Taking the Plunge
There’s something about being aboard the Wilderness Discoverer that just pushes people to conquer old fears and try new things; every week I see crew members and guests push themselves and do things they never thought they would do, and this week it was my turn.
Every week guests and crew take part in a polar bear plunge—jumping from the ship in our bathing suits into the Alaskan water that hovers around the 40 degree F mark. You can jump from either the 200 deck, which is only few feet above sea level, or the 300 deck, which is maybe 10 to 15 feet high. I absolutely hate the cold, and am terrified of heights, so I made a pledge to myself to jump from the 300 deck by the end of the season.
I started out on the 200 deck our first week, and very nearly chickened out. I ended up basically being pulled in by my fellow steward, Kathrine, when we jumped in together. The water was freezing, but getting out the air felt so warm and invigorating! It was exhilarating, and despite my trepidation, I was hooked! I jumped from the 200 deck every week, for 6 weeks, each time hesitating a little less. Last week I was able to jump right in, so I knew I had conquered my fear of the cold.
Conquering my fear of heights, and of jumping from heights, was another story, but I knew the time to make it happen was nearing. I’ve always been afraid of heights; some people call it acrophobia, but I like to call it common sense! This fear intensified one summer when I was 14 years old while camping in eastern Washington with my family. There was a cliff that jutted out over a lake, and everyone was jumping off it. I was absolutely terrified to do it, but resolved that I would. I spent a whole afternoon sitting there, watching people jump, trying to work up the courage to do it. Finally I went, but I was too scared to really jump and ended up just walking over the edge. I didn’t get far enough from the edge of the cliff, and scraped my back, banged up my head and cut my feet when I landed in shallow, rocky water. After such a scary experience, I vowed never to do anything like that again!
Well, it’s been a few years since then, and I figured now was the time to conquer that fear. Two days ago, our wellness instructor Chella led a guided meditation on the shore, and at one point we were supposed to envision something that we wanted to do, but felt there was something holding us back. I immediately thought of jumping off the 300 deck, and knew that this had to be the week that I did it. I came back from the meditation and told my shipmates that this was the week, so they would hold me accountable. Today was the plunge, and I was terrified. I slowly, slowly walked up the stairs to the 300 deck, and never has the hallway felt so long, so treacherous. When I got to the aft deck, where everyone was jumping, there were plenty of people in line, so I stayed back. I was visibly nervous, scared, but many of my shipmates were there to cheer me on and lend moral support. Guests started noticing, hearing my story, and the tension was building. Finally there was just me left to jump, and I almost didn’t do it. Luckily Chella was there next to me to remind me of the meditation, and how this was the time for me to jump. I did a few almost jumps, then finally, finally took the plunge.
Heather did it! She conquered her fear of heights.
Afterwards crew and guests kept coming up to me, telling me what a special moment it was, how proud of me they were for conquering my fear, and how wonderful it was for them to be a part of it. Hugs, high fives and fist bumps abounded. It was a moment that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life, and I can’t thank the guests and crew of the Wilderness Discoverer enough for their love and support, making it possible.