When your life here feels worlds away from life back home, issues of identity inevitably come into play as the struggle to balance the two becomes increasingly necessary to sustain sanity. But though I spend much of my time in Isla Vista suffering the pangs of constant homesickness, I can’t help feeling a surge of anxiety whenever the return home draws near.
With the end of the year mere days away and summer vacation just around the corner, the idea of transitioning between two completely different lifestyles still scares me a little. The five hours I spend on the road while making that transition never seem to be enough time – not to all of a sudden return to a life that feels so distant after developing an entirely new one hundreds of miles away from it. Without adequate time to adjust, I go into a shock of sorts, like the feeling you get when you emerge from a heated swimming pool and the cold air hits your body all at once.
Having been born and raised as a bona fide city girl, it took a long time for me to get accustomed to living in Isla Vista. Time slowed down as my days began to fill with naps in the sun, classes on the beach and leisurely walks down State Street. Despite the relaxing change of pace, it was hard not to feel isolated in a place like this. With the sweeping Santa Ynez Mountains on one side of me and the vast Pacific Ocean on the other, there was simply nowhere to go – and I found myself getting restless.
But as time moved on, it got easier to adapt as new friends, relationships and ways of life entered my existence, and I began to learn that change was inescapable. No matter how hard I tried to resist the thought, this place was slowly starting to become home, and I found unexpected amounts of comfort just walking through Isla Vista on my way to class, taking in the refreshingly new experience of being on my own.
I hadn’t realized the extent of this change until I found myself back in my beloved city one day, somehow feeling strangely lost. There, in the heart of downtown San Francisco, with glittering skyscrapers towering above me and the Bay Bridge glowing in the distance, I felt like a foreigner in this place I had once embraced as my only home. The rush and drama of metropolitan life no longer felt so glamorous, and I had an epiphany – I actually missed Santa Barbara.
Some people will spend their summers partying it up in Cancun or Hawaii in ways not too different from our own Isla Vista scene. Some will trek to Paris, London or Japan, determined to immerse themselves in the exotic cultures of faraway lands. And some will remain here, working, taking some classes or perhaps staying just to enjoy the rare quiet that falls over I.V. while most of us are gone.
But some, like me, will return to our hometowns. We’ll spend several months reconnecting with our families and high school friends; going to our favorite local restaurants, shopping centers, bars and clubs; and reliving the memories that came and went at times that feel like ages and ages ago.
Then, just when life finally seems normal again in our respective towns, it will be time to return to UCSB for yet another year of college life. And when that time comes, some people, like me, will come back to this place, breathe in the salty ocean air, take in the familiar sights of Spanish-tile roofs and bougainvillea-twined buildings and smile – knowing that we have, in our own inexplicable ways, come home.
When Daily Nexus opinion editor Meghan Palma gets lonely in the city, she clicks her favorite tan stiletto sandals together three times and chants, “There’s no place like I.V.”