When I was eleven we lived in a village that had a seriously lovely, if small, beach. Strewn with coloured shells that still today glisten on the shell box my mother made. It was whilst there that I went swimming in the sea for the first time and letting go of a rock kicked out towards a small boat bobbing in the tiny bay. It looked far away but probably wasn’t much further away that twenty yards.
And that defined achievement, striving to do something one has never done, going to a place one has never been; my first open sea adventure. What I didn’t do was do it again, and again until the technique from letting go of the rock to touching a boat that didn’t belong to me and swimming back was improved and less splashy. Because what I didn’t know about achievement in those days it is also striving to perfect one’s abilities.
But what I did know then, was that achievement is not a race to be better than someone else. I knew I was in contention with other children for something, but not the important things. No one else in the world could ever be me, and no other children (but me and my sister) in the world belonged to my mother.
What I have come to realise is that achievement is also recognising our individual and collective humanity. There are no prizes, no medals and no score cards in the Cosmos, just us and infinity.