Finding a Way to Keep His Spirits High

By Stella Haffner   |   December 21, 2021

Whether Miramar Beach and Montecito or the University of Montana in Missoula, 22-year-old Will Borghesani is here to tell us that each new destination has its own special qualities and charm. The MUS, Marymount, and Cate alum is now a final-year college student with sights on law school. But before he takes the plunge into the professional world, Will is taking some time to slow down, appreciate his surroundings, and hone his faculty in creative writing — which we all appreciate here at the Dear Montecito column. So, without further ado, I’ll let Will tell you his story.

Dear Montecito,

Will Borghesani

I was almost 12 when my family relocated to Montecito from Rhode Island, and l imagine my childhood friends back in Providence were jealous that I got to wear shorts all year without discomfort. To say that I have grown and changed significantly as a result of the experiences and opportunities that greater Santa Barbara has afforded me in the past 10 years is an understatement; I have learned to surf and scuba dive and have gone on trips to localities like Channel Islands and Jalama Beach, none of which I would have been able to do had my family remained in frosty New England.

When the time came to decide where to attend college, the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana, popped up on my radar because of its top-notch political science and history departments. Being accepted into its renowned honors program sealed the deal, making me an outlier from the rest of my Cate classmates who were setting their sights on universities in Boston and New York. In going back and forth between Missoula and Santa Barbara, I have learned to value the special qualities of each city more, where I can enjoy evening ocean swims in one and ski like a maniac every weekend in the other.

Like every other member of my generation preparing to enter the professional world, my college and career trajectory were both sideswiped by the pandemic. My Model United Nations delegation’s trip to New York was called off, and I was forced to abort my plans to spend my junior year studying abroad in Barcelona. As UM was preparing to shut down in March 2020, my economics professor told our class, “If any of you had come to me back in January to tell me that this epidemic brewing up in China was going to make its way to our shores, crash our economy, shut down every college in the country, and force everyone to stay home, I probably would have laughed at you.”

Miraculously, UM’s outdoor department’s spring break trip to Capitol Reef National Park was still given the green light, and I spent five days hiking and climbing through canyons in the Utah desert, blissfully unaware that the outside world was turning completely upside down. I suffered from a sprained ankle after slipping on a loose boulder, which forced me to hike the rest of the trip with a bandaged foot because there wasn’t any service in the canyon to call me a helicopter. Nonetheless, I was glad to spend some time marveling at the scenery of southern Utah for only a little while before learning how much the rest of the world had taken a turn for the worse.

The moment at the end of the trip when we reentered civilization and our phones buzzed with notifications of mandatory lockdowns and impending economic collapse, we were all dumbfounded by how much had changed during the five days we had been disconnected. I returned home to quarantine with my family, spending my newfound free time either confined to my bedroom with my head buried in a book or taking long solo walks on Montecito’s beaches. I spent hours watching the shimmering water glisten in the sunlight and listening to the waves crash on the shore and send foamy water spilling across the sand, as I further pondered what direction to take my life in while reminding myself that I was witnessing history unfold.

Despite being a political science major and history minor with a pre-law concentration, that summer I decided to take another crack at creative writing, one of my longstanding hidden talents. During those months in isolation, I rediscovered my passion for fiction and became lost in my imagination, and I am now hoping to continue writing even after my professional career takes off, even one day publishing the novel I am currently finalizing. The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, but what has really kept my spirits high is doing rewarding things with my time, including some personal reflection in nature, whether in Montana, Utah, or Montecito. And for that, I have every reason to be grateful.



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me,!


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