It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Elliot
Who are those happy people on the right? My sons Andrew and Tom, 20-year friend Tracey Bennett and me.
Why are we beaming? Andrew and I just finished the 2.4 mile Waikiki Rough Water Swim.
What motivated me to sign up for this grueling race? After all, they don't call it the rough water swim for nothing.
I used to be an athlete. I competed in 10K's, organized running groups, rode horses (I taught the Disney grandkids how to ride) and coached swim teams.
I played on my college tennis team and in a 4.0 league, and had the privilege of working with 2-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver at his tennis resort on Hilton Head Island, SC.
From there I was recruited by WCT to help open the Regency Racquet Club in McLean, VA, the first country club for racquet sports. I even had a chance to play tennis at the White House where we had the distinct honor of having a tennis ball stolen by Liberty, President Ford's Golden Lab.
But then life intervened. I got busy raising my sons, writing books and speaking around the country. I haven't played tennis or gotten back on a horse since I moved to the Mainland from Hawaii (gulp) 9 years ago.
I miss being physically fit. For the first 4 decades of my life, it was a major part of my identity.
Then, one pivotal morning this summer, I got up early to watch the annual Jim McDonnell Swim which takes place in my "backyard" on Lake Audobon.
I marveled at the gutsy competitors in the 80-85 (!) age group and noted ruefully that I always thought I'd remain physically active into my dotage, if I could.
I realized, "There is nothing keeping me from getting back in the water. I could do it right now if I chose."
So, that's what I chose.
I jumped online before I could second-guess this impulse and signed up for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim. I had competed in this race in the early 90's, but hadn't done so for the past 16 years since the race is traditionally held on Labor Day, the last day of the Hawaii Writers Conference.
This year, I shared my goal with HWC Co-founders John and Shannon Tullius. They graciously agreed to take over Emcee duties so I could participate in the race.
One of the many things I quickly learned from training is there is no substitute for putting an event on the calendar to hold us accountable for our good intentions.
There were many days it was time to swim yet there were emails to answer, appointments to prepare for and calls to return. However, I wasn't going to finish that race unless I put in some serious pool time so off I went to swim.
It all paid off on September 7. Andrew and I dove into the water a little after 9 am with almost 1000 other swimmers from around the world. Andrew emerged 1 hour and 40 minutes later, and I, well let's just I came in after that. (I didn't say I was fast; I just said I'd finish.)
What are some of the many take-aways from this experience?
That self esteem resides in the three words, "I did it."
Completing that race was one of the most satisfying things I've done in a long time. It was testimony to what we can do if we put our mind to it. Proof that there's still time to be all we used to be and what we still can be.
What could do that for you this year?
Something meaningful that gives you something to look forward to? Some achievement that, when you look back at this year, puts a Mona Lisa smile on your face and a satisfying "I did it" in your heart.