One student's story of mental health.
A tale of college tomfoolery and a demand to avenge my plants.
I've recently begun gardening. I am terrible at it, but I put my heart and soul into it and that's what matters.
It started last year: I lived across from St. Michael's Church and noticed their community garden plots. After a deposit of fifteen dollars and a payment of five dollars per month, one of those plots became mine.
I dabbled with vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and onions. Herbs like parsley, oregano, and cilantro. At that point in my college career, I was struggling with my mental health and became overwhelmed with my course load and responsibilities. But when I was gardening, it all seemed to go away. It was just me, the fresh air, and my little plant babies.
When the school year ended and I moved out of that apartment, I surrendered my plot and dedicated a corner of my new backyard to a small potted herb garden. Since August, I've been watching my tiny plants grow and change. And it's been so satisfying.
Recently, my neighbors threw a party. It happens a lot, and it doesn't bother me. But this party was particularly popular. When I woke up the next morning, my housemate tentatively greeted me in the kitchen: "Has anybody told you?"
I braced myself for what I was about to see. My heart raced as I stepped into the yard. I looked to the corner.
It was devastating.
My little plastic table that had supported the pots was shattered, dirty footprints smeared across its top. The trough containing my basil, rosemary, and oregano was tipped over. My lavender was knocked on its side. Everything else – my marigolds, brussel sprouts, tulips, spinach – was beyond recovery.
I stood before my demolished herb garden in silence for a moment. I actually felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I remembered potting them over the summer, watering them with care every morning, peeking out the kitchen window to see if the sun was hitting them enough. It wasn't just my sacrificed time and energy that upset me – nurturing my plants and seeing their beauty had been one of the most therapeutic activities in my week.
You know what isn't therapeutic, though? Seeing that beauty destroyed so somebody could hop over my fence to get into a party.
There's no doubt that Isla Vista has a rowdy history. It's a stereotype our unique community has been defined by. We defy it by holding each other accountable and conducting our weekend activities with dignity.
But lately, that hasn't been the case. Side mirrors are being punched in. Bird scooters are left knocked over like dominoes. Graffiti greets bikers as they enter Pardall Road. My poor, god-forsaken marigolds were torn from this world against their will. Our community is special – it's a place of camaraderie, of fond memories, of peaceful sunsets, of new experiences. But if we don't change something soon, it will inevitably revert to a trashy, party compost pile.
As a member of the Isla Vista family, I call for a change.
You may be thinking, "I've never punched in a side mirror, or dug my heel into an arugula, and I don't even litter – so this doesn't apply to me."
You could not be more wrong.
It's not enough to drink responsibly. It's not enough to respect the property of others. Because as a decent human being, you should be doing those things in the first place. To fix this problem, we need to take action – whether we’re guilty or not.
Tell your friends to stop drawing obscene pictures on car windows. Pick up the scooters that have been toppled over on the sidewalk. Tell the strangers up the street that it's not okay to punch in anyone's side mirrors.
Because we are defined by the community we create, and we can do better.
Then – and only then – will my plants will be avenged.
This article was originally published in WORD Magazine.
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About Cassidy Emenger
I'm Cassidy, a writer specializing in digital marketing & creative journalism. If you like my work, drop me a message. I live for collaboration.