Earlier this month, on the same day I was stuck inside tiny Key West International airport, flight-delayed at the end of vacation, Diana Nyad walked ashore, a mile down the road at Smathers Beach, at the end of a very different journey. Hers lasted 52 hours and 53 minutes, or 35 years, depending how you count.
By CINDY HOEDEL
The Kansas City Star
Nyad swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, an astonishing feat in itself. That she was the first person to complete the open-ocean swim without a sharks cage is even more remarkable. That she is 64 makes it the feel-good story of summer, hands down.
But I am inspired by Nyad for reasons that have nothing to do with braving sharks, jellyfish, punishing waves and the blistering sun. I love the way she dives headlong into life with complete disregard for age.
Less than 24 hours after crossing the Florida Straits under her own power, Nyad told the Associated Press, I didnt do this because I was in my 60s. I just happened to be in my 60s.
Later she added, I feel like I could walk through a brick wall. ... I think Im truly dead center in the prime of my life at 64.
Thats very affirming, because at 52, I feel like my best years are still ahead of me. My friends laugh when I say that, as if Im chronically optimistic or hopelessly immature. But maybe Nyad is right. Maybe your life is what you make it and you can make it really good at any age.
It turns out, Nyad has had her refreshing outlook from a very young age. The New York Times 6th Floor blog recently quoted an essay Nyad wrote as a fifth-grader in Fort Lauderdale when she was 10 (!) that offers terrific advice for old-codgery types of all ages:
What I Will Do For the Rest of My Life:
My mother says that her father lived to be 79. Her mother is still living. And my fathers parents are still living. It would probably be a good guess that I will live to 80 years. Which means I have 70 years left to go.
I want to see all the countries of the world and learn all the languages. I want to have thousands of friends, and I want all my friends to be different. I want to play six instruments. I want to be the best in the world at two things. I want to be a great athlete and I want to be a great surgeon.
I need to practice very hard every day. I need to sleep as little as possible. I need to read at least one major book every week. And I need to remember that my 70 years are going to go by too quickly.
How much happier most people would be if they had half that enthusiasm and determination.
I was sad that I missed the parade in Nyads honor in Key West and didnt get a chance to shake her hand, but I commemorated her accomplishment in my own way when I got finally got home.
I have six wild barn kittens, and the littlest one, a blue-eyed tabby, is by far the bravest. She scrambles higher up in the sweet gum tree, pounces farther when hunting grasshoppers, and stands her ground when I walk up close, while still managing to dart off at the last second if I try to touch her.
I had named her True Grit, after the book, which Im re-reading in preparation for Kansas City Public Librarys Big Read coming soon. I thought about naming the second-bravest kitten, a miniature black panther with emerald eyes, after my ocean-swimming heroine.
But of course that wouldnt do, because Diana Nyad is second-bravest to no one.
So now the littlest barn kitten has two names. It doesnt matter at all, because True Grit/Diana Nyad doesnt come no matter what you call her. She dances to her own tune.