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There are some times when I feel like I have not yet really woken up and started living. Just existing -in a hazy dream, each day passing like so many sounds and colors behind drapes of fabric. I think I know what's happening on the other side. But now and then, I get a glimpse behind the curtain and it looks nothing like I thought. I feel upended and unsure. Maybe I don't know anything at all. The colors are distorted, the sounds are a warning. Was it always that way? Could I just not see it? Hear it? Did I miss every clue?

If I viewed my life in chapters, I don't know which I'd be up to. Some day, I'll write it all down. What I do know is that I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. A lot of chapters. If I do write the book, I'll call it "Upstream." That's what my mother used to say about me. I was like a salmon, always swimming against the current. And although I was never fond of that analogy, I guess it's true. A lot of chapters. A lot of swimming.

I used to write stories and hide myself inside them. And then I stopped writing. I tried, I certainly tried, but it was all just a fog in my head, a barrier I couldn't break through. The words just stopped coming. So I learned to express myself through photography, instead.

It's been many years of therapy and introspection but now I feel like I understand the curtain. It's the same reason I stopped writing. I know it's false, the feeling that I've never really lived. I look back down the river and I know that I've been present in so many moments. I saw all the colors. I heard all the sounds. And they were beautiful. It wasn't a dream, it was real, and it happened, and I was there.

But there were other chapters. Ones where the current tried with all its might to pull me in a different direction and I dove down anyway - deeper into the tumultuous water. That far down, your lungs start to burn. Your vision blurs. Sounds echo and collide and it's too dark to see clearly. For a while, you panic and you fight it. And then you let go. You just... go limp in the water. You feel your body thrown about and you stop looking for sunlight. The water above is the curtain. The blur. The muffled sound. Somewhere above is the sky.

If I've swum against the current, I've fought doubly hard to come back to the surface. Over and over, in the dark, I've called on God for the strength to kick and shove my way back up for air. I know what it means now, when I can't make out the sound. It means I need to get back up. It means it's time to fight.

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