Taking the Plunge
By Erin Mathis / Jan 14, 2022
On January 1st it was a sunny but frigid winter day of 48° as I stood at the water's edge.
I was about to jump into the icy cold water flowing down from the mountain snow-melt, and then swim 100 feet across to the other side.
I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of other people were there with me, many stripping down to swim suits and speedo’s just before the clock turned to 1pm to take part in a local tradition…
The Polar Plunge.
Before now, I’d never had the desire to participate in this bold tradition.
Why would I? In the dead of winter on Jan 1st?! I’d rather stay pleasantly comfortable and dry, maybe watching from the sidelines.
But this year was different.
Because more than ever, I have come to realize this;
Everything you’ve ever wanted and your greatest gifts in life are on the other side of fear.
Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't.
In my 50th year of life on this earth, I’m affirming that I can do hard things.
Not because anyone is forcing me, and not because I have to. But because I WANT to get to the other side, and that desire fuels me.
Choosing to take the Polar Plunge was really SCARY. I felt nervous about it for weeks beforehand.
Would I be so shocked by the icy cold water that I couldn’t swim? Would I get hypothermia?
I’ll be honest. Up until the day of this event I was wavering about whether or not I’d actually go through with it, but I’d told enough people I was doing it to ensure that my ego would hold me accountable to follow through.
Even though I’m not big on taking on physical risks, I don’t want to be known as someone who says they’ll do something and then wimps out.
“Am I crazy for wanting to do this?” I asked or texted a handful of friends, most of whom hadn’t done it yet.
“Take the plunge!!!” was the message I read from Stefa that morning when I finally decided, YES.
So there I was on January 1st, 2022 just before 1:00 pm, standing at the edge of the icy water on a frigid winter day.
I stripped off my clothes until all I wore was a swimsuit.
The people around me began to jump into the water. That was my cue.
I jumped in, turned around briefly to flash a smile and gasp back at my son, then started swimming across.
The atmosphere all around me was jubilant as the water churned with swimmers. People standing and watching from both sides were cheering.
Just before I reached the other side, I submerged myself completely under the icy water and then stood up with my arms raised in victory.
My family was waiting on the other side with towels and dry clothes as I came out of the water numb from the cold, but triumphant.
I DID IT!!
My kids were there to support me and to see me do it. They watched me face my fears, put courage into action…and they GOT IT.
That alone was worth it for me.
How did it feel?
Shockingly cold and clarifying.
It was just what I needed to kick off 2022 in the spirit of courage.
Doing the Polar Plunge was a symbolic, physical act to embrace—and even seek out the discomfort, the suffering required in order to get where I need to go, and to become who I want to be–personally and professionally.
If this resonates with you, you might want to ask yourself this question:
What scares you?
What is something…a project, an idea, a transition, a person you want to interact with…that when you think about, scares AND excites you? Your heart does a leap inside your chest when you think about it.
You’re not sure you could pull it off, but it would be so cool if you could.
If my story today can encourage you in any way, let it be this.
Don’t let fear or discomfort stop you from taking a risk when there may be a great gift on the other side.