While I’ve never had any problem rhapsodizing about some of life’s smaller wonders—don’t get me started on the beauty of coffee, Disneyland, Rufus Wainwright, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese—I find it difficult not to trip into clichéd territory when talking about my own college graduation.

When so many sources—my friends, commencement speakers, parents, singing Hallmark cards—are vying for the perfect “new grad” quote, and prodding for my reaction to the whole thing, I don’t know what to say.

Natalia Cohen

The “whole thing”—moving away, leaving school, my friends, and the charming snow globe of natural beauty, drunkenness, and muted dubstep that is Isla Vista—seems, at this moment, something too big for a pithy little phrase to encapsulate. It has, however, sunk in that I no longer may explain myself and my financial situation by simply throwing out, “Oh, well I’m a college student.”

Leaving Isla Vista—and this column—means having no structure to either my regular life or my writing life. This change, as jolting as it may be, is one that I feel that I can handle. However, in quiet moments when my (now former) I.V. housemates were off packing in other rooms, the fear would catch in my throat, and, just for a moment, I felt terrified that I might be a fraud. Even with all the preparation I’ve had—the fantastic professors, the encouragement, and the work that I’ve put in—I have worried that I will not end up being the person that I imagined myself to be when I rolled up in a minivan freshman year. Yet the overwhelming nature of graduating and moving away has allowed these fears to melt away somewhat.

I’m lucky enough to have a job in the fall as a writing tutor, but until then I’m going to be what I like to call a “gypsy.” While such a term may not fully succeed in lending a mystical, Stevie Nicks vibe to couch-surfing, this is my summer, and I accept it. I’m going to relocate to San Francisco for a while and see if any jobs work out, and then maybe I’m going home to Los Angeles.

Throughout this year, I’m going to try my hand at writing for television. This may be a reckless venture, but it’s something that I want to try anyway. I am young still. At 21, I know very little about the working world, but I do know that to have regrets would be a terrible thing. This may be the idealist in me speaking, but I would rather try and fail than be “safe” and look back at the life that I’ve built for myself in an alternate universe where I never tried to be a writer and am filled with a chorus of “what ifs” whenever I see a great new TV show, book, or article. Who knows?

I’ll also be spending much of next year researching and applying to graduate schools of education or whatever else seems to spark something in me.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that what I’ve valued most about college and Isla Vista are the people that I’ve met, who have made this small community beautiful to me. Friends of mine from Northern and Central California (I’m a SoCal girl, by the by) have taught me about the term “Hella,” the dairy farms of Tulare, what it looks like to be brave, and what it is to love selflessly. Most importantly, they have taught me one of the more important lessons of growing up: how not to care quite so much about what others think of you.

I will turn what I have learned over in my head, and try to make sense of things enough to continually become a better writer, leader, girlfriend, daughter, sister, teacher, and friend.

I wish all the current and future Isla Vistans (and you too, dear readers) joy and good wine, and the very best friends and adventures.

So, farewell Isla Vista and The Santa Barbara Independent. It has been a privilege to be able to write about you this past year in a publication that I respect so much.

Now, because clichés can never be entirely avoided, I’d like to end this column the way I began it—with a Beatles reference.

One of my favorite songs, “In My Life,” contains these lines:

“There are places I’ll remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.”

And there you are. Thanks for everything, Isla Vista. You are a place that I’ll remember all my life, and that I will always love.


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