In conjunction with our My Athens partnership, Wish Dish is sharing stories from influential people within the Athens community.
My time in Athens began in the fall of 2013; I was a 19-year-old, leaving home for the first time to travel 100 miles east to attend the University of Georgia as an economics major, and I enjoyed taking photos on my phone. Skip ahead two years, and I’m 21, a photographer majoring in advertising (after switching majors countless times) and serving as the My Athens Social Media and Photography Director. This didn’t just happen—there was plenty of stumbling along the way.
What is only an app to some people became crucial to me as I photographed my daily life freshman year. Through Instagram, I developed my eye, shared my story, and pushed myself to discover every amazing thing Athens had to offer. I even met other photographers, who showed me sides of Athens I didn’t know existed.
It may have been a little awkward meeting people through this app, but I’m all for the idea of putting myself in uncomfortable situations to allow myself to grow. An uncomfortable meeting arranged through Instagram is actually how I ended up where I am today; the first time I met the people behind My Athens was through a series of Instagram comments and email exchanges ending with me on a blind date of sorts—wandering through a restaurant I had never been in, trying to meet with a group of people I had never met. But hey, it all worked out. I needed to embrace discomfort.
After contributing to the platform for a few months, I took over as the Social Media and Photography Director. I was eager to help My Athens become more than a loose stream of photos of the city. I was unaware how taking this position would change my year in Athens.
This position inspired me to get out in the community, see what was going on, and tell the stories Athens had to offer. Such pressure usually has a negative connotation, but this time it kept me on my toes. I couldn’t stay inside all day Netflix-binging out of pure laziness. I needed to attend events, try delicious food, and meet the unique people who make this city great. Otherwise, who am I to help tell Athens’ stories and show its beauty?
This drive to experience all of Athens has taken me places I never thought I would end up. I’ve downed hundreds of cups of coffee all over town, stumbled out of bed at the crack of dawn to catch sunrises from the tops of a parking decks, and nearly fallen through the trestle behind Mama’s Boy. Without this position, I doubt that I would have ever sought out the biscuits at White Tiger that remind me of my grandma’s, attended art shows at GMOA alone, or wandered through just about every building on UGA’s campus to find those perfect study spots far away from the crowds of other students.
The people I’ve met in all these wanderings make it that much better, from making friends with classmates to valuing the relationship with the barista that makes my coffee on a near-daily basis.
I never imagined where these people would end up drawing me to, either, since in the past two years I’ve traveled all over the southeast with the Georgia Rowing Team, road tripped from Athens, GA, to the Grand Canyon with a couple of close friends I met in Athens and flown to New York City to visit a friend, who I of course met here.
People follow this account to keep up with what is going on in the city and yes, to see beautiful photos of Athens, but some people are here for the nostalgia that these photos inspire for a place they’ve moved away from by now. This idea of creating a window into Athens, which people can look through from wherever they are in the world to keep up with a city that they once called home, is humbling.
It makes you realize that you were not here first, this is not your city, but instead you share it with everyone else. You should treat it with respect–don’t spend four years here and leave trash in your footsteps, because this is just another step in your life before you move on to your next city. People live here and love this town.
My past year in Athens has been transformative. Athens has gone from a city where I attend college at to a place I call home, which will always have a place in my heart. When I left for Thanksgiving break this past November with my family, we drove to Florida, and on the way I saw a My Athens sticker on the back of a car–call me obsessed, but after only a few days, I couldn’t wait to get back to Athens.