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Good Bye, Isla Vista

Nicki Arnold’s Last Column Recalls What I.V. Has Taught Her


I’m going to walk across a big stage in about a week and a half. I’ll get a piece of paper that represents my achievement of my degree in political science.

But I didn’t really go away to college to learn from books. Really, I could probably teach myself a fair amount about political science by reading a few key books and talking with a couple of particularly bright professors.

Nicki Arnold

No, I went away to college to learn about life. I wanted to learn what sort of weird habits my parents taught me so I could fix them. I wanted to learn what sort of weird habits my friends’ parents taught them so I could laugh at them - and figure out what not to do. I wanted to discover just what it meant to get out there and stumble through life under my own roof.

To say Isla Vista hasn’t been a crucial teacher to me these past four years would be a blatant lie. On the contrary; I.V. has taught me more than anything else. So for this, my final column, I’d like to dive into everything I’ve learned from I.V., in part to indulge my cliche, reminiscent self and in part to impart my small amount of wisdom on you.

Riding your bike in a skirt is indeed possible. All you need is the ability to bike one handed. Oh, also, you need to ditch your dignity. Someone is going to see your underwear, and you just have to be okay with that.

Along that same vein, being self-conscious is pretty much useless. Worrying incessantly about whether your hair is blowing the wrong way (it is), whether you look awkward while you’re dancing (you do), or whether that cute girl thinks you’re cute too (she does, and she wishes you’d muster up the courage to talk to her already) will get you nowhere. All that time I spent worrying about whether or not everybody could see my pit stains could have easily been spent enjoying the company of friends.

Oh, about hanging out with friends. Nights spent in someone’s garage “just playing beer pong” often end up being phenomenal. Getting dolled up and going downtown is fun but overrated.

But spending weekends away is crucial, too. It’s far too easy to get caught up in I.V. weirdness, and I don’t mean just the partying. There are bizarre politics here, considering we have nobody in charge of I.V. specifically. Because of its isolation, I.V. has this peculiar atmosphere, and it’s good to be reminded of the world that exists outside of I.V.- and Santa Barbara in general.

Being nice to strangers makes their day. My visitors are always in awe of how friendly people are here, and my parents seem especially amazed by it. Some have attributed our laid-back demeanor to the ocean, but I blame it on the - ahem - forced coziness of I.V. We know what we’re getting into when we rent here, so we just go with it. So what if I’m living on top of my roommate and I can hear my neighbors shower? It’s just how life here goes.

Despite what everyone says, good friends aren’t all that hard to come by. By being a good friend, you will garner other good friends.

Don’t bring anything valuable out when you’re drinking. Debate leaving your cell phone at home. All you’re going to do is make drunken phone calls and text that person you shouldn’t.

Explore, explore, explore. Even in this tiny place, there’s so much to find. I pretty sure I’ll never know everything about any place I live in, much less I.V.

Staying up too late talking with friends is always worth the sacrificed sleep. Never again will I live a hop and a skip away from 90 percent of my best friends, and it’s important to continue that late-night conversation that won’t stop itself, not even at 3 a.m. on a school night.

Above everything else, relationships matter most in the world. This isn’t just romantic relationships. (I’ve failed at pretty much all of those, but I still think I have a pretty sweet life.) I’m talking relationships with your friends, your roommates, your professors, your neighbors, that random guy you biked past in the street, the girl at the checkout counter at I.V. Market - everyone. A happy encounter with someone makes for a happy day. And without good relationships, I.V. would be nothing but a dump by the ocean.

Before I sign off forever, I wanted to thank Isla Vista for letting me poke and prod at it. To everybody who gave me free lessons, who explained to me for hours the details behind the I.V. Master Plan, who put up with my sometimes rudely blunt questions, who opened up to me, who shouted at me and made it in my column unknowingly, who spent hours on the phone with me talking about how I.V. used to be, who read my columns - thank you.

I’ll miss you, I.V. I’d ask you to never change because you’re perfect the way you are, but that in itself would be asking you to adjust a critical part of who you are. Stay fabulous either way. I’ll be back to check up on things.

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