When I accepted a two-year fellowship as a traveling educator working for a Jewish organization in Mississippi, I wanted to be able to document my experiences. I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen, as I don’t really enjoy writing that much, so journaling seemed out of the question. But then I realized that I enjoy looking at pictures, drawing them, taking them, and living through them – so I decided to commit to a photo a day for these two years.
It’s a pretty simple idea, but there have been some ups and downs. Occasionally, I forget to take a photo, I don’t really do anything worth documenting, or I don’t like the picture I take and wind up deleting it.
Recently, as I was working from home and missing all the on-the-road-action not happening because of the pandemic, I was reflecting upon this last year and my fellowship experiences. I took a trip down memory lane and as I looked at all the photos that I took throughout the year I want to share some of my favorite memories with you! For most of the photos, I found it interesting that our phones could save time, date, and location. I find this incredibly helpful, especially now, while looking back at the photos, and they can transport me back to that point in time.
So now please enjoy a year in review from Paige Beame, a freshly-deemed-second-year ISJL Education Fellow!
Here we go! The photo above is the first-ever photo that I took when my Southern Jewish fellowship journey began. It is a mirror selfie, and it is not the best quality, but that is okay. This photo is genuinely significant! This was the day that I started a new journey, my first day of work, and it was also my 22nd birthday. I had many thoughts, one being I needed a picture to commemorate this day. I got dressed up; I did my hair and put on my then-favorite dress to conquer the day! On this day, much to my surprise, I also learned that it was fellow Fellow Ava Gadon’s birthday. This was awesome, and it is something that we often reference. Considering we are complete opposites, even though we were born on the same day, this started a good friendship.
Next we have this group photo of the fellows in my cohort. This was taken immediately after the conference ended, and we were cleaning up. After everyone had left, we got together to talk and debrief by the lobby. While we were talking, someone suggested we take a photo. Hence, making this our first group photo together on the job. I don’t have many pictures of all six of us together in my collection, but this one will never be topped! We all look so young and so new in the job. When I look back at this picture, I can only think, “wow, we have grown so much as a group and as a family!”
This photo shows some of my co-workers and me at the 2019 Neshoba County Fair. This was a real integration into the culture of Mississippi. It was a new and vast experience. I learned a lot throughout the day and was really cool to get to experience a truly old-school County Fair. Throughout this day, we heard speeches from politicians, ate lunch in a cabin, watched a cattle show, and rode on a Ferris wheel.
This one’s probably the coolest photo I have ever taken on a visit. There’s nobody in the picture, but I will remember the moment. Ava Gadon, Michelle Blumenthal, and I were on a summer visit driving through Texas when I looked out the window and saw nothing but the sky and clouds over a field. It was surreal that my job included seeing a sight like this.
This photo is from the first time that my cohort hung out together outside of work, just the six of us. We collectively decided that it was time to hang out. The thought was to have dinner together after work. We then choose our favorite restaurant in town, North-South Tadka (the best Indian food in town). The food was great, but the company was better. Overall, the night was exceptional!
The funny shot is a shout-out to my roommate, Isaac Gamaron, and the friendship we have built. In our time together, we have had excellent movie nights, pizza parties, and great conversations. One day, Isaac and I decided to spend the day together by the pool. Lo and behold, when we started to head downstairs, we noticed that we were matching! As you can see, we are both wearing a yellow shirt, holding our large water bottles, wearing glasses (Isaac’s are on top of his head), and wearing matching shoes. If I ever need a great roommate story, I know that I will definitely share this story!
Finally, I decided that since I started off showing you a mirror selfie that I should end was showing you a mirror selfie. This photo shows a significant change in my life over the year. This photo was taken recently on the completion of my first year of CrossFit. The whole reason I decided to look through the pictures is that in this photo, I do not see the same person in the first mirror selfie. I see a more formed person! I can’t believe I’ve gone this far, I never thought I could be a great Fellow or someone who looks as euphoric as I do:
When I look at this photo, I will forever see a smile as big as the moon, a new level of growth and progress, and a person who is so filled with joy she can just blast music in the middle of the day to dance and sing in her living room!
In the past year, I learned so much, and I had so many realizations. I’m so proud to be able to call myself a second-year Education Fellow for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. I’m ecstatic that I have found a new confident me and have met such beautiful people. I don’t know where my life would be right now without this job, and I’m happy that I don’t have to find out because, in the end, my path did lead me to the ISJL. I can trust my life path to guide me in the correct direction, even though sometimes it does not always feel like it. This photo is ever-living proof of that!
Even while this year is more socially distanced, I am experiencing more growth – and will continue to document this unique, special experience. I know no matter what I will always look back on the ISJL as the best place—the place where I got to grow personally and professionally, one day at a time.