My friend Cameron and I gave our companions a quick thumbs up and jumped into the black water.
The first 30 minutes were like freestyle swimming in space. I saw the light from a glow stick on Cameron’s swimsuit, but couldn’t tell if it was 500 meters or a foot away. Once, when I was stroking myself to catch it, when it seemed to be pulling back, I accidentally swam over it. OK, I’ll give it some space, I thought. But then the light disappeared. Panic began to creep in; I would make it
A few miles later, I stopped swimming and vomited while stepping on water. I felt sick, my head was spinning, and I knew I had a long way to go to swim. But I didn’t look over the lake. I looked at Cameron. he looked dubious. I vomited again. At that moment my mind started to stop.
I didn’t turn into Aquaman. Like Dory, I made “Finding Nemo” and just kept swimming – very slowly. As the hours went on, the nausea subsided, leaving a calm confidence that nothing would stop us. I resisted the siren call of the horizon and instead looked into the clear blue depths or at my best friend who was swimming next to me in daylight or at my arm who stepped into the water.
Not many complex thoughts floated through my soaked brain. My attention was focused solely on flipping Cameron beat by beat and making sure I was getting enough oxygen with every breath. Looking back, I noticed a few moments of emotion: complete relief when I felt the sun rise. The surrealism of eating baby food while stepping on water and realizing with Cameron that our pilot boat is called Dynamic Duo. Immense gratitude when Cameron, a better swimmer, drastically slowed his pace for me. And trouble when our shameless guides 100 meters from the shore told me to increase the pace – as if I could at this point.
Six hours and 51 minutes after we started, we crawled onto the sand.
Focus on the task at hand and trust that the rest will follow. Because if you keep paying attention to how far you are, you will never get there.
Alexander Carlisle is studying business administration at Stanford University.