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  • I grew up on an island one mile wide and three miles long. Constantly, on all sides of me, was the Atlantic, the "back river" and marsh. I count myself extremely fortunate that my dad never wanted me to grow up away from the ocean. The idea of being away from it now makes me feel claustrophobic - even the term "landlocked" sounds unbearable. Though the ocean is a part of me, and I'm drawn to it, I've told a few people I'm slightly hydrophobic. I haven't swam at the beach where I live now because of the rocks. I don't trust a lot of the water near here - I guess because I don't know it. When I mentioned to my dad my slight phobia he corrected me, telling me it was actually respect I had instilled in me, not fear. His insight immediately made sense. I love the ocean, but having been with it my whole life I know the things that can go wrong. When I was around seven, a few feet made all the difference in me being here to type this.

    I was with my best friend Christian and her family, swimming in the back river. Her grandma had an old house on that side of the island that we went to stay at occasionally; Christian, her brother and I would get creeped out by the old house at night. The goal while staying on that side of the island was to go to the beach every day and swim in the back river. On this particular day I got stung by a jellyfish in the water. (Somebody later suggested it was a sea nettle; whether or not they actually saw it I don't know.)

    The tentacles dragged around my arm and sent me racing out of the water screaming in pain. Christian and her little brother Gordon knew not to stay in the water where I had been, and also raced after me to see what was wrong. As we all cleared the water, a man just a few feet away from us was stung by a sting ray. My fore arm was striped with bright red and while Christian's parents were rushing to get me to a lifeguard, the man next to us was being dragged up the beach by his companions. I remember him vomiting and the others telling him to not fall asleep while they called an ambulance.

    I never found out what happened to him. I still wonder - if he was okay, if it had been me instead, if I hadn't been stung by that sea nettle.

    This memory reminds me to be thankful.
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