Lately those pesky doubts have been creeping back into my head. Yesterday, during a training swim, they got so bad that I had to stop to gather myself. The water was very choppy and there was no moonlight, so I was swimming blind the whole time. However, I gathered myself and had a strong training session. But even after my training session, long after in fact, the doubts just wouldn’t go away.
Back when I first learned to swim and I was sitting on the dock of The South End Rowing Club, a woman came up and began a conversation with me. I told her that some day I wanted to swim The Cook Strait.
“Why?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I just know that I want to take on a tough swim and I figure that’s a s good a place as any.”
“But Black folk aren’t able to stay afloat in a way that would be efficient due to bone density and other physiological traits.”
I just rolled my eyes and said nothing. She certainly wasn’t the first to say this too me, and not even the first at my club, but still things like that creep into your mind.
Yesterday, while having a tough time training, that thought came back. From out of nowhere the little bugger came back! It was still in my head this morning and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Finally, I messaged an accomplished marathon swimmer friend. I told her about how I feel a lot of pressure on this swim. I told her how, if I’m successful, I’ll be the first Black man to do it. That’s a great accomplishment to be sure, but also a heavy burden. I wish I didn’t have to be the first. In all honesty, I wish I could be the 18th, 25th, or 234th. Because if I do fail, I feel folks will say: “See they can’t swim, told ya!”
I also told her about what the woman at the club told me. She wrote back and said simply: “Let the haters fuel you.” That’s it, five simple words. No long speeches about: “Oh Naji of course you’ll make it, their just jealous.”
By far that has been the best advice that anyone has given too me concerning this swim. I’m not saying the rest has been a waste, far from it! I have had countless folks offer to help and has been instrumental in getting me this far. No this person who told me this is an amazing swimmer. She has crossed some of the toughest waterways all over the world, and under conditions I couldn’t even imagine, and she’s done t all with grace and poise. But here she is, one of my biggest supporters, letting me know that folks doubted her too. They bailed out on her and tried to discourage her from even trying, but she paid them no heed, and has done what she knew she could do!
So, I’m going to remember this sage advice. I’m going to keep training and yes I’m sure those doubts will creep in from time to time, but I won’t let them stop me. I won’t let the it be my downfall. I may not be the fastest swimmer, or the most accomplished, but I will be the most prepared, both physically and mentally.
So go ahead and hate folks, that may very well be the best fuel I can have on this swim.