Fairy Tales

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.

When you’re single on Valentine’s Day

There are two words that make almost every single gal roll her eyes each year.

Valentine’s Day.

I’m not sure how I’d feel about Valentine’s Day if I had a boyfriend or husband. I still don’t think I’d be a huge fan because it seems like a superfluous day on which people spend way too much money for things that, to me, don’t actually signify love. Maybe they do to some people, but I can’t get on board. Besides, I hate chocolate, flowers, and jewelry, so the typical gifts aren’t for me.

I don’t have a Valentine, so I’m just going to imitate my favorite emoji.

I also don’t like the idea of one day out of the entire year being the day you’re supposed to show someone you love him or her. Isn’t that something you’re supposed to do every day—without gifts involved?

Maybe I sound like a bitter single person, but I don’t think I’m bitter about anything. However, I’ll certainly admit that Valentine’s Day is one of the most difficult days for a single person to exist because everything around you screams hearts and love, and there you are, sitting at home by yourself (yet again) while the rest of the people you know are celebrating the fact that their SOs and them have picked each other out of all of the other people in the entire world. Comforting, huh?

I’ve experienced 33 Valentine’s Days on my own, so I’m used to it—but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier. It’s another sucker punch to the gut after surviving Christmas and New Year’s Eve solo. You get about a month and a half, and then that reminder pops right back up: Hey, girl. Here’s another holiday that makes you realize everyone around you is coupled up. Have fun watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. You could do it in four or less.

I’m no psychology expert, but I don’t think those are the healthiest thoughts to have.

Probably watching a romcom and thinking about candy

There are likely many women out there who gather together and have their own Galentine’s Day celebrations (thank you, Leslie Knope), and maybe that’s a smart idea and good way to forget that, even though you’re all alone on Valentine’s Day, you’re actually not all alone at all. I usually try to ignore the holiday, though I’ll take advantage of some of the limited-edition candies (I’m singing praises for you, Cupcake Hershey’s Kisses).

I try to get through February as quickly as I can, anyway—thank goodness that it’s a little shorter than the other months. It makes me think of the time I mustered up all of the courage I had and asked a guy out (I had purposely waited until well after Valentine’s Day), and he told me that he had a girlfriend he had never mentioned and said “I would, but I can’t.” Great. They later broke up, and that commenced a rollercoaster of emotions with him until he finally broke my heart for good months later.

But that’s the past, so perhaps this year I should soak up every second of February I can get, even if it does include what I consider to be an unnecessary holiday. The truth is that I love love, so how can I hate a day that is supposed to be centered on it? Sure, it’s gotten out of hand and has lost true meaning for a lot of people (not everyone, of course), but I can try to make it a day that I make sure everyone around me—single or not—feels loved. I know what it’s like to feel alone and wishing you weren’t, so I want to help others not to feel that way.

I feel like my 2017 Christmas card picture is fitting for Valentine’s Day, too.

I lead a group of high school girls at my church, and they’re depending on me to set a good example for them and to love them as they are. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do for everyone, as well? I want those girls to know that you don’t have to have a ring on your finger or a date on Saturday night in order to love and be loved—because love is a lot more than that. Yes, it’s different and special in its own way when it’s between two specific people, but it’s also something that should be shared with every person in every single walk of life.

So this year on Valentine’s Day, even though I won’t give or receive tiny little cards or go anywhere that a lot of people probably consider romantic, I will love. I won’t throw a pity party like Jessica Biel did in the movie Valentine’s Day, and I won’t storm into said party and beat the piñata senseless like Jennifer Garner did (still one of my favorite movie scenes), but I will love. And I won’t post a pic on Instagram with a new hashtag to celebrate my engagement, but I will love. I hope you will, too. And I hope we will continue to love every single chance we get on every single day we’re given.

Because love shouldn’t be limited to one day out of the year.

Because sometimes you fall down

Life is filled with ups and downs and moments when you have to pick yourself back up when times get tough.

Especially when you actually fall.

