Former Texas Swimmer, 1980 Olympic Hopeful Gives TED Talk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yuknavitch’s written works contain adult material that may be inappropriate for younger readers, including drug and alcohol addiction, childhood sexual abuse and graphic details about her sexual experiences.

Lidia Yuknavitch, a former competitive swimmer who is now a successful writer, recently gave a TED talk on the subject of failure. Yuknavitch earned a swimming scholarship to Texas Tech and had hopes of competing at the 1980 Olympics, which the United States boycotted. However, a drug and alcohol addiction ended her swimming career prematurely (she first lost her swimming scholarship during her sophomore year, and then flunked out academically her junior year), but she has since gone on to earn her PhD from the University of Oregon (Eugene, OR).

Yuknavitch described competitive swimming as her escape from a verbally, physically and sexually abusive father, and an alcoholic and suicidal mother. Her first memoir, A Chronology of Water, is inspired by her swimming career. Yuknatvitch has also written two other successful novels—Dora: A Headcase and The Small Backs of Children—in addition to winning several writing awards.

She was invited to the TED stage to discuss the topic of failure. In her talk, titled “The Beauty of Being a Misfit,” Yuknavitch says:

“You may not know this yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself, endlessly. That’s your beauty.

“You can be a drunk. You can be an abuse survivor. You can be an ex-con. You can be a homeless person,” she says. “You can lose all your money or your job or your husband or your wife or, the worst thing of all, a child. You can even lose your marbles.

“You can be standing dead center in the middle all of your failure,” she says, “and still I’m only here to tell you: you are so beautiful and your story deserves to be heard. Because you, you rare and phenomenal misfit– you new species — are the only one in the room who can tell the story the way only you would.”

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6 years ago

This is very interesting and I will check out her memoir.

6 years ago

Hey that was beautiful and touching