Because sometimes you reel in a bat ray for a fisherman

Some days are filled with unexpected surprises.

Like catching a bat ray and then setting it free.

My friend Ashley and I had been planning a day road trip for a few weeks because she and her husband are moving to Nebraska this weekend (I DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT), and we needed an adventure. We had originally planned to go to a castle tour and some of the areas nearby it, but when I woke up Saturday morning, a four-hour drive (or longer) didn’t seem like the best idea. For some reason, while I was running, I thought that Santa Barbara sounded so much better.

I hope you find a friend like Ashley. She’s a true gem. Also, please notice that freaking awesome glistening wave.

When she picked me up that morning, I ran my idea by her, and she seemed relieved. It turns out that she had also been thinking that we should nix the castle thing. It was SO gorgeous outside, so we agreed that making the shorter trek up to Santa Barbara was the way to go.

If you’ve never been to Santa Barbara, you should consider changing that. It’s truly beautiful and has so many quaint areas. As soon as we got there, we got food (because priorities), and then we hopped on the trolley with the friendly driver Jim to take us down to the wharf. I had never been on a wharf, but it was fascinating. We took some pics (duh) and then walked to the end and sat to relax and stare out at the water. After a few minutes, we heard a commotion behind us, so we walked over to see what all of the fuss was.

One of the guys fishing had apparently gotten a hold of something big, but whatever it was wasn’t going down without a fight. Some people speculated that it was a thresher shark, and the fisherman began walking along the edge of the pier to follow the huge creature’s path. I followed him with my phone because I had started taking videos of the whole scene—you never know when something really exciting might happen—and the rather large crowd that had formed started following, as well. The fisherman finally saw that it was a bat ray, handed the pole to his friend, and went to get a net or something. The friend then turned to me, and the following conversation ensued.

Enthusiastic guy: “You wanna fight it?”
Me (thinking he was joking around): “Absolutely, I do.”
EG: “You really want to fight it?”
Me (realizing I had never “fought” marine wildlife and thinking maybe “fight” didn’t mean an actual fight): “Are you serious?”
EG: “Yeah! Come on, little woman!”
Me: “Little woman? Give me that pole.”

I wish I had an actual picture of the bat ray, but I don’t.

The next few moments of my life were ridiculous and awesome all at once. I had told homeboy that my name is Natalie and that he needed to stop calling me names that are synonyms for “small.” He then kept yelling “Come on, Natalie! Yeah, Nat! Woohoohoo!” I kept reeling and reeling, and finally I got that thing above the water. Fisherman Perry rushed over with a huge net and got the ray inside of it when I reeled it high enough. It took a couple of minutes, but everyone in the crowd watched as he took the hook out of the bat ray and untangled the little fella from the net before tossing him back in the water. He and his pal then gave me public recognition in front of all of those gathered in the area, and I’m sure I bowed or flexed my muscles or something.

And I can now say that I’ve received applause from strangers on a wharf for my brute strength.

When you make that trip to Santa Barbara, please climb this tree.

Saturday turned out to be a day I never expected, but it was just what I needed. I honestly had no idea what I was doing reeling in that bat ray. I don’t fish often (or ever), and I was pretty sure that, with my luck, I was going to somehow fall off of that dock because there weren’t any bars or barriers to stop a person from going overboard—and, let’s be honest, my track record doesn’t exactly exude balance and poise.

The whole experience was different, and it was exciting.

Life doesn’t always go the way we think or plan it will. If it did, I’d be watching the Winter Olympics every night with the man I love instead of by myself with a bag of candy. I love the quote “when something goes wrong in your life, just yell ‘PLOT TWIST,” and move on” (the Internet tells me Molly Weis said this one, so we’ll believe it) because it reminds me to adapt to the unexpected things that come my way instead of being afraid of them. So, if someone hands you a fishing pole and tells you to reel in some large creature you’ve never heard of, don’t be afraid to give it a try.

And you might find that you’re capable of more than you thought you were.

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