I’ve started running with a fun group of gals on Monday nights, and it’s become one of my favorite runs of the week because I actually get to run with other humans. For the past two weeks, I’ve run with my new friend Hilary, who is about as friendly as they come. She’s one of those people whom you meet and instantly know you were meant to be good friends.

Last week, though, I ran part of my Monday evening run solo while she ran with the precious 10-year-old (and by far the youngest of the crew) for a few miles. We planned on me turning around and then meeting back up with Hilary to finish the rest of our run together. It seems like a pretty reasonable plan, right? Plus, there’s not that much to running on a boardwalk other than following the path, so surely everything would be fine.

Let’s please remember the individual involved in this scenario—I have a way of ending up in ridiculous situations.

I turned around after a certain amount of time and headed toward where we started. When I was almost back, I saw Hilary running toward me, and we both threw our arms up in purposely exaggerated excitement. I signaled to her to question if we were turning around again to go the direction from which I had just come (the lighting is better that way), and I turned as she got to where I was. However, I wasn’t really paying attention to the ground below me—I rarely do when I run, which I realize isn’t always the smartest thing ever—so I didn’t notice the wet and sandy concrete that happened to be right where my feet were trying to turn the rest of me around.

I bit it. Hard.

Here’s a closeup for you.

It was like this slow-motion fall scene in a movie that I didn’t see coming, but it felt quite dramatic. As soon as it happened, I didn’t really want to look down because I knew it was going to be ugly, so I tried to keep running. Hilary suggested that we walk for just a second and maybe rinse off my leg, but I didn’t want to put water on it yet—it would sting. Like I typically do, I opted to ignore my pain and just keep running.

By the end of the run, I noticed just how much my leg stung and then looked down and saw how gross it was. When I got home, after I showered (and somehow avoided the water directly hitting my left leg), I made what might have been one of my poorest decisions of the day: I poured rubbing alcohol on my leg. Remember how I didn’t want water to touch it? Let me tell you something you probably already know. RUBBING ALCOHOL BURNS SO FREAKING MUCH ON AN OPEN WOUND.

The scrape hurt a bit (even though it doesn’t look so bad here), but it was still a fun run with Hillz!

I bandaged up my leg with all I had that night, which were some My Little Pony Band-Aids. I went to the grocery store the next day and used Avengers ones after that because they made me feel a little tougher. While My Little Pony characters are certainly bada$*es, there’s something about having Captain America and Black Widow on your bloody leg that says, “Hey. Don’t mess with me.”

Right after the fall happened, my leg hurt pretty badly, but the pain was minimized by having Hilary right there by my side. The rest of the run was filled with genuine conversation and a solid steady pace that I probably wouldn’t have gone after the fall if I had been by myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, moving to California has been challenging in a lot of ways. If I had moved here with someone, I think it would be a lot different. But I wasn’t supposed to move here with anyone, so it’s required me to make sure I find ways to surround myself with the right people who will be in my tribe. I could sit here and whine to you about how being single and living alone means that there was no one there to take care of my leg for me when I got home and how I really wish I had someone to hold my hand when life gets really rough—and part of me really wants to whine more about that in this moment—but there’s truly no point. That’s not in the cards for me right now, so I won’t complain any further.

What I will do is remind you that it’s important not to let the thoughts of the things you don’t have overshadow the wonderful things that are already in your life. There are going to be times when you’re doing great, and your actual life might be a direct reflection of an Instagram post, but then there are also going to be seasons when it seems like all you’re doing is falling down. Let the people around you help you up—let them remind you that it’s OK to acknowledge your pain and that you’re strong enough to keep going. Let them be those friends who run (or walk) alongside you and talk about all of the things in life, both good and bad, and what the hopes in your heart are.

Find those people, and never let them go.

Falling down isn’t the worst thing in the world. It hurts when it happens, and it might hurt for a little while after, too. And if the fall involves a broken heart, that “little while” might actually last a lot longer than you would prefer.

And that’s when you have to fight.

