As I write this, the coffee courses through my veins - fueling my permanently sleep-deprived self with the kind of liquid energy that only those beautiful beans can produce. My straightening iron is surreptitiously plugged in underneath my desk at the gallery, ready for a quiet moment when I can quickly coiffure my coif without taking up precious break time that should be spent scarfing down a quick snack to help fuel my frenzied day. My laptop is at the ready too, waiting patiently for me to take a free moment and program it with a proper party playlist. Somewhere before I leave work at four today, I will also have to do some quick cleanup in the gallery and try to cram in some much-needed midterm studying, not to mention finish this week’s column.
In the past week, I’ve mourned the loss of a beloved friend, comforted countless other friends dealing with the consequences of the various blazes burning all over Southern California, and had to face the very real - and very scary - possibility of my own parents’ home being consumed in the Canyon Fire in Malibu. Meanwhile, looming midterms have made it impossible to ignore just how much schoolwork I’ve been neglecting in favor of doing the work that actually pays my bills. And having my car insurance and credit card bills due within the same week reminded me just how important it is for me to keep on making money.
I know it’s terribly trite, but if it wasn’t for the steadfast support of my family, friends, and boyfriend, I don’t think I would have been able to make myself get out of bed by the time last Friday rolled around. Now, I’m not sharing all of this to elicit pity. Nor do I think the fact that my extracurricular life is leaving me so stressed, swamped, and thoroughly exhausted on a daily basis that tackling the tiny text of hundreds of assigned reading pages seems almost unthinkable excuses the way I’ve been shirking my studying.
But, I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that this particular, pre-midterm portion of the quarter has a tendency to be especially exhausting for us college students a reality that has not been made any easier by the blazing brushfires threatening so many of our homes. For every word of comfort and helpful hug I’ve received in the past week, I’ve doled out just as many. It’s impossible not to. Everyone is on edge, everyone is emotionally drained, and everyone is itching to do something, anything, to remind us that life really is worth waking up for every morning.
I was on the phone with my mother at around 4 p.m. the other day, and I relayed the events of my day thus far: two classes and one lab, a workout at the gym, turning in a paper, stealing some time with the aforementioned boyfriend, the completion of a few quick errands, the diffusion of a work crisis, taking a quiz, going to the grocery store, and figuring out what I wanted to make for the mini-dinner party I was throwing later that night. She pointed out that I had already done much more in just half my day than she did in an entire 24-hour period. I shrugged it off. After all, that’s the life of a college student. Unlike most adults, who work at a single job all day and go home at the end of the afternoon, we college students tend more towards multi-tasking.
On any given day, we could have four or five different classes in entirely different subjects, plus all the aforementioned reading and homework for each to do when we go home. Add to that the fact that most of the college students I know hold down at least two jobs outside of school, participate in extra-curricular activities, do some form of organized exercise on a regular basis, and are responsible for clothing, feeding, and taking care of themselves - not to mention maintaining relationships with friends and significant others. It’s clear that even in the purportedly party-school environment of UCSB, college students lead lives that are packed to the brim with responsibilities and requirements. Granted, we’re lucky to even be in college, but I also think most of us worked damn hard to get here and we work even harder to stay.
I’m not complaining. I love college. But I think it’s very easy for the population at large to forget that college students are here to work hard, not just to make life more difficult for law enforcement officials and local residents. And, this is especially true around Halloween.
As the “No Halloween Parking” signs go up, and the leaflets about all the restrictions and regulations surrounding the Halloween celebration go out, I’m reminded of just how much Halloween in Isla Vista is reviled by so many Santa Barbarans. I understand and empathize with fears about how the influx of out-of-towners could clog roads, flood emergency services, and pose a potential threat to the safety and well-being of the town. And, I completely agree that the massive party opens Isla Vista - and, by proxy, Santa Barbara - up to just such a slew of non-student revelers, whose respect for the area is nonexistent and whose behavior is questionable to say the least. But, keeping the out-of-towners out is a whole other issue.
Right now, I think it’s important as an Isla Vistan - especially one who is dead set on enjoying her last Halloween here - to remind the revilers that our October revelry is not undertaken with any malicious or malfeasant intent. In fact, for me and most of my friends, it’s just a much-needed break from the crushing cacophony of crises and quandaries, duties and debts, effort and exhaustion that characterizes most days in our lives. Sure, at UCSB we party hard. But, we work hard too. And, it may be the oldest excuse in the book, but I’ll be damned if it’s not entirely true.
Halloween gives us a chance to escape from all the responsibilities - even if just for a night or two. Under the auspices of the celebration, we can literally let our fantasies flow freely. The dutiful can be devilish, the introverted can be uninhibited and the shy can come out of their shells with just a little help from Scavenge. It’s the one time during the year when the entire town bands together to ensure that everyone is included in the festivities; the one time when a girl can express her sexuality without being called slutty and a guy can indulge his long-standing desire to see what wearing a dress really feels like. It’s the only time of the year when you can pretend that encroaching midterms don’t matter and the stresses of seeing your house almost burned down can just disappear in a mob-mentality-fueled drunken haze. Sure, it has the potential to be hazardous. But, it’s also incredibly liberating. And, if done with the right amount of respect for yourself and others, it’s really not as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be.
So that’s why I’m pushing my poor, caffeine-addled self to keep going for just a few more days. That’s why I’m rushing to get all my responsibilities out of the way now. Because tonight my backyard is playing host to a Halloween party; a party where I can spend time with the people who propel me out of bed every morning; a party where, for just a few hours, I can forget the five million other things I should be doing with my time and pretend I am the carefree Can Can dancer I’ll be costumed as. Sure, it’s a little selfish. And sure, throwing a massive Halloween rager is probably not the most adult way to take my mind off everything. But, after a week of witnessing death and devastation, dealing with stressors big and small, and being forced to face the fact that in order to keep my car insured I might have to accept mediocre midterm scores, well, I think I’ve earned a night off from responsible adulthood.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to forgo my obligation to ensure that every drop of alcohol consumed on my property is imbibed in the safest and most conscientious way. And it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave loads of trash all over the place for some poor county official to pick up after the weekend is over. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not going to take full responsibility for the health and well-being of everyone at my house this Halloween, myself included.
But, it does mean that I’m going to blast my party playlist at full volume. It does mean that I’m going to wear the most fantastically fun costume I can get my hands on - decency be damned. And, it does mean that I’ll be telling anyone who complains exactly where they can stick it. I don’t want to be mean, and I don’t want to be a disrespectful neighbor, but I do want to savor every last second of what could very well be my last chance to just let go for a night - at least at the level that I.V.’s Halloween celebrations allow for. And after the week I’ve had, and the amount of caffeine it’s taken to propel me through it, I suggest you don’t test me on that.