Living List #1: The Polar Plunge – Done

On the eve of the 2022 Polar Plunge, the eve of completing the first experience on my living - I was 100% excited, nervous, and unsure. This moment was 100% scary, thrilling, and liberating. And surprisingly, it wasn't at all like I had envisioned the accomplishment would feel like. Read more to see how wrong I was.

Tonight is Polar Plunge eve, and I am 100% excited, nervous, and unsure of what to expect tomorrow.

This is the first item on my Living List that I get to mark off.

And that is 100% scary, thrilling, and liberating.

I will check in tomorrow.

OK, so, in full transparency – it is now Wednesday, a whole 5 days post Polar Plunge.

I had a surprisingly busy Monday AND Tuesday and on Sunday, I celebrated this milestone by doing pretty much nothing.

I relaxed. I read. I had a perma-smile plastered on my face.

I slept in my Polar Plunge shirt Saturday night, and I wore it for 2 days straight.

I am not sure when I added this particular experience to my list. I want to say it was after I declared 2022 my year because I felt unstoppable.

Still do.

Anyways, this Polar Plunge – I don’t know if this is universal across all Polar Plunges- but this Polar Plunge was for a good cause.

Freezin’ for a Reason the MC exclaimed as all types of people, most in creative costumes – and a few courageous dogs – waited for the plunge to begin.

All money raised is helping fund Oregon’s Special Olympics. To help humans of all abilities take part in something that I take for granted, that most people take for granted.

I don’t have much experience or knowledge about the Special Olympics, but I do know that it is important to so many kids and adults to help them thrive in life and take part in something bigger than their diagnosis.

A part of me feels selfish for wanting to experience walking into freezing cold water to prove that I can do the things I put my mind to.

But I am glad I did it. I am glad I spent hours visualizing that I would cross the threshold from dry to cold to popsicle in 2 seconds flat. Even though only the tippy tops of my toes were frozen in the end.

I am glad that I “practiced” trying to breathe under the coldest shower temperature. Even though it didn’t really help at all.

I am glad that my curiosity, my desire to do things I have never done, try things I never thought I would, is going to benefit so many youth around my community and throughout my home state.

And I am proud of myself. I am proud of the 56 miles I have hiked in the first 60 days of this year. I am proud of the 13 hikes I have hiked so far in just 9 weeks.

When my family was asking me about the itinerary for Saturday, I gave as little info as possible.

Not because I didn’t know what the plan was. But because I didn’t want to have a plan.

I knew what time I wanted us all in the car by. I knew that the participants who weren’t doing the 5K/10K walk/run check-in at 9am and get to Plunge at 11am.

But other than those facts, I didn’t know what the plan was going to be.

And that was on purpose.

My entire life, for anything outside of my normal day-to-day life, I would organize a detailed plan down to the minute with the order of operations for the day.

When E was 2 and her needs were becoming more intense, and we realized she needed to be prepared for what was happening next with a healthy transition time built-in, my organization entered OCD territory.

I had a hard time being flexible, adaptable. I had a hard time finding happiness, re-centering my balance, whenever my day got sidetracked away from the plan.

It took a pandemic to force me to be patient. It took the death of my best friend to learn how to be present.

I didn’t tell my family a plan because for once, I didn’t want a plan. I didn’t need a plan.

Last week on my friend date hike, we started driving knowing full well we might not find the trailhead the map said we would find. And we weren’t wrong.

But what that meant, was for the first time – I hiked without a plan. Without a detailed route, and an idea of what trail to take.

Hiking without a detailed map is nothing new to the friend I hiked with. Her motto – “let’s hike until we feel like turning around.”

I wanted to throw up.

But, I trusted her. And we didn’t get lost.

When I got home – it hit just how huge of a step that was for me. To adventure into the woods without a single plan other than getting back to the car in one piece.

And that is the energy I carried into the day of the Polar Plunge.

To be unshackled from the confines of a detailed plan.

To literally go with the flow as I plunged into icy water that just so happened to be a balmy 43* and much warmer than the air swirling around my head.

To be OK with whatever happened next.

Because, while the whole reason behind my Living List is to experience things while I am alive – the purpose of my Living List is to experience things with unbridled curiosity and excitement.

Some things on my Living List are going to scare me. I am not gonna lie – jumping out of a perfectly good airplane scares the hell out of me.

But I am still determined to do it because I know that when I land – the pride, the strength, the happiness that I am going to feel on the other side – will far outweigh the fear that I could have given full reign to hold me back.

I was thinking last night, that how I was building up in my imagination about just how cold I was going to be – never came to fruition.

I was fully prepared to be frozen to my bone marrow and be required to thaw for at least 48 hours.

What I wasn’t prepared for though, was just how “meh” I felt as I devoured some hot oily fries at McMenamins afterward. Like I just accomplished this amazing thing but I was merely content.

I expected to feel intensely over joyous. But instead, I was neither over nor under any emotion. I just…was…

I am awkward when it comes to crowds. Especially in crowds at events like the Polar Plunge. I don’t know where to stand, how to act, what to do. I just try my best to stare at the people who look like they know what they are doing and do the same. At the store though, I will chat with anyone and everyone who will lsiten.

But I did make an impromptu plunge buddy for a moment.

I failed at inspiring anybody to actually join me in the plunge. As much as I am an introvert, I am also an extrovert. So doing something by myself, is scary.

I didn’t actually care if anyone joined me. I committed to plunging no matter what, by myself or not.

I did have a cheering section there though, and I knew a lot of people were cheering me on from afar. And that’s all that mattered to me.

The days leading up to Saturday were some of the coldest we have had in a while. I tried talking myself out of participating more times than I care to admit.

But in the end, I plunged. I was 100% excited, nervous, and unsure of what to expect.

But In the end, I plunged. And it was 100% scary, thrilling, and liberating.

Because in the end, as I struck the line through the Polar Plunge, or rather after I told the app to mark it as complete – I have never felt more alive.

I have never felt more…balanced, ready, free.

Until the next time, Adventure on with Curiosity,
– Kelly S. (She/Her)

p.s. I just want to say that I look damn good in this photo and I still feel damn good.

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