Please don’t stay down when you fall. You’ll miss out on so many great things if you do—you’ll miss out on running on the boardwalk with a friend or new career opportunities or exciting adventures or a man who will finally be the one you’ve been waiting to capture your heart forever and not break it. It’s OK to fall, as long as you get back up.

Besides, you might get to wear some really cool Band-Aids when you do.

Because we live in the present, not the past

There are a lot of things I want to make sure I avoid doing in life so that I can truly be the kind of person I hope to be.

And that includes not living in the past.

Memories are sometimes wonderful, and they are also sometimes very painful. Either way, they are events that already happened, and we can never go back to those exact moments in our lives—we can’t make the great ones happen all over again just as they did, and we can’t erase those hurtful instances that we wish had never occurred and now live in our minds and hearts forever.

There are some things about my past that I don’t like to talk about or think about too often (or at all, actually), but I recently was asked to share my story with my community group at church, and what I didn’t want to resurface is part of my story and has helped mold me into the person I am today. And, while it’s OK to talk about memories—whether they are filled with joy or full of heartache—I think it’s much more important to live in the moments you have now and not dwell on those you can never get back.

This has been a big focus for me lately because I feel like I’ve started a completely new life, which I guess I kind of have in a way. Moving to California wasn’t something I was expecting to do, and I left my entire life and all of my people back in Dallas. I’m not going to lie—when I first moved out here, it was pretty tough. If you had asked me a month or two ago, I would have said I’m absolutely moving back to Dallas as soon as my lease is up in the fall. One year would be plenty.

Like Elsa said, “the past is in the past.” My present involves sitting on lifeguard towers by the ocean, and I’m happy about that.

But now I feel settled and at home, and I’ve really started to get connected at my church and with a community of people around me. I get to lead a small group of high school girls each Sunday night, I tutor high school kids on Wednesdays after work, I’m plugged in to a community group, I’ve made friends through flag football, and I even found a solid group of girls I’m able to run with on Monday evenings. I’ve grown to love this place and the people in it.

Sure, I still love Dallas and all of my people there, but I’ve learned that I can’t live there when I don’t actually live there. For a while right after the move, I kept having FOMO (it’s SO real, people) about so much that was going on with my friends and at my old job, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake by leaving it all behind.

But then I remembered that God called me out here—and He doesn’t make mistakes.

I’m still able to FaceTime with my family members and have phone dates with my friends, but I can’t be at all of the events they are and be part of all of the memories they’re making without me. And that’s OK. I’m in California now, and I’m surrounded by beauty all around me, including new friendships and opportunities—and this is where I need to be. You truly can’t be two places at once (if you don’t believe me, ask Cory Matthews or Fred Flintstone), and it’s silly to try. Besides, how can you genuinely enjoy where you are and what you’re doing if you’re not actually completely present?

I’ve also had to remind myself about this more than once lately when it comes to those painful feelings that result from a broken heart. What happened happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I can’t change anything I said (although I don’t regret pouring out my heart, even if it was scary and didn’t end the way romcoms do), and I certainly can’t change anything he said or did—or didn’t say or do.

But I can change my heartset now (I can’t remember if I told y’all about the word I made up—or maybe other people say it, too—for people who tend to think with their hearts more than their minds). I can still have hope that I won’t experience heartache for the rest of my life, and I can still have hope that one day I will find someone who loves me for the person I am and doesn’t want to chase after other things, instead.

In our own ways, we all have brokenness, and we may have things from our pasts that we don’t like to think about or maybe don’t even want other people to know. And we also probably all have some really great recollections in our lives that we wish we could hold onto forever and maybe even be in those moments again (think Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite).

We are where we are for reasons we may or may not know right now (or ever, maybe), but I fully know in my heart that everything happens with purpose. Each moment you have is special in that you will never get it back. Whether it hurts to the point of making you ugly cry or brings so much happiness to your heart that you can hardly contain your joyful feelings, you’ll never have that same moment again. You don’t need to go back to it over and over again. You don’t need to keep hoping it will return and last forever. You don’t need to beat yourself up and constantly wish that it had never happened. You don’t need to let it hold you back from doing the things you know you’re meant to do. You simply need to be fully where you are now—be present in your present.

