Cold Water

Jeff and Jill. Tough as nails.

About an hour ago, Greg Kuppinger turned to us and said, “We haven’t jumped in the ocean yet.”

By us, I mean Jill Murray (his wife) and me (his friend). We were sitting in an apartment in Ocean City, N.J., eating from a barrel of Johnson’s Caramel Corn. It was 9:30 pm; our vacation was coming to an end.

“Yeah,” said Jill, “when are we gonna do that?”

“Let’s do it right now!” I said.

“OK!” said Jill.

Uh … what?

I’ll admit—my “Let’s do it right now!” was a bluff. Hell, it’s 61 degrees outside. The water temperature is 58 degrees. It’s windy and dark and cold and barren and …

Sigh.

Jill and I walked to the beach (Greg had work to finish, and opted out). It was a quarter-mile trek, and I wasn’t exactly elated. However, it was too late. I’d committed, and Jill—a former Division I swimmer at Niagara University—was confidently striding to my right, decked out in a bathing suit beneath her sweatshirt. As we stepped onto the sand and approached the water, Jill suggested we just run, dive, get out.

“I don’t really know how to dive,” I said—truthfully. “I’ll just sorta fall.”

For a moment, we just stood there, the darkness before us. It’s a weird few seconds. You’re excited, but also aware the water—cold as ice—will feel like 1,001 picks jabbing into your skin.

“You ready?” Jill said.

“OK,” I replied.

We ran. Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Freeeeeeezing cold. Freezing, freezing, freezing cold. But, also, awesome. Fantastic. Less like ice picks, more like electric shock treatment. The super-charged buzz shot through the torso. I jumped up, took a few steps back, then realized I hadn’t gone 100-percent under. “Let’s do one more,” I said.

Jill, who once swam with the Polar Bears in Olcot, N.Y., was game. Jill is always game.

In I went.

Out I went.

Tremendous.

I’m not sure of the point here, except that sometimes in life it pays to challenge oneself with discomfort; to say, “To hell with it!” and leap from an airplane or walk over hot coals or jump into the cold water. It can be as small a task as working up the nerve to ask out the popular girl at school. It can be seeking a promotion. Deciding to move to Italy. Whatever.

Life is fast. It comes, it goes—you’re dead. Along the way, it’s easy to settle into patterns and devote oneself to the familiar and predictable and easy.

I say—resist.

I say—fight.

I say—jump in the damn water.

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