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So, in order to tell you why I named this blog “Upstream,” I have to make a confession.

My real name, the name on my birth certificate, is David Park, not Minnow Park.

It comes from my Korean name Minho (민호), which is what my close friends and family called me growing up. That is until 7th grade, when Jason a friend’s older brother, and a bully of sorts, changed my name forever.

I was hanging around with some friends, when Jason walked up to me scratching his chin. He slowly looked me up and down.

“Minho… Minho…,” he repeated. “Hmmm, your name sounds like the fish, minnow.”

His eyes widened, proud of his idea and shouted, “Yeah you’re Minnow! Like the fish! A little minnow!”

Those who heard him started laughing because the irony of me being little wasn’t lost on anyone. I was an overweight, awkward, desperate kid just wanting to fit in.

I tried to protest, “No, I’m not a fish! I’m not a fish! Don’t call me that.”

But it was too late. The nickname stuck and I was miserable.

It wasn’t until junior in high school, when I started to perform music in front of people, I started to embrace my name. David Park was too common and lame to be a stage name. Minnow was catchy and unique. People who came to see me, remembered me for my name. And soon I didn’t even need my last name. Like Bono or Madonna, I just became Minnow.

Since then my nickname has been a well, or tank as it were, of great ideas to name my different ventures. My short-lived family photography business was called “School of Minnows.” I didn’t need a cheesy name for my wedding photography. “Weddings by Minnow Park” was unique and to the point.

And for this blog the name “Upstream” popped into my head because, you know, fishes swimming upstream. But as I looked into why fishes swim upstream, I realized there’s much more depth and meaning to the name.

There’s a certain type of fish, called anadromous fish, that migrate from the ocean into freshwater to reproduce. These fish prepare their whole lives for this journey. They get into peak physical condition to travel hundreds of miles back to the river. At times they have to leap out of the water and jumping over rapids to keep going upstream.

When they finally reach their destination they spawn new life and die soon afterwards, fulfilling the circle of life, their hero’s journey, and returning to where they began. But their death means more than simply laying eggs for the next generation.

Anadromous fish, like salmon, are called a keystone species: one whose “impact they have on other life is greater than would be expected in relation to their biomass.” When they die, all the nutrients left in their bodies get passed from the ocean to wildlife and woodlands nurturing every species in the area.

Everything that you’ve have gone through and work through in your life has prepared you for this journey. Your hero’s journey marked by a creative practice.

That work can at times feel like we’re swimming upstream. Rapids of self doubt, the imposter syndrome, and the Resistance continually wash over us. There are cascading voices that try to shame us, call us out on our insecurities, and try to prevent us from sharing our art.

But if we can nurture our creative practice and share it with the world, it can have effects that reach far beyond us. The nutrients of empathy, belonging, and connection are transferred downstream to all who encounter our art.

This blog is where I share my messy thoughts as I go upstream and to help you nurture a creative practice.

Let’s swim upstream together.