‘Nyad’ (2023): Just Keep Swimming

As children, our uniqueness and individuality define us. We feel no shame in what interests us and what we aspire to do with our lives. Many of us dreamt of becoming astronauts, pilots, or scuba divers. No dream was too big, and no goal was out of reach. Our imagination was fueled by the excitement of one day becoming our own hero.

However, as we grow older and school and society shape us into cynical realists, we often reshape our goals into something more achievable. This transformation often manifests as a 9-5 office job that is only tolerable because it brings home a decent paycheck to support our families (although nowadays, even that is slowly becoming unattainable). We lose sight of our ambitions, either out of fear of failure or a lack of desire to put in the effort required to achieve them.

Diana Nyad, portrayed by Annette Bening, underwent a similar transition from childhood wonder to adulthood cynicism. However, this apprehension and fear of failure did not deter her from pursuing her most significant dreams, even in the face of numerous obstacles. Diana is a decorated marathon swimmer, known for crossing extraordinary distances and spending over 12 hours in the water. Her passion began in childhood and evolved into a fervent desire to conquer the unconquerable.

Setting records and winning gold medals for the US Olympic team only fueled her determination to keep swimming across channels and bays in the open ocean. At the age of 29, she aimed to swim from Cuba to Key West, covering a 103-mile distance in the open ocean. This meant spending at least 48 consistent hours in the water without touching the boat, her coach, or staff, relying solely on her sheer will. Despite embarking on this journey in 1978 and facing strong winds, ripping currents, and dangerous swells, Nyad was forced out of the water, marking her defeat.

After her failure, Nyad refrained from swimming for 30 years, seemingly bringing her swimming career to an end. However, at the age of 60, feeling she had spent enough time “waiting around to die,” she refused to heed the experts who claimed the swim was impossible, especially for someone of her age. The strong currents and inhospitable conditions of the strait between Florida and Cuba were additional challenges. Undeterred, Diana made up her mind—she would cross that strait, even if it was the last thing she’d ever do. Her best friend Bonnie Stoll, portrayed by Jodie Foster, served as her coach, and together, they began her training and preparations.

Her first attempt failed in 2011, as did her third and fourth, but the sour taste of defeat did not deter Diana from trying again. She had a goal, a dream, and she was determined to achieve it. Her resolve is not to be taken lightly; swimming is already an incredibly demanding sport both physically and mentally. To endure dehydration, exposure, exhaustion, and the dangers of the open ocean, all while maintaining relentless forward movement, is not for the faint-hearted; it is barely for the strong-hearted. Finally, in 2013, at the age of 64, she crossed from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Taking her almost 53 straight hours to swim 110 miles, she became the first person ever to navigate the Florida Strait.

The most admirable aspect of Diana Nyad is her resilience in the face of failure. She failed four times but refused to give up. While success stories often emphasize that success is only achieved through failures, few discuss their actual experiences of failure openly. Many are ashamed of it, preferring to be remembered only for their achievements and sweeping their failures under the rug. Nyad, however, didn’t care about societal expectations.

Most individuals would have admitted defeat after the first failure, let alone picking back up again after 30 years to face more failures. Nyad embodies the pursuit of goals, even when told they are seemingly out of reach. She reminds us that we are never too old to strive for our goals. While failure can be a strong deterrent, it is possible for you to emerge stronger. Allow yourself to dream as wildly as you did as a child and put your whole heart into doing what makes you happy, regardless of how many people tell you it’s too late. The decision rests with you, as there is only one person in the world who can determine that.



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