When I was a little girl, I spent hours and hours watching Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. As soon as the movie was over, I would immediately demand to watch it again. In a world of her own, Alice had many adventures, met different characters, and never knew what exactly she would find behind the next corner.
I like to think of Isla Vista as a kind of Wonderland. Everyone is a character and every place is a setting like nowhere else. We all share this Wonderland with one another, though we each have different adventures of our own – some that make sense and many that are rather nonsensical. Over the past three years I have learned to love and embrace all of the nonsense. After all, if everything made sense, life would be pretty dull, wouldn’t it?
My first taste of Isla Vista was the definition of nonsense. It was orientation weekend and I was touring the campus with my dad, who doesn’t have much tolerance for crime or debauchery. When we walked down Del Playa, you can only imagine the look on his face when a group of students started running toward us, fleeing a tower of smoke and flames. The only conclusion I could make at the time was that couch burning was apparently a common leisure activity on a Saturday morning in I.V. Not long after, my mom helped me move into the Francisco Torres dorm at the start of my freshman year. There we were greeted with another long-standing UCSB tradition: the nickname given to my off-campus housing unit. (Hint: It starts with the letter “F” and ends in “Towers.”) After about four or five of these welcoming salutations, my mom reached out, gave me a huge hug, and reluctantly left the building.
Still, it was in these infamous towers that met my best friends, wrote my first college papers, decided on my major, went mud sliding in the rain, and learned more about myself as a person than I had ever known before. College can be rough and exciting, but it’s also quite possibly the most important four years – or, in many cases, five or six years – of a young person’s life. It’s often where we discover our interests, desires, and passions, and what better place to explore it all than beachside in a community full of young, imagination-filled minds?
In the final scenes of Alice in Wonderland, the title character confesses, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” Trapped and helpless, Alice loses her way in the strange world of Wonderland. Here, in a town where there are constant beer pong tourneys, dance parties, and sunny beaches calling your name, it’s shocking that students are able to keep on track, let alone crack a book open. You might think that they, like Alice, ignore their own good advice and get lost. But despite our party-hardy reputation, Isla Vista occupants prove to be productive. I.V. has a population of more than 18,000 residents, most of whom are currently attending UCSB, a university whose 2008 incoming class had an average high school GPA of 4.03.
So how do we keep our academic heads above water while living in a city filled with so much nonsense? We are able to follow our own good advice in I.V. because all the nonsense somehow makes sense to us. After a while, the wonderment of Isla Vista is less like a distraction and more like a complement to studying, learning, and excelling as a young adult. It is undeniable that life is different beyond the borders of I.V., but the act of juggling work and play is a feat that we humans struggle to master throughout life. It’s my belief that living here simply primes us for the undeniable distractions that come post-graduation.
So, to answer the Caterpillar’s famous inquiry, “Who are you?” here’s a little bit about me.
I grew up in Orange County and am fortunate enough to have spent my younger years enjoying beaches and the laid-back California lifestyle. I rode horses, practiced yoga, and have always had an interest in art and writing. Now at UCSB, I major in comparative literature and I believe the best way to express oneself is through creativity. The atmosphere of Isla Vista has given me an outlet to do just that and share with others.
Isla Vista has historically been a place of inspiration and achievement. According to urban legend, Doors frontman Jim Morrison was so inspired by the beauty of the oil rigs off the coast of Isla Vista’s beach back in 1965, it inspired his famous song, “The Crystal Ship.” Myth or fact, Morrison was not alone in his I.V. inspiration. Edie Sedgwick, famous friend to Andy Warhol, also frequented Isla Vista in 1969 and later, singer-songwriter Jack Johnson composed years of music about his life on and around UCSB’s campus.
I look forward to a year making sense out of the nonsense, exploring and investigating our Wonderland home of Isla Vista.