When I stood on the Havana shore for the fifth time and looked out at the faraway horizon, to be honest, I was intimidated. I became more and more afraid with each attempt rather than more confident. But I was also deeply motivated by the deep sense of satisfaction that goes along with being a human being who doesn't give up.
It didn't matter how tough it had been in my previous attempts. I had decided I was going to keep showing what perseverance means. I was going to loudly proclaim in word and deed that any one of us can chase an impossible dream.
While it may not have seemed impossible to me, others had made it very clear that I was on a mission of futility. I was told that no swimmer would ever make it all the way from Cuba to Florida. Just not going to happen.
Though I was perceived as being unrealistic, I never underestimated the difficulties I faced. The earth is more than four-fifths ocean. If you were to lay out the nautical charts for all the seas of our planet, you couldn't find a more difficult 100-mile stretch for a swimmer than the Florida Straits between Cuba and Florida.
Once an attempt is underway, our crew has a rule. No matter the circumstances, no one tells me exactly where I am in the Straits.
It can be very depressing if you are informed that you are still very far from shore. It's no different, as far as I am concerned, if the news is encouraging. If someone has seen the GPS markings and tells you, "Hey, we are halfway across," you still can't be sure what's going to happen with the tides, the currents your own frailty, sharks or jellyfish. So my crew knows to keep their information to themselves.
Toward the end of this last attempt, I felt like I was on empty. I struggled to swim, struggled to keep my mind in focus and struggled in my battle against the elements, the coldness ripping through my body.
At that point, Bonnie Stoll, my handler, business partner and best friend, did something very unusual for her. She broke the vow of silence.
Seated in her usual spot in the support boat, Bonnie motioned for me to swim over and, when I did, she said, "Look up there."
I moved my goggles up to the top of my head, focused on the horizon and saw a thin, white light along the surface.
"Ohhh, the sun's coming up," I said. "I can take off all the jellyfish gear and the sun is going to warm my body."
Replied Bonnie, "It's better than the sun. Those are the lights of Key West."
I was dazed by the idea that my long-sought goal was in sight and still dazed physically and emotionally when I finally, triumphantly reached shore.
I brought with me three messages that have hopefully resonates with everyone who hears my story.
No. 1: Never, ever give up.
No. 2: You are never too old to chase your dreams.
No. 3: It's a team effort. In my case, that consists of a 35-person support crew.
People can do all the scientific analyses of whether we athletes can do things or not, but they never figure in the power of the human spirit. It is that power that can ultimately turn failure into success.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 in conjunction with the What's One Thing campaign. In this series six professional and Special Olympics athletes tell a story about a time in their lives when they were told they couldn't, but didn't listen and chased their dreams anyway. To learn more about the World Games coming to Los Angeles in 2015, visit here. To read all posts in the series, visit here.