The author with some Southern and Jewish friends

Defining Ourselves By Finding Ourselves in New Places

Jewish thoughts on moving from Texas to Mississippi, and college to adulthood.

I’m a Texas native, so I’m no stranger to the Southern Jewish experience — but moving to Mississippi was still a huge change of pace.

I’ve never been someone to shy away from change and a challenge. I love cross-country bike tours, ropes courses, moving to a new city on a whim for the summer… hiking off the beaten path- both literally and metaphorically.

So I assumed that moving to Mississippi was a similar kind of crooked/unbeaten pathfinding I always enjoyed. I didn’t think the move would be particularly tough, since I revel in the uncertain-feeling every change brings.

Perhaps I was too big for my britches, because this transition proved challenging.

Like many of the ISJL Education Fellows, it was my first time moving out of state, and away from my parents. Yes, I went to college—but my university in Austin was only an hour and a half away from home (San Antonio). If things got too overwhelming in Austin, I could always go home, touch base, hug my Mama and Aba, and recoup.

Now that I’m a 10-hour drive away, I can’t go home so easily. This came as more of a shock than I expected it to; I realized that I was emotionally dependent on my family, unsure, and lost. The uncertain-feeling I thought I loved no longer gave me the adrenaline I once craved.

But time allowed the dust cloud to settle, and I began to settle into my life here in Jackson. How did I do it?

In a few very Southern ways, a few very Jewish ways, and a few ways all my own:

I found a routine and a community at the Metropolitan Jackson YMCA.

I started to go to music events, farmers markets, festivals, all things made me feel like I was participating in what Jackson had to offer.

I got a better feel for the work I was doing as an Education Fellow, and the unfamiliar became familiar. Getting to spend time with Southern Jewish communities helped me feel even more connected to the whole region.

I began to soak in the magnolia trees and the screened-in porches I saw on my runs through my Fondren neighborhood. Even the potholes went from being a nuisance to normal.

This transition has reminded me the value of experiencing trying times. Times in which I may not feel completely rooted in where I am or what I’m doing. Times in which the uncertainty is distressing, not exciting. Times that feel, well, pretty relevant to the larger Jewish experience—even if on a much smaller scale.

Whenever my next adventure comes, and I’m up to my waist in the muddy-waters of change, I’ll remember everything I’ve learned when I moved here to Jackson. It’s important to find my routine, find a group of friends, and say “yes” to 90% of the opportunities that come my way. Using these tactics has helped me to feel involved in Jackson, and proud to live here.

Now that I’m about 6 months in to my Mississippi life, I can look back to recognize that I’m on the other side of the line. The “I-just-moved-here” line in the sand that acts as an emotional barrier from planting real roots. Well, no more itchy-feet for this girl. No more looking back over the line in the sand. There’s only looking forward – I’m here to stay.

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