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Returning to the Sea This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

It was cold and rainy, which was fitting, but I don't think anyone noticed. We were in one of those rare, special places where humans have somehow managed to enhance the natural beauty of their environment. Even through the rain and San Francisco mist, the sweep of the Golden Gate Bridge's magnificent red arches stole the air from my chest. Wind whipped at my legs and stung my cheeks, my own breath cast against me. But it was the sea that truly captured me that day, for in its depths I could see myself.

We had parked near a fishing dock, and everything smelled like sardines. In my sweaty hands, shaking slightly, I held a heavy bag. We had walked to a powerful place, where the land meets the bay in a protrusion of cliffs, and I had chosen to travel to the edge. I looked down at the waves, and their thrashing seemed almost irreverent. I began to doubt my mission, and clutched the bag more tightly. I had no idea what to do. Instead of simply asking someone else to help, or waiting until I felt more sure of my actions, I blindly flung my father's ashes into the sea. As the white chalk hung in the air for a moment, I felt a piece of myself flutter into the sea with him.

The waves swallowed everything.

I hid in an iron submarine and watched life swim by from a little window. For nearly two years I lay at the bottom of the sea, watching grains of sand sift down, always searching for the ashes on which I blamed my condition. I told myself I was happy, that all I wanted was to be left alone. I ignored my friends and alienated myself from those who cared about me. My grades suffered, and my performance on stage, which I had once been so passionate about, became lackluster and monotonous. I was a stranger in my own life, and I hated myself for it.

One day, on a distant shore in Japan, I touched the sea again. My friend Kazuki pointed across the horizon and joked that we might be able to make out Korea if we looked hard enough. I walked out to the shoreline, searching the horizon. To this day I don't know what drove me to stand at the water's edge, that place where the shifting pebbles of the beach met softly gray water, but as soon as I arrived it started to rain. I am not naive enough to believe that any action of mine caused the rain, but I felt something shift in me when it fell. Suddenly I found my iron coffin turned to glass, and reaching out a finger, I splintered it into a thousand pieces.

I was staying with a Japanese host family as part of a year-long exchange program. The experience had given me an enormous amount of perspective, but I still felt trapped and shut off from the world. I found, however, that after that day at the sea, things were much clearer to me. I began to understand my host country on a more intimately profound level, and in the last four months of my stay I developed some of the strongest bonds with people I have ever made.

I swore I would no longer shut myself off from life and those I care about. I still miss my dad more than I can express, but I have chosen to live in the sun instead of under water, and that is enough.

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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