You were so nervous that first day at the beach. The waves were so large and loud as they crashed on the white sand. All the other kids already knew how to dive under the foaming surf into clean water, but you just stood in knee deep water, your toes squishing in the wet sand. Your instructors taught you how to avoid the pounding waves, but you were still nervous every time you had to cross the surf line. You started to enjoy being at the beach and improved so much that first summer.
The next year your mom gave you the book Swimming to Antarctica and you were enthralled by Lynne Cox’s bravery and adventures. You told yourself that maybe one day you would do a long ocean swim, too. You pulled out the atlas to see where the English Channel was and the seed was planted in your head, but you didn’t share your dreams with anyone for fear that they would laugh at you. You kept training hard at swim practice, imagining you were really swimming across oceans.
You entered a 2-mile ocean swim and enjoyed it so much you entered the 1 mile an hour later. Racing in the ocean felt nothing like racing in the pool, you were free ride the waves as you swam through the salty water. You began to grow used to the surf and were motivated to develop ocean sense, by how much you enjoyed swimming in it. You entered as many races as you could that summer, and dreamt more about the oceans you wanted to cross.
On a school trip to Catalina Island, you first visited the island you’d been dreaming about. You told your friends that you would swim it someday, and they smiled and said you were crazy, but you held onto your dream. After all, your Junior Lifeguard instructor had swum from Catalina, proving that real people could do it. You visited London with your family and when you took the train under the Channel to Paris, you dreamed about swimming from England to France someday.
When you started high school, you told your coach that you wanted to swim the English Channel one day and she said if you trained hard she was sure you could. This was the first time a coach had believed in your dream and it caused the swim to feel attainable. You continued to train distance and work hard in the pool. At a race in Seal Beach you met Lynne Cox and told her that you wanted to swim the English Channel one day. She told you to keep training and reaching for that dream.
When you started looking at colleges, you heard that the coach at Smith College was preparing a swimmer to cross the English Channel. When you met him at your tour, you told him boldly that you wanted to be his next English Channel swimmer. He told you that it was a challenging and rewarding endeavor. You tracked the swimmer, Paige Christie, as she crossed the Channel that summer, telling yourself that would be you one day.
All those years ago you were too scared to swim through a few waves to do a buoy swim, and in a few days you will stand on Shakespeare Beach looking across the Channel to France and start to swim. Thank you so much for setting seemingly impossible goals all those years ago as a little scared Junior Lifeguard.