“You’re never too old” to follow your dreams, Diana Nyad told the crowd waiting for her on the beach at Key West Monday afternoon.
“This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very very glad to be with you,” Nyad said to her supporters in the boats around her just two miles from completing the swim.
Age and gender don’t matter. Nyad proved that today. By swimming some 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage, the 64-year-old has done something no other man, or woman, has managed to do.
It took her more than 50 hours, but she did it. This was her fifth try, and she had announced it would be her final attempt. I was rooting for her, following her progress on her web site and through news accounts. Earlier Monday, it looked as if she would actually succeed this time.
Jellyfish — tiny little creatures with tentacles the size of a strand of hair — had brought down last year’s attempt. They repeatedly stung her lips, the only part of her body exposed. This year she tried a protective mask, though it made it harder to breathe.
But sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do. If one method doesn’t work, then you try another. Perseverance, it’s called. My grandpa used another phrase: “Can’t never did anything.”
You can’t give up when you’re following a dream.
It’s a lesson I’m trying to teach my kids. When my teen-age daughter looked for her first job, she filled out 32 applications before the manager of a local restaurant took a chance on an inexperienced server and hired her to be a waitress. He said later he was impressed with her poise and professional attire.
Now she’s pursuing a career in theatre. It’s her dream. Is it practical? Who knows. She’s already had paying internships and some wonderful roles. At the age of 13, she played the part based on a young Carol Burnett in “Hollywood Arms,” the play by Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton.
My daughter wrote a letter to Burnett, asking some questions about her childhood and the play. Burnett responded with a personal phone. Then she followed up with a bouquet of balloons sent to the cast and crew on opening night.
We’ve heard a lot about dreams this past week with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech. Sadly, the dream of racial equality has not yet been achieved.
But we still need to dream of a better world. For us Baby Boomers, times have been tougher than many of us expected. My husband’s gone through four layoffs because so many IT jobs have been outsourced overseas. But he’s stuck with it, learning new computer skills. As a writer, I’ve seen the fields of journalism and publishing undergo major upheavals with the changes in technology.
I first dreamed of writing when I was a 7-year-old girl and wrote down the stories I made up in a 1,001-page tablet that was a Christmas present. After working in publishing for a decade, I went out on my own as a freelancer — choosing to live in Kansas City, not New York. One East Coast friend didn’t think it would be possible.
But I supported myself for three years with freelance work as a journalist and editor until marriage and children changed the direction of my life — and my dreams as well.
“Never give up on your dreams,” President Barack Obama tweeted to Nyad.
Whatever your dream — whether you want to run a marathon at age 60 or manage to lose 20 pounds for better health — Diana Nyad gave us all inspiration today.
Congratulations to @DianaNyad. Never give up on your dreams.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 2, 2013