JULY 5, 2018 – We’re starting a Q&A feature where we check in with millennials from the area about their lives and their evolving Jewish identities. For our first edition, we spoke to Mikayla Bean, who grew up in Marblehead, and recently moved to Los Angeles to get her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.
Name: Mikayla Bean
Alma mater: Marblehead High School ’12, Franklin & Marshall College ’16, entering University of Southern California
Favorite food: Korean barbecue
Favorite music: Indie pop, alternative rock, and what I refer to as “dad rock.” (the Eagles, Journey, etc.)
Favorite movies: I’m not a huge movie person – growing up, my favorite movie was “The Incredibles.”
Favorite TV shows: “Games of Thrones,” “Queer Eye.” I’ve recently been obsessed with murder documentaries.
Favorite travel destination: Seoul, South Korea. I absolutely love East Asia. I’m hoping to go to Vietnam.
What is your Jewish background?
[My sister and I] were raised Conservative. We went to Hebrew school every week, I went to Camp Pembroke, and I was bat mitzvahed. We used to go to temple all the time, but I started to grow away from it when I was in high school. Now that I’m on my own, it’s something I’m coming back to.
I feel more connected to the cultural aspects of Judaism. I’m more of an atheist, which is part of the reason I separated myself from the religion for a long time – I was having a hard time justifying calling myself Jewish when I didn’t believe in the religious elements. The community and the family is so sacred, though, and it’s something some of my non-Jewish friends don’t have, so I’ve started to seek out that community more on my own, away from places like Marblehead where it was just handed to me. I realized that I miss it a lot – there’s certain traditions and pieces of the culture that I don’t find out there, and that’s been an interesting realization. When I first moved to DC, I started hosting a Passover dinner for my friends, most of whom aren’t Jewish. I cook them traditional foods, like a seder, or latkes from scratch. It’s fun to see other people experience Judaism for the first time. When I cooked latkes, all my friends in LA begged me for more. It’s fun to be able to show people things I took for granted.
Will you raise your kids Jewish?
I don’t want kids.
I love children, I love being around them, and my sister wants to have kids and I can’t wait for that. But it’s never something I pictured for myself. Friends growing up would talk about, “when I’m pregnant” and it was just never something I wanted. There’s a lot of pressure to have kids for people who wouldn’t necessarily be the best parents, and that’s a huge disservice to the kids. You have to really want it. Kids are so expensive, especially now. If you’re not wealthy and you start having a lot of kids, you can be in big trouble. Childcare is super inaccessible, there’s no guaranteed maternity or paternity leave.
Now more people are comfortable making that choice. It seems more and more people are saying this isn’t my job and this isn’t something I need to do to have a good life. Being gay also throws a huge wrench in it. It’s a massive expense to even get pregnant, and there’s still a lot of states where I couldn’t adopt, and there’s a lot of discrimination. It adds a whole new level of stress.
How was that journey for you?
I had a strange journey. Most of my friends knew before I knew. I had been in long-term relationships with men. It was one of those things where when I came out my friends were like, yeah, obviously. But it wasn’t something I let myself consider until I graduated college. Most of my friends are part of the LGBT community and are supportive.
What’s your career path been and where is it headed?
I was in DC doing healthcare consulting and hated it. I moved to DC because I wanted to get into politics, but then the election happened and I didn’t want to get into politics. Once I realized I didn’t want to work in the government, I started to gravitate towards writing a more nuanced perspective of it. Now I’m going into journalism and focusing on investigative journalism and digital media – I want to be able to create positive and substantive change through educating people in this new world. My focus is women’s and LGBTQ rights, and that’s one of the reasons I’m going into investigative journalism – a lot of stories from people in marginalized communities that people have never heard. I’m looking for ways to share stories with people.