In my own idealistic take on life, beauty reveals itself in all people, whether conventionally or not. As such, I try to avoid feelings like envy as much as I can, as I would like to believe that whatever qualities we possess or lack all balance out in the end in some cosmically harmonious way.

But every so often, you come across the kind of person that, even for a moment, seems to have it all. At a friend’s party over the weekend, I encountered such a person and later found myself questioning my own skewed ideas of human perfection.

She was the kind of girl you had to look at. Her allure had captured the attention of every guy who was there, and it was hard not to be jealous. She walked and breathed sex appeal, and other girls seemed to look on in disbelief at the magnitude of her effect on the room.

Throughout the evening, she made her way from guy to guy, teasing them with her erotically charged dancing and bedroom eyes. Others perhaps wrote her off as slutty or promiscuous, but I admired her for harnessing such an incredibly raw display of sexuality. Maybe it was because in truth, I knew how addictive that feeling of sexual empowerment could be and thus, applauded her for partaking in it.

But at the end of the night, I caught one final glimpse of her, this girl whose once overpowering presence had suddenly dwindled to a sad and piteous state I could have only described as truly lost. A ratty blanket now concealed the stretches of skin she had so brazenly exposed just hours before, and her perfect face was now streaked with mascara trails and dried tears.

The spell had been broken and the illusion destroyed. Without a single exchange of words, I knew I understood what she was feeling. The truth was that I saw myself in that disheveled, tear-stained mess, and I suspected I wasn’t alone.

I couldn’t help recalling all the times that I, too, found myself in tears at a drunken night’s end. I remembered looking in the mirror on countless occasions at who it was I thought I wanted to be, only to later realize that the provocative image I had so carefully crafted had once again led me to pain and regret.

In my mind, I wondered if perhaps we were all just kidding ourselves – if we were all just pretending that this wild, erratic lifestyle we revel in so freely here was truly as wonderful as we would all like to believe it was.

The limitless opportunities that run rampant in a place like Isla Vista taunt us in their promises of self-fulfillment. Pleasure. Independence. Power. When such enticing prospects linger at the end of each decision we make, it’s so easy to take advantage of them without questioning whether or not we’re getting what we really want.

But somewhere amid the one-night stands, drunken nights and forgotten names, I think I lost a little bit of myself – the part that believed I wanted more. Was this really what I had become, and if so, did I want to change it?

Even now, it’s hard to know or understand what it is I want. But now when my friends and I wander the streets of Isla Vista on a Friday night, I’ll wonder if the throngs of scantily clad people I pass are happy – or if maybe, just maybe, they, too, are playing this dangerous game with a vulnerable heart.

Meghan Palma is a Daily Nexus staff writer.