Distance swimmer Diana Nyad had been pulled from the water by her support team just 50 miles short of Key West in her latest attempt to swim from Cuba to the U.S. During four valiant tries Nyad has battled adverse currents, storms, stinging jellyfish, asthma problems, dehydration, and exhaustion. Given the costs, time commitment for her support team, and general strain on her body, this may have been the 62 year old’s last attempt.
Competitive and goal-driven people, as Nyad seems to be, are all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I doubt, no matter what she says publicly, that she’ll give herself much credit for the huge effort involved in each swim, for going at it four times, and for getting within 50 miles of her goal. She gave it all she had and couldn’t finish. Hard stop.
I do give Nyad credit. She had a vision, was able to gather people around her as a support team who believed in that vision not once but four times, and truly did give every ounce of skill and energy that she had.
The story doesn’t always have the ending that we long for, but it’s a story nonetheless.
I think of Mount Everest climbers, some of whom die because they can’t or won’t turn back from achieving the summit. Sometimes the story of valiant athletic adventure ends that way too.
What do we say of people who reach for something more than most of us would ever think of attempting, and yet fall short? Is it something? Is it nothing? Is it a story that we tell, or one that we cast aside as unfinished and not worthy of note?
I think it’s something, but I’m falling short of finding the words to say exactly what. Your thoughts are welcome.