I remember the first time I heard the name Diana Nyad. I was listening to NPR. Her story was riveting. This was a woman who was attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida. Havana to Key West. 110 miles. Nonstop. Unassisted. Without a shark cage. In waters with some of the most dangerous animals in the world.
Since I first heard her story, I have been a fan of this incredible woman. When she didn't complete her third and fourth swims, I felt frustrated. When she did complete the swim--on September 2, 2013--I was jubilant. I cried. HARD. I felt so proud of her/for her! I wished more than anything that I could have been on the beach at 1:55PM when, on the shakiest of legs, Diana Nyad walked onshore after her epic 53 hour journey.
Earlier this year, I decided to walk away from a photography business I had been trying to build for four years. I just couldn't take it anymore. I was exhausted, angry, and so very, very broken.
Instead of giving up photography completely, I began shooting for free, when I felt like it. I wasn't trying to garner more interest for my business. (I took down my Facebook business page) I wasn't doing it for recognition. I was doing it because I genuinely wanted to shoot for others; to make them happy, which in turn made me happy. Then August came. With it, the immeasurable pain of my father telling me he no longer wanted to be in my life. I cried. HARD.
For years, I had attempted to create a relationship with my father. A man who repeatedly physically abused me with not only his words, but with his hands. For years, I tried to avoid the memories of my father repeatedly lashing me with a belt, choking me, throwing dishes at me, screaming in my face; calling me an animal. For years, I tried to reconcile the fact that both of my parents told me it was my fault that this happened to me. That I deserved all of it.
While it hurt to know that my father didn't want to be in my life any longer (and it really, truly hurt despite everything that had happened), one morning I woke up and realized I was OK. I was more than OK. I was happy. I felt as if I had thrown off my suit of darkness and changed into a glorious gown of light. I'm not quite sure why or how it happened, but it did, and it has been the most powerful life experience I have ever encountered.
I realized that I had worth.
I thought I had done the "right" thing by forgiving my father of his physical/verbal abuse, and attempting to repair our lost relationship. I felt that I had to, as he was my family, and I had been taught that family is what is most important. I carried the secrets of my personal hell for years because I was told over and over again that it was a private matter, and besides, I was responsible for it happening.
How could I expect to be successful when I was repeating the words of my father in my mind over and over again, day in and day out, even on the days when I was seemingly fine?
How could I expect to accomplish anything without understanding that I was capable everything?
How could I believe in myself when I bought into the idea that there was nothing to believe in?
I had been sucked into a vortex of anger, pain, and negativity. I allowed other people/photographers to use me, take advantage of my generosity, and believed them when they told me I was no good. I thought that being kind would make everything okay, and that if I were as nice as I possibly could be, nothing would bad would happen again. I withdrew further into myself and my home: feeling very afraid and so desperately lonely.
Diana Nyad didn't make it to Florida on her first try. She didn't make it to Florida on her second try. Nor on her third or fourth try. It wasn't until her fifth attempt that she reached that shore. She didn't allow the pain of her own past (sexual abuse, which she openly discusses) or the discouraging words of others to deter her from her dream. She didn't allow the possible to be impossible.
I realized that I don't have to turn away from my own dream. Just because I took time off doesn't mean that I am unable to return and try again. It may take me five tries, it may take me twenty. It will happen. I will be successful in this. It may not match up with everyone else's idea of success, but it will be all the more sweeter for myself. I feel that I am already successful in that I can hold my head up high and [finally] shout I AM WORTHY!!!
In reality I know that Diana Nyad will probably never stumble across my blog, but I wanted to offer gratitude to her for being true to herself, and, perhaps inadvertently, a woman I look to for inspiration and strength. Due to her unending devotion to her goals, and a solid belief that she would achieve her dream, she did just that... and changed my life in the process. So, THANK YOU, Diana Nyad, for being the woman you were destined to be, and for helping me to realize than I can too.