“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
In most college towns, it’s pretty common that you graduate then move on and get on with the rest of your life. But, Santa Barbara – the land of sand and surf – it’s where people come to retire; where they get a job at bar or in the food industry so they can enjoy each and every day, find a place in the community and give back. And it’s not uncommon for people to take longer to graduate from University, or from SBCC – our local community college. When you live in a place that beautiful, it takes a hell of a lot to compel you to leave; doubly so when your friends are still there too. I should know, it took me five years. But, I digress. Whether people moved away or stayed, the bond with other Santa Barbara-ians, or fellow Gauchos as we refer to them is real and the community is rich. The bartenders in Santa Barbara are fixtures of the community and most of them have been firmly planted in the downtown scene since I left in ’08, including close friends from college and my housemates from my last year in Santa Barbara.
Before I relocated myself to Los Angeles, I spent five amazing years going to the University of California in Santa Barbara and during that process I met some of the most amazing people in the world. Whether it was in passing walking to class, gallivanting to the beach, heading downtown to bar hop or enjoying a lazy Sunday in the grass – there were always smiling, familiar faces simply itching to make connections. Regardless of our incredible amounts of differences, all of us were well aware of one thing: that we were pursuing our futures in paradise. Granted, not every decision was a mature one but we all managed to do so eventually. We ditched class in February to go to the beach, when we won the NCAA championship in soccer our reaction was to tear down the goal post and throw it into the Pacific and Halloween provided the perfect excuse to spend a week wearing costumes; and then, of course – there’s the party scene. Not saying that everyone participated, but let’s get something clear – we all knew how to unwind, and we were oh so good at it. But don’t get it twisted – sure, we’ve ranked near the top of almost every ‘Top Party School’ pool from US News down to Playboy, but we also have had more Nobel Prizes awarded to us than every other UC combined; we’re walking, talking examples of the ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra and are damn proud of it.
For anyone connected to the Santa Barbara community, this week has been a trying one; a frustrating, harrowing, nerve bending, soul shaking one. Last Thursday night, a pillar of the Santa Barbara community was leaving work and subsequently was struck by a drunk driver leaving a holiday party blocks away. She spent the last week in the ER, fighting against all odds to come back to us but yesterday afternoon our community was dealt with a sorrowing blow.
If you went to college in Santa Barbara, chances are you crossed paths with Mallory more than once – I know I did. If you didn’t know her personally, which regretfully I never had the chance for, you probably know someone that did; I do. I might have only had brief encounters with her, but when so many lives in the community have been touched by one individual – when a substantial drop in our ocean has been removed – the sorrow and anguish is wholeheartedly by everyone in it. In the past 24 hours, in the moments of sadness and pain – there’s also been an outpouring of support from the extended Santa Barbara community.
So how do we put these pieces back together and rebuild our small, but strong, community?
We learn; we grow.
There’s the small things, like simply reaching out to the friends and extended family from Santa Barbara and letting them know that we’re all in this together, big things like the Facebook Support Page, and last but not least – large things, like a page on Fundly that’s already raised over $30,000 in less than a day.
Last but not least, there’s this:
The next time a friend comes to drink at your house, make them a comfortable place to crash and take their keys until you feel it’s appropriate to drive. Designate a sober driver, or just rock-paper-scissors it; a lot of bars will give free non-alcoholic drinks to anyone that’s been delegated the role for the night. If you’re going out on the town, call a cab, Uber, Lyft or, if that’s not in your price range – try taking public transportation. If you work in a bar, club or anywhere someone could leave under the influence, take an inventory of the people you’re serving and those that are leaving. And most importantly, keep an open and honest dialogue about drunk driving with the people in your life: if there’s someone that has a problem, talk to them – and set an example. Here’s the thing – it’s the holidays, and we’re all someone’s child; this is not the time of year where parents should be burying theirs. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let your loved one’s do it either. Let’s smarten up this holiday season, please; for everyone’s sake.