It’s the only way you’ll do anything worth remembering someday.

When you pursue what you know you should

Unfortunately, we don’t always get the things we want in life.

No matter how hard we chase them.

When I was a little girl, I used to follow my brother around everywhere and insist that he let me play in every pickup basketball and football game and street hockey game with him and all of his friends. He usually acted pretty annoyed about it but let me play (most of the time, anyway). Back then, I thought my brother was one of the coolest people who existed, and I wanted him to want to hang out with me—I pursued a strong sibling relationship with him.

What hurt, though, were the times when he didn’t want to spend time with me, too, particularly as we grew older in middle school and high school. I realize that some kids and teenagers go through stages in which they become “too cool” for their younger brothers and sisters, but it’s never enjoyable to be on the wrong end of a rejection, especially from someone you care about so much.

Thankfully, my brother can’t ever actually get rid of me, and I’ve enjoyed being able to spend more time with him in the last year or so as I’ve gone over to his house to spend quality time with my niece. Being halfway across the country now, I’m thankful for FaceTime to help me still be part of their lives.

But not everything we pursue turns out so great—including when we pursue people.

I think I’ve always been a people pursuer. I love people—I love spending time with them and hearing their stories and sharing inside jokes and making memories and reaching points when you know each other’s special quirks and tendencies. It’s comforting to know others and to be known by them.

My sweet friend Jayna is one who wholeheartedly pursues friendship. She even sacrificed an entire afternoon to help me pack the day before I moved so that she could spend time with me.

It’s not always easy, though, because a lot of people are very busy, and sometimes it’s more difficult than I would like to connect with them. Whether it’s work or family or social activities, we all have a tremendous amount of stuff going on in our lives, and I think a lot of times we get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget to pursue some of our relationships. I know I’m guilty of this, though I’ve been trying to be better about reaching out to people more often, especially now that I live so far away from most of my people.

Starting over in a new place has also been challenging because I definitely have to do quite a bit of pursuing to form new friendships and reach those levels with new individuals to where we know each other well and become more like family. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not ashamed to ask people right off the bat to grab coffee (I don’t even drink coffee) or go for a walk or something so that we can get to know each other better. And I pretty much consider everyone a friend after at least one conversation. I don’t mind pursuing people—I like for people to know that they’re important enough to have others want to make time for them.

But there’s one area of my life that I don’t necessarily want to pursue someone—and that’s obviously in the whole love and dating arena. It’s not because I believe in some conventional gentleman-has-to-ask-out-the-lady thing; it’s more that I simply want someone to want me for a change.

I’ve gone my entire life being interested in guys who are never interested back or only lead me on for a little while, and it often feels like I’m chasing them, but I’m on a treadmill going nowhere, and they’re on the normal ground actually moving. I don’t want that—at all. I think that’s one reason I don’t like dating apps: I don’t like to feel like I’m having to pursue a relationship and forcing something that might not be there. I want someone to fall for me out of everyone else in the world and pursue me for once.

Is that so wrong?

I was thinking the other day about how God continually pursues us, and we don’t always pursue Him back. We’re too busy being wrapped up in all of the busyness in our lives that keeps us chasing all of the things. I’m trying to be more diligent about pursuing Him and the opportunities He’s given me rather than chasing after the things that may not be right for me. I’m going to try not to worry about whether or not I may be single for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to let my heart get broken again by focusing so much on someone who may or may not have ever actually cared for me.

Will I still pursue the friends and family members who are placed in my life? Absolutely.

Because everyone deserves to be pursued and feel loved.

Because nothing compares to you

Moments of enlightenment can often come in some pretty outrageous forms.

Like an overheard conversation of two rambunctious boys in the front office of an elementary school.

