One of the odd things about life is that it ends, and I’m not talking about death. The end of a lifetime is one thing, but every few years life seems to hit a reset button and completely rearrange itself. You find yourself in a new city. You’re surrounded by mostly new people. You kind of miss what used to be familiar, except that thing no longer exists.

The challenge right now is that I really like this familiar.

Earlier today, Chris and I got lunch at the pho place nobody knows the name of. They have pork and beef banh mi sandwiches there for only three bucks, and you get a nice big sandwich too. I swear, it’s the best thing to eat in Isla Vista for when I’m hungry and low on cash. That seems to be a pretty common scenario these days.

Chris and I got to swap ideas and just see how each other’s brain works a little bit more.

I can confidently say that Chris has had a serious positive influence on my life. We’re really different, just the way we go about and approach different situations. He challenges me, but in the good way, where he makes me double think my own communication style. He’s a great example of what it means to be consistent across different aspects of life.

When this year started the other week, it occurred to me that I’ll be ending it in a completely different way than it begins. I’m a full-time student now, but who knows what I’ll be up to at the end of the year. It’s definitely something I haven’t thought about too much, something I haven’t thought about as much as I probably should have.

Graduation is months away, but still. My interests are pretty entrenched in the present. In my little college town where anything can happen.

To be honest, it’s kind of unusual that I haven’t given my next steps a whole lot of thought. I think it’s because my current steps are still so enthralling.

It’s hard to imagine how soon everything will be coming to an end because right now, all appears to be teeming with life. Right now, it’s all about making my way around on a slate colored bike from one friend’s apartment complex to a little bistro to campus to the Love Dungeon, our attention getting nickname for the dilapidated house I share with seven good friends.

I like this life, a lot. I like the pace of life. I like all the open doors. Literally and figuratively. Most of my friends have an open door policy where at any given moment, I can hop into an apartment, make myself comfortable on a couch, and we’ll see what happens from there.

I had a lot of people at my church ask me when I’m graduating, knowing that it’s pretty much just around the corner today. A few of them asked if I’m still going to be in Santa Barbara afterwards.

While I some ideas, and even some clear front runners, I still feel like it’s a bit too early and that there are a few too many options to say for sure what I’m doing right after I graduate. Maybe if I still feel the same way about my Plan A in about a month it’ll look more solidified, but yeah.

But I guess that’s one of the big factors I’ll need to decide on. If I’m going to stay in Santa Barbara -or- how much longer I’ll be staying in Santa Barbara -or- if what I want to do can even be done in Santa Barbara or not, and if so, is it worth leaving or staying?

The weird thing is picturing life after Santa Barbara.

I suppose more likely than not, I’ll be going back and forth between Santa Barbara and other places in the few years to come, but it’s weird picturing moving on from here. On one hand, it feels like I’ve expected it all along, but on the other hand, it’ll be very strange without this location as the place where my life happens the most.

I’ve always had this weird tension between my desire to go off and venture and meet new people, and also the desire to have a close community, long-instituted friendships, and regular traditions and coffeeshops. Those two don’t seem to go hand in hand, unless I joined some sort of nomadic tribe. It’s tough though, when not so many people are down to form a nomadic gypsy band nowadays. I don’t even think I’m completely down.

But I’ve always wanted both the familiar and the new.

I guess that’s why I love big cities with small town feels. I never want to lose the opportunity to discover a new community or circle of people and meet new friends. I like that in a big city, you just never know when you’ll run into someone, unexpectedly engage in a fulfilling conversation, and walk away with a lifelong friend. I hate the feeling of being “trapped in your own immediate life.” On the other hand, in smaller, more local circles, you build strong circles, and you know who your people are. You build the kinds of friends you can tell anything to, and those are irreplaceable.

I’ve always had a very strong longing for both. Without the new I start to feel trapped. Without the familiar, loneliness can set in.

Santa Barbara is a good fit in between. If anything it leans towards the side of the familiar. There are moments when it feels over-familiar. Like I’ve discovered all there is to discover. Then just when I think I’ve exhausted it’s newness, something else will pop up. More importantly, I’ve made some very valued connections here. I love my friends, my community. I really like my church. I’ve met some awesome people that have turned into incredible friendships.

