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Needing Success Like Air This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I tumbled end over end through the violent, crystal azure world, eyes tightly shut and heart pounding, using the small amount of oxygen I'd been able to suck in before being taken to the depths by the monstrous rogue wave. You learn a lot about yourself in the moments when you think you're about to die. Some say their lives flash before their eyes, but all I saw was my future. Suddenly, my whole life – loves, hopes, dreams, aspirations – was brought to bear and seemed blatantly clear, all with a feeling of being cheated out of time.

Suddenly I knew who I was and who I wanted
to be.

The ocean had other plans for me at that moment though. I was just an irrelevant piece of flotsam in its territory, and it would treat me as the invader I was. The undertow pulled at my helpless body, and the rip curl pushed me farther out to sea. In that moment, all I could do was desperately hope the current would let up and stop scraping my back against the coarse, sandy bottom.

My lungs started to sting – a harsh burning sensation making its way up my throat. It quickly transformed into a fire in my chest, a flame that desperately needed to escape. All I had to do was to open my mouth for it to be extinguished. It was an enticing offer.

AIR! I NEED AIR! my mind screamed through the fog of my asphyxiated consciousness. My heart was about to explode. That's when I had the thought: I am going to die.

It crashed through my being, jumpstarting my brain and hotwiring my body. I thrashed my arms and legs, desperately swimming upward. I couldn't slack on this; I couldn't quit and take a bad grade. I couldn't give up – I would not give up. There was only one thing: the search for air.

But then suddenly another thought hit, then another, and another and another. Before I knew it, everything I wanted out of life was laid out in front of me.

I haven't skydived yet. I haven't driven a race car. I haven't camped out on the beach. I haven't kissed a supermodel. I haven't written a book. I haven't graduated. I haven't gone to college. I've had no chance to be successful – and I want to be successful. I need to be successful. My need for success was as vital as my need for air.

Anger welled up – this wasn't fair! My life was just starting; it couldn't end so soon. I hadn't had my chance yet! I desperately kicked harder, reaching for the surface. It seemed so far away. I opened my mouth and screamed, releasing the last of my oxygen, pain scorching my entire body.

This was it.

No, no, no! I'm not ready to go. Please, God, no!

I broke the surface.

I inhaled.

Relief and elation filled my gasping lungs, along with life-giving air. I would not die today.

I've been thinking about those moments under the currents for over a year – the fire that burned inside me, not just for life but to live. In those desperate seconds I was fighting to climb out of the depths so I could light my spark, so I could die only after I had squeezed absolutely everything out of my time on this earth.

The air was my life, and I'm still searching for it. I never plan on stopping.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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