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Taking the Plunge

🧊 I took my shirt off and ran down the concrete ramp into the icy water, high-stepping through the pain and willing myself to dive under the surface. 🧊

🐧 Why? Because the Penguin Plunge is an annual tradition in Burlington, Vermont. Each February, hundreds of people jump into frozen Lake Champlain. But I didn’t do it because it’s a tradition - I’m not one to do things just 'cus others do. 🐧

🥶 So why did I choose to spend a Saturday risking hypothermia? 🥶

💡 Because of a presentation I did about oK that Spring. Because Jasmine Lamb saw it and asked me to start an oK group at Mansfield Hall. Because I took her up on it and began running weekly meetings. Because the Penguin Plunge benefits Special Olympics Vermont and the few folks that showed up each week were all passionate about supporting the organization. Because I believed in the power of broadening our ideas of what is possible for ourselves. Because I believed in the uniting power of shared purpose and challenge. 💡

💪 The fall of 2014 leading up to the Penguin Plunge was all about challenge. 💪 With the help of Harmony Hansen, I started collecting stories of personal challenges people faced and she illustrated them: I challenged myself personally to do more in a single day than I could imagine doing now as a tired 31-year-old - likely fueled by Eric Wahlgren-Sauro's endless energy that rubbed off on me that summer of living together. I produced an interview series called The Questions for local TV: I wrote public journal entries on Facebook, documenting the serendipity I swam through as I immersed myself in my community. One of the more memorable days ended with a cop taking my phone during a traffic stop as I recorded myself rapping a verse I wrote in response to the police murdering Michael Brown that summer:

By increasing the challenge level I experienced on a daily basis and by taking on challenges outside of my comfort zone, I got out of my head more and didn’t linger in my anxiety and negative thoughts. After all, there’s nothing like plunging headfirst into a freezing lake to make you present and nothing like doing it in the service of others to make you follow through.

I had a full video of me running into the lake at some point but I can’t find it now. You can see me briefly, holding a green shirt, at 5:08 in this fantastic video about the 2015 Penguin Plunge:


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