Hey, hello. I haven’t been here for a while.
For the last year, Tony and Bill have been keeping things running here at ethnography.com while Marianne’s piece, “The McDonaldization of Higher Education” continued to be our top post week after week. You probably also caught Chunyan’s series on the Sociology of food and how we might all consider getting to know what we eat a whole lot better. Or, how about Michael Engelhard’s piece about polar bear’s in environmental art?
In other words, the blog has been just fine without me. But I haven’t been fine without it. I miss writing my thoughts out loud, I’ve been keeping them squirreled away in a journal these long months. I haven’t posted here since February 2016, the month I decided to go into recovery for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’ve written about PTSD here a couple of times but looking back I can still see myself keeping distance, that is, talking about passing and what PTSD is but not what it’s like or the toll it took on me personally in everyday life. I danced around it but it tripped me up nonetheless.
It caught up with me, of course, the year I was turning 50. When I say, I went “into trauma recovery” I mean that I had a moment where I started crying and didn’t stop (off and on) for nearly two weeks. What ensued from that has been a year of difficulties and facing unpleasant truths about how child sexual and emotional abuse has plagued me and how I’ve tried so hard to outrun the past by achieving and moving up the class ladder. It’s a typical story. You don’t need a PhD to know how it turns out for folk like me, we get tired and we burn out, often we disappoint, ourselves especially; the self-fulfilling prophecy and such.
I said to hell with it all and battened down the hatches. A couple of months in I tried a bit of therapy but that was too expensive for me to continue and I ended up doing a lot of reading about trauma and contemplating in our woods. I live in a forest and I like to be alone, it was good to spend day after day in the quiet solitude.
It was also nice to be away from people. Some people get better in the comfort of others but I needed to be alone, with the exception of my husband Larry, I barely spoke. I learned to enjoy cooking, I binged on House of Cards and other Netflix series, and I took a class in writing children’s books that healed me in unexpected ways. Without pressure and expectations, I started getting better.
What a year.
I’ve had a couple of months of all good days with only an occasional day of feeling really depressed and disconnected from myself. The black cloud has moved on. To top it all off, I sort of fell into my next gig. As the anniversary of my February breakdown approached, I started to consider what I might do with Sociology next. And then I found it.
In late March, I attended a racial justice organizing training with the group SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). I’d been dabbling with community organizing since teaching Sociology but never had time to dig in and learn the basics and so I spent a week doing that at the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee. I was with 60 other people equally fixated on creating a more just society and I loved it. Sociologist Myles Horton founded the Highlander Center, I had come full circle.
I’ve been back from Highlander a little over a month and I can’t recall the last time I felt that fire in the belly feeling that Sociology can give us. Teaching? Grad school? Did I ever feel this excited when we talked about how we would “Do Sociology?” I’m ready to start organizing and using Sociology, to map the power in our rural counties and be around people again doing good movement work.
It’s good to be back. And, if you’ve ever wondered what rural organizing is you can count on my next blog being all about how I decided to stop preaching to the choir to do anti-racist work in rural areas of northern California. See you soon.
Julie Garza-Withers, former award-winning community college Sociology instructor who’s currently using Sociology to organize and research for racial justice in rural northern California. She was a facilitator in the film “If These Halls Could Talk” with Director Lee Mun Wah, and has published at Working Class Studies, and elsewhere.
Julie has a particular interest in class and classism as a form of social stratification, and the role of cussing and anti-intellectualism in stratifying society. A fan of cussing herself, she says she only “Cusses when necessary,” which is often. She considers herself a working class academic because she is a first generation college grad who grew up in rural southern California where her options post-high school included getting married or working at Del Taco and selling tacos to fast food customers until she got married.
Julie has an M.A. from California State University, Chico, where she studied how social class and gender impact work-place conflict between women. She lives in rural northern California with her husband Larry where they enjoy the forest, their dogs, and gardening.
You can follow Julie on twitter where she posts as WorkingClassTeacher, and also check out Julie’s anti-racism work at Rural SURJ of NorCal-Showing Up for Racial Justice. Currently an inactive author, awaiting a poke with a sharp stick.