said, “I’ve got three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is [swimming] looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.” Three awesome, inspiring messages that I think are worthy of a closer look.
First, never, ever give up. This was Nyad’s fifth attempt at making this swim, her first attempt taking place 35 years ago. Now that’s persistence! I’ve definitely heard this message before, but somehow I still need the reminder. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. One foot in front of another. One bite at a time. Different words but the same message, and as I made my way back to the gym to “start over” once again today, I savored Nyad’s words: Never, ever give up.
Next, you are never too old to chase your dreams. I don’t know if it registered with you, but Diana Nyad is 64 years old. You read that right—64! She was only 29 when she first tried to swim the 103 miles, and it would have been easy for her to excuse herself from this dream many years ago. But she didn’t let her age serve as an easy out. Age may make some dreams impossible–like there will probably never be a 64-year-old Miss America (eh–who cares?). But far too often we let age be our excuse for accomplishing less than we can. Want to get another degree? Go for it. Dream of making a difference in the world? It’s never too late. Still hoping to write a book, learn to play the piano, visit Italy? Go for it! Don’t falsely claim your age is your reason for giving up on your dreams.
Finally, Nyad reminded us that she didn’t make this swim alone; she had a wonderful team of people supporting her all along the way. Her team fed her, looked for signs of distress, cleared her path of jellyfish (as well as they could), and I’m sure buoyed her with their hope for her success. Her team made her dream possible, and Nyad gave them all the credit they deserved.Who is your team? Family, friends, co-workers often make the difference in a dream’s fading away or becoming a reality. When I first dreamed of going back to school to work on a Master of Christian Studies degree, it seemed impossible. But I shared my hope with my husband who supported me all the way. My friend and pastor told me about a great program that was perfect for me. My kids and friends gave me the space I needed to study for two and a half years. And my teachers and classmates provided knowledge and emotional support. I was 50-years-old when I finally received my degree, and I know I could never have done it alone.
Today I am 52, and I haven’t stopped dreaming. I’m learning to weave, I’m studying yoga, and my husband and I are planning some new ventures into “backyard” farming. And I know those are just the dreams I have today. I will keep learning and growing and stretching as long as I live.
Diana Nyad’s mantra for this year’s training was, “Find a way,” and I encourage us all to do just that. Do you have a dream? Have you got the will? Then find a way! (And thanks for the encouragement, Diana.)