The following is my blog essay, which is an assignment for my Intro to Cultural Sustainability course:
The residency was intense but very enjoyable and worthwhile. The most important personal breakthrough was learning about my strength as an individual. I never consider myself to be a very forward or outgoing person, but during the residency I felt that I was able to myself out there in terms of my own thoughts and ideas… and sometimes people listened. It was empowering. I suppose from this I learned to be stronger in my convictions and unafraid to state them (as my fellow classmates will remember having to tell me to stop apologizing for myself!).
In terms of my groundwork project, I came out of the residency with a fresher understanding of what I could accomplish through this program. I was pretty confused about where my passions lie and how to mold them into something I could do through the MACS program. Meeting other people who have clearer ideas about their projects and learning about what people are doing out there already helped me to formulate my own project a little better and for now at least I have found myself on more solid footing. While I may or may not stick with my project the entire time remains to be seen, but at least now I am heading down a path instead of being stuck in the middle of a road with many forks.
I’ve seen, for one thing, that there is a lot of material already out there for me to work with in terms of food and where it currently stands in our culture. It’s an issue many people have been concerned with for awhile, and interest only continues to grow as we see more and more how our diet and approach to it is affecting both our physical and mental health. When I was first made aware of food’s dire state in our society, it felt as though few people neither understood nor cared about what was going on. Barbara Kingsolver and old hippies were the only people, in my naïve mind, who gave a shit. Thankfully I considered things a little more and began talking with others about it; I discovered, for example, that Adams County (where Gettysburg is located) has a vibrant community of family farms and orchards, some of which promise organic and free range animal products that are available at local farmer’s markets and also by arranging personal orders through the farmers themselves. Even the first restaurant I worked at after graduating college was into eating locally. Central Pennsylvania had shown itself to be a little more “with it” than I had given it credit for.
These personal revelations, coupled with my MACS experience, have provided for me a solid ground to work off of. While I am still travelling down a path that can take me many places, at least now I know I’m going… let’s say North. As a final note, the awareness I gained from the residency ended up being this: all of us were there because of our realization that something is going on in the world and that someone needs to do something about it. We all came from dissimilar walks of life yet somehow ended up in the same classroom trying to figure out how we could fix things, whatever it was we thought was broken. As for me, I see how we eat as being broken, which is important to me because I see how we eat as being indicative of our human essence. Eating means sharing, and sharing means culture. When eating becomes as commoditized- or worse- chore-ized, what does that mean for everything else we hold close to our hearts? That is what I want to drive me forward in my experience with this program.