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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.
The etymology of Minnow comes from my Korean name, Minho (민호), which is what most people called me growing up. That is, until 7th grade, when a bully of sorts came up to me and changed my name forever.
“Minho… Minho…,” he repeated. “Your name sounds like ‘minnow,’ the fish.”
His eyes widened, proud of his idea and shouted, “Yeah you’re Minnow! Like the fish! A little minnow!”
People around me started laughing because the irony of being called little wasn’t lost on anyone. I was overweight, awkward, desperate to fit in-to belong. 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 hated it.
I didn’t embrace my name until I was a junior in high school. I started to go around and play music in front of people, and David Park was too common to be a stage name. Minnow was perfect. People I met afterwards didn’t even know 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. I didn’t need a cheesy name for my wedding photography. “Weddings by Minnow Park” was unique and to the point. My short-lived family photography business was called “School of Minnows.”
And for this blog the name “Upstream” popped into my head because the work I do sometimes feel like I’m going upstream. But when I looked into this simple pun of “Upstream” a fuller, deeper meaning emerged.
There’s a certain type of fish, called anadromous fish, that migrate from the ocean to freshwater in order to reproduce. At times, they may even have to leap out of the water, jumping over rapids to keep going upstream. The distance can be hundreds of miles.
These fish prepare all their lives for this arduous journey. When they finally reach their destination, they spawn new life and die soon afterwards. They fulfill the circle of life, their hero’s journey, returning to where they began. But their death means more than simply laying eggs for the next generation.
For example, 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.
As creatives, we’re constantly swimming upstream. The rapids washing over us have been called self doubt, the imposter syndrome, and the Resistance. They are cascading voices that shame us, call us frauds, all of them trying to stop us from spawning our art.
But when we are able to endure and create the courageous and generous work we are called to do, the effects reach far beyond us. The nutrients of empathy, belonging, and connection are transferred downstream to all who encounter our work.
This blog is a journal of my own upstream journey as a writer, coach, and photographer. I’ll share stories, ideas, and images of what I encounter along the way. Thanks for swimming alongside me.