I’ve been realizing a lot lately how much we compare ourselves to other people. I can’t really explain why it happens, but it seems like it’s something most of us do—even when we don’t even realize it.

And it starts at a young age.

I was waiting to interview a student at one of our campuses the other day, and there were two young boys sitting in the front office, as well. Their conversation with one another was highly entertaining, and I listened in (also because they were rather loud, so it was difficult not to sit there and hear every word they said). I have no idea what their names are, but I’m going to call them Rocky and Colt (Three Ninjas is a highly underrated movie).

Rocky: You see this scar on my chin (shows Colt his scar). I had to get FOUR stitches! And my godfather had to get to 24 stitches!

Colt: I have a scar on my hip, and I got 95 stitches!

Me (thought in my head): That’s a hell of a lot of stitches, kid. And I’m sure that’s completely true. Also, how does the godfather factor into any of this?

Rocky: I’m Indian and German and French and Irish and Arabian and probably British, too.

Me (thought in my head): That is quite the combo of heritage you have there. I’m not sure about all of those, because you’re the whitest kid I’ve ever seen.

Colt: I’m all of those things you just said, but I’m something else.

Me (thought in my head): False.

Colt never said what that “something else” is, but it sure gave him a one-up on Rocky, which I’m pretty sure is what he was going for in that convo.

A girl then walked in and greeted them both briefly and kept on to wherever she was going. Colt waited until she was probably still in earshot and told Rocky that “she’s really touchy.” Rocky asked what her name is, and when Colt told him, he said “that’s the boringest name.”

I sat there and reflected on the profound statements these kids had just said and wanted to label them as ridiculous boys, but then it hit me that adults really aren’t that much different. Sure, we don’t always voice our opinions like those kids did in such candid manners, but we let thoughts of comparisons enter our heads—whether it’s about people’s names or looks compared to ours or how we measure up to other people in regard to status or lifestyle.

It’s silly to compare our karate kicks. It’s also silly to compare this filtered pic to the original.

I know I’ve caught myself doing this lately, especially because I don’t really feel like I have my life figured out. (Who does, though, really?) I’m 33 years old and have realized that I’m not where I want to be in my career, and that gives me an unsettling feeling. I know so many people who seem to know exactly what they want, and they are in established roles and flourishing, while I’m sitting here still praying for direction and clarity—something that feels like I should have been doing way earlier in my career than now. But we all have different paths. I was able to be a sports reporter for a year, a teacher for seven years, and now a writer in the corporate setting for almost three years. I know I’m eventually meant to do something else, though, and that can be difficult to accept when you think you’re supposed to be an adult who isn’t so seemingly clueless.

I think we often forget that most people don’t really “have it all together,” despite what Instagram may lead us to believe. You’ve likely heard that “comparison is the thief of joy” (thanks, Teddy Roosevelt), and I think that’s true a lot of the time. You can feel like you’re really killing it in life and then see how great someone else is doing and feel like your accomplishments aren’t as great as that other person’s. But why does that matter? If you accomplished something, you should be proud of that because it’s something that’s part of your life.

It’s been an ongoing struggle for me in the area of being single. I’m extremely happy for all of the people in my life (which is almost all of them) who have found their soulmates and started families and always have their spouses or significant others to dance with them during all of the slow songs. And it’s hard sometimes not to remember that if I want to dance to those same songs, I get to go twirl on the dance floor all by myself. I can be perfectly happy doing that, but I can also look around and let the comparisons of my situation to theirs rob me of that peace I feel on my own.

We’re all unique the way we are, and it truly doesn’t make much sense to compare ourselves to other people. That’s definitely something that’s much easier to say than actually do, so I can’t promise it won’t ever happen again for me. But I do know I want to make more conscious efforts to remind myself that I am who I am, and I’m taking the path I’m taking for reasons I may not know until later. The things that happen in my friends’ lives aren’t supposed to happen in my life because my life isn’t their lives—it’s just that simple.

