Diana Nyad's Impossible Dream

Diana Nyad was pulled from the water today on her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. The 62-year-old (she turns 63 tomorrow) cited jellyfish stings on her face, hands, and neck, and a storm that blew her off course, not to mention the sharks surrounding her, as the reasons she had to stop.

Nyad was trying to be the first woman to swim that route without a shark cage. She’d tried the swim with a shark cage in 1978 and on two other occasions without, but never made it. Even after her team brought her in, shivering and swollen from the jellyfish stings, she asked, “When can I get back in?”

Nyad’s dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida began as a simple question when she was eight years old and visiting Cuba with her family. “I used to stand on the beach and I said to my mother, ‘I wonder if anybody could swim over there,'” she told CNN.

I can’t help but wonder what her mother said in response. Whatever it was, it worked. Nyad may not have swum that distance (yet), but she went on to become an endurance swimmer who broke world records. From a simple childhood dream, a whole life was born.

Nyad hoped her accomplishment would inspire others her age. She told CNN:

“When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams.'”

She’s not going to walk up on that shore today having swum the distance, but the dream of that eight-year-old girl is still alive and well in her despite repeated failure. That, to me, is what makes her story great.