One factor to consider is that a lot of people- including a sizeable portion of those close friends will be leaving. Whether I stay or go, it won’t quite be the same. However, Santa Barbara is possibly the first place that’s truly felt home to me. During my San Diego years, I couldn’t help but carry the feeling that I wasn’t built for that city. It just didn’t fit my personality. Plus I didn’t build the relationships over there the way I did here.

Also, if not Santa Barbara, then where? A lot of the things I’m eyeing are internships in places like Greece or Half Moon Bay. I’ll be there for just a couple months. Hardly permanent.

I do kind of like that nomadic lifestyle, I guess. Making everywhere home. Short term. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing the past couple of years anyways, but this time with fewer round trip tickets.

Santa Barbara is the kind of place that will stick with me forever, even though I’m not sure I’ll live here forever. I live here now, though, and I want to soak in that fully. I want to make sure I drink this all in while it lasts.

There are classes to finish, job opportunities to look for, and day-to-day tasks to take care of. In spite of all that, I don’t want to lose sight of the bigger truth– that life as I know it won’t last much longer. I love it as it is, but I know it won’t last. Even if I never leave Santa Barbara, other people will. This town will move out quickly, and then what?

Soon these apartments will be full of new people, younger people, underclassmen moving up the ranks to take our place. Soon my friends will be spread across the state, across the country. Soon I won’t have the safety net of college where I can spend Monday playing pickup baseball, Tuesday teaching a public speaking class, or Wednesday learning how to make orange rosewater bread.

I’ve been asking myself, though, am I spending my remaining days here on stuff that actually matters? I’m happy to say that this week that answer’s been a resounding yes. The days aren’t monotonous, and they really do count. I feel like I’m studying stuff that matters. I have a job that matters. My free time I’ve been able to use in ways that build people and relationships.

It’s been so good. I just wanna remember that. I Love where I’m living.

I Love the Love Dungeon.

Matt and Bryce are back in town, and that’s gotten our house dynamics back into full swing.

This week we’ve remodeled our living room. I like it way more. It’s open and allows people to spend more time with each other. Oddly enough, having a TV in our living room has led us to interact with each other more and people are home more often. It usually works in the opposite direction.

We also held the first bi-annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day gift exchange.

We were supposed to have Secret Santas at the Love Dungeon before Christmas, but then people got busy, and everyone ended up leaving before we really had a chance to do a proper gift exchange.

So we decided to do one when we got back.

It would be a Secret MLK gift exchange.

It was a success. Mike bought me the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book. I got Derek Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I kept hidden in a box of hot cocoa, and calzones, which I disguised in the fridge as leftovers undef foil.

Bryce bought Chris a comic book he will probably read first, and Ariel got Matt a Nerf Battle Mace.

Also, Markus taught me how to say Caesarian section in German. Kaiserschnitt, which makes sense because kaiser equals Caesar, and I know the word schnitt from schnitzel. This will be one bit of useless knowledge that I’ll retain for the rest of my life.

What a successful day. I suppose the next one will be in 2014. I can’t even get my head around that year.

I can honestly say that in this neighborhood, in this month, this is the most at home I’ve ever felt anywhere. I’ve lived in other cities longer, but this is the most I’ve ever felt that feeling of belonging, and while I know it’s temporary, there’s a part of me that wants to cling to this forever.

I want to take a deep breath of salty air that’s been tainted by the ocean two blocks from my house and hold it in my lungs for as long as it will last. I want to commit to memory the sound of the crashing waves, the sound of partying neighbors, and the sound of bikes on the street outside to memory so that at any given moment I can reconjure them. I want to remember the smells of old apartments or grubby corner restaurants with grease stains and old menus so that at any time, I can remember the venues that once hosted life changing conversations, deepening bonds with lifelong friends, or good meals on those simple days I took for granted.

It makes me sad to think that this all ends in a few months. It’s a sadness that blends itself with a heavy dose of optimism, because at the same time, I can only imagine what lies ahead afterwards. I honestly believe good things, perhaps even better things lie ahead in the near future.

It’s inevitable, we’ll find out soon.

In the meantime, Isla Vista is mine for a few more months. It’s mine to mourn and to celebrate, to squeeze every bit of life from, and to stand in as I pray in front of the waves every morning.

I have dreams of places I’d like to go and things I’d like to accomplish, but I wonder if a big portion of the years ahead will revolve around trying to simply come back home, or to find some other place that feels as home as this place does right now.

Philippe Lazaro2012