You are where you are right now for a reason. The people you’ve met and the things you’ve gone through—both good and bad—have not been without purpose. They’re all part of your journey and your story, and they are meant to be for you and not necessarily for anyone else. You are valued, you are loved, and you matter just the way you are.

And that’s a truth that needs no comparison at all.

When you feel like you’re part of something

I think sports not only teach you so much about yourself but also a tremendous amount about life.

Especially when you’re part of a team.

I started playing soccer at a very young age, and while I originally joined because I wanted the Gatorade at halftime, I eventually grew to love the game itself and and everything about it. As I continued through my childhood and adolescence, I played a lot of sports, so I got used to that whole team aspect, and that’s also how I made a lot of my friends.

As an adult, I haven’t played on as many teams, especially as a runner—it’s obviously much more of an individual sport. I’ve run a handful of relays, which are always fun, but there’s something special about going through an entire season (or multiple seasons and years) with a group of individuals all working together and and supporting one another and cheering for each other and becoming more like a family.

At my last job, my company had its own bowling league, and two years in a row, I was a proud member (and team captain) of the Spare Bears. I loved that team—even when some of the members complained about the T-shirts we made the first season. We all still wore them (at least for a few weeks). Even though we weren’t that bad, the ridiculous scoring system left us in last place both years. I don’t like losing AT ALL, but you know what? We had fun, and we made a lot of really great memories as a team. We made it through those losses together, and we even gave each other high fives each week, despite whatever the screen said.

Because we were a team.

I miss the Spare Bears. I miss a lot of things about my life back in Dallas, which I expected would happen. Last week, I decided I needed to join a coed beach flag football league to fill the void of not being on a team and to be able to play a fun sport again and make some new friends. Before I had any time to think of reasons why it wasn’t a good idea, I had registered as a free agent, which meant I would be placed on any team that needed me.

This obviously isn’t our entire team, but I needed a pic, and they seemed photogenic.

My first game was Sunday, and I’m really glad I decided to join. I didn’t know a single person out there, but I immediately felt like part of the group, and it was nice to get some high fives when I almost had an interception and made a few other defensive plays to break up passes and grab flags (I’m telling you—I would be a great strong safety in the NFL). We all even hung out for a little bit after the game at a place down from the pier, and I’m also going to go to a trivia night this week that a couple of them attend weekly—I’m pretty excited about that!

I realize I’ve only played in one game, but it already feels comforting to be part of a team. There’s something really good about groups like this: They’re not only found in sports. Whether it’s our families or coworkers or communities or other solid circles of friends who become family to you, we can be part of so many different teams in life—those people who walk with you through every season and are there for you every step of the way. They cheer for you whether you’re killing it in life or getting your a$* kicked. And they help you up when you fall down, making sure you know that you’re strong enough to get up and keep going. They mourn with you after losses, and they celebrate with you after victories. It doesn’t matter if you’re at your worst or at your best—they’re still there.

I bought a sofa the other day (well, it’s really a loveseat, but I didn’t want something really big). I’ve been watching television while sitting on a blowup mattress, and that lifestyle is getting old and uncomfortable, so it was time for something else. When I told the guy who sold it to me that I thought the loveseat was a better option than the full-sized sofa for me, he said this: “Yeah, it’s the perfect size for someone who’s alone.”

I SWEAR THAT I GIVE OFF SOME SORT OF “I’M SINGLE” VIBE.

Of course, he then started to backtrack and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.” I should have told him about all of my people. No, I don’t live with anyone; no, I don’t have a boyfriend; no, I don’t have a husband or a date to anything or someone to watch the sunsets on my lifeguard tower with me; no, I don’t have a pet; and, no, I don’t have a lot of other things. To him, that might make me alone, but I don’t think that’s the way I want to look at it. Sure, it may feel that way sometimes, but all I need to do is think about my teams and the teammates who have been by side for years, and my spirits are lifted. I hope you have those people in your life, and I hope you keep finding more.

Because sharing those precious moments in life with the people you love is even sweeter than Gatorade at halftime.