I live about 15 minutes from the beach by car. Whenever I tell people that I live in Southern California, they always ask me, “So do you go to the beach all the time?” My answer is yes and no. I very rarely ever go to the beach with the intention of swimming, but I’m around the coast quite frequently. I love the ocean. I love its color and its sound and its smell. I love the way it is refreshing and cool on your toes when you step in. I love its rhythmic intensity and its tendency to surprise you with a larger wave than you were expecting. I love the ocean because it is a great force much larger than myself; it’s a huge part of this planet that is foreign to me but is constantly moving and full of life.

When I was little, I used to love the Little Mermaid. I’m pretty sure I only saw the movie once or twice, but I gravitated towards Ariel’s character because I was enchanted with the idea of living in the sea. My mom still calls me her mermaid, even though I’m not tan and I don’t go in the water very frequently. The ocean just calms me and makes me really happy. It’s one of the few things that is so captivating that I want to just sit and exist in its presence, thinking about how small I am in comparison to its churning power.

I am especially aware of how fortunate I am to live where I do, where the sun is out and I can wear a tank top in January, after spending my first semester at Berkeley in the rain. Though Berkeley’s gray skies have a very tender place in my heart, the tropical optimism of Southern California is something I’ve missed.