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Michele Willens Headshot

FACE IT: On Not Being Diana Nyad

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We are the same age, but Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Miami and I did not. I did, however, take an excellent nap just hearing about it.

Let me say upfront that I am not a sloth. Members of my family happen to find me a fast-moving control freak, and I make it to my gym class four or five times a week. I confess, however, that I chose a decidedly unhip gym (The 92nd St. Y) that neither intimidates nor challenges me. On the other hand, it may be the last one where I am still considered a kid.

Underachiever? Damn right. But guess what? All my fitness freak friends are nursing aches and pains. One, at 66, has become addicted to Soul Cycle and is going in for a hip replacement. Another plays six hard sets of tennis a week and is always icing something for hours after. Some of my closest gal pals in Los Angeles next weekend will walk 26 miles one day and 13 the next for a Breast Cancer charity. They aren't particularly excited about this -- some are actually concerned about blisters -- and couldn't really answer when I kept asking, "Why don't you just write them a check?"

No doubt, the walking women are cheered and spurred by Nyad. From her feat to their feet. Hey, tenacity is my favorite character trait, and I am thrilled that she can finally move on to other things. (or oceans) And I am happy for those still feeling unempowered, still seeking role models for equality or motivation for attaining their own goals.Truly, I don't mean to be a Parity Pooper here but -- as Amy Poehler might say -- "really"? Did that not look like a crazy woman?

When Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs? That meant something both symbolically and individually. If Hillary beats all the guys, that will be huge. But when I think of Nyad, all I can think of is that there must be better ways to spend those years, not to mention those two nights she could have been snuggling in bed watching "Breaking Bad." (Or Jaws.)

Obviously, we all find our dreams and idols in different places. I wanted to be Sandra Dee for a long time, then gave up when my parents wouldn't buy me a surfboard and I remembered I was Jewish. Later in life, I wanted to be Nora Ephron... in fact, I thought I was, until I moved to New York and discovered there already was one. She also sought more power in her field and kept growing and stretching. (And the only body part she worried about was her neck.) I wouldn't want to be Diana Nyad even if I had flippers for arms and legs. But that's me

Did I need her to prove to the world that people can still be vital "when I'm 64"? I hope most of us are proving that every day, in our work, in our interests and curiosity, in our capacity to travel and learn.