Belonging Questions Essay

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY

Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?

I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.

That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:

  1. He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).
  2. He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.
  3. When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.

Also note:

  • Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW. (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)
  • See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.
  • The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)
  • He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)
  • The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.

TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay. Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?

Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

The "Tell" / "So What"

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

Do you find it difficult to write essays about belonging?

Firstly, read our post on How to write band six essays !

Then, read the following band six response for further guidance,  or  Download it as a word document

This sample HSC English essay received a mark of 14 out of 15. It is not perfect, but makes some good points and illustrates the structure you should aspire to have in your essays. It refers to the prescribed text As You Like It by William Shakespeare.[separator top=”40″ style=”shadow”]

Question

“Relationships are essential to finding a true sense of belonging”

Discuss with reference to your prescribed text and related text/s

 

Due to the complex and abstract nature of the concept of belonging, a true sense of belonging can be found in different circumstances for different people. As each individual has their own desires, needs and values, they find their place in the world and a genuine sense of belonging in various avenues. Many individuals find the strongest sense of belonging through relationships, due to the fact that by nature these connections fulfill the human need for social interaction and enrich the lives of the persons involved. Conversely, relationships which do not fit the conventional model of this kind of connection and thus result in negative outcomes for individuals can ultimately lead to a true sense of not belonging and its related notions of isolation and disaffection. Instead, these individuals may attain the same sense that they truly belong outside relationships, though their connections to other ideas such as place and culture, or within themselves. Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Khyenstse Norbu’s Travellers and Magicians are two texts in which an exploration of belonging and its different meanings for individuals ultimately leads to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the concept of belonging and thus that individuals can find a true sense of belonging in a great range of places, not limited to relationships.

 

Relationships by nature embody ideas of a connection on a psychological level between two people which can fulfill other fundamental human needs such as the need for social interaction, and thus can result in the individuals involved attaining a true sense of belonging. When individuals find meaning and purpose in connections with other people, as they often do in relationships, the need to belong is fulfilled in the greatest sense as the individuals life is enriched by the positive outcomes for their self esteem, security and stability. This idea can be seen in the relationship between Adam and Orlando set up by Shakespeare in As You Like It. Adam promises that he will “follow thee to the last gasp with truth and loyalty” when Orlando decides to go to the forest. By changing the rhyme scheme for Adam’s declaration of commitment to Orlando, Shakespeare effectively emphasizes the lack of superficiality that exists in this relationship as opposed to other relationships he sets up in the play. In their relationship, Orlando finds purpose and stability in his life, knowing he has another person who will always look out for him, just as Adam finds purpose knowing he will always be in the company of Orlando, seen where he states “Fortune cannot recompense me better than to die well and not my master’s debtor.” Through this, Shakespeare communicates that in relationships which are built on trust, loyalty or other solid connections between people, individuals can find meaning, stability, purpose and thus a true sense that they belong. In Travellers and Magicians Norbu inquires into similar ideas which support the value of relationships in the search for a true sense of belonging. In the relationship between Tashi and Deki, Norbu communicates the idea of their deeper connection on all levels through quickly alternating close ups between the expressive eyes of Deki and Tashi, which create the idea that their souls and desires are connecting as their eyes remain fixed on one another. The couple is also often presented on equal terms embracing each other, caring and showing affection through mid shots. Their connection leads Tashi to exclaim “If I never left this place, and died right here with you, I would not die unhappy.” Norbu thus effectively supports the idea that meaning and purpose can be found in real connections with others, and that consequently individuals can find the strongest sense of belonging in relationships such as these. Through this relationship, he also inquires further into the reasons why relationships can lead to a individual feeling that they truly belong. By suggesting that the positive outcomes which the human psyche correlates with attaining a sense of belonging, such as understanding, stability and care manifest themselves in relationships, Norbu advocates and supports the almost inextricable link between belonging and relationships.

 

 

Whilst there may be an almost inextricable link between belonging and relationships, not all relationships ultimately lead to individuals finding a genuine sense of belonging which manifests itself in positive outcomes for their lives. Some relationships can be driven by the quest to maintain control, have power and maintain authority over others or by the decisively one sided benefits to one of the individuals involved. In these relationships, it is more likely that individuals find themselves not belonging, isolated and disaffected rather than finding a true sense of belonging. This idea is expanded on by Norbu in Travellers and Magicians. The relationship between Deki and Agay is characterized by Agay’s domination of his young and beautiful wife. This is emphasized through low shots which place the vertically challenged Agay in a position of power over Deki and his statement to Tashi that he makes her live in the isolated hut with him because “We may grow old, but our jealousy stays young.” Deki is thus presented by Norbu as isolated in her relationship; she does not feel the strong connection with Agay that conventional notions of being in the marriage relationship would suggest. Thus through the negative consequences for Deki of being in a relationship with Tashi, and her strong sense of isolation and the feeling she does not truly belong, Norbu communicates the idea that relationships are not always central for individuals trying to find a true sense of belonging. Shakespeare through the representation of a relationship in which love is unrequited similarly challenges the connection between relationships and a true sense of belonging. Whilst Phoebe ends up marrying Silvius, there is a lot of ambiguity in whether she truly loves him and thus has attained a genuine sense of belonging in this relationship. When they marry, all Phoebe comments is “I will not eat my word now thou art mine Thy faith and my fancy to thee doth combine.” A rhyming couplet draws emphasis to this section of the play, where it is not resolved whether Phoebe truly commits her whole self into this relationship, and thus whether Silvius will experience the positive outcomes of the relationship he has desired throughout the play. In this ambiguity, Shakespeare supports the notion that individuals do not always find the greatest sense that they belong in relationships, especially relationships which are unequal and result in negative outcomes for individuals.

 

 

Individuals can find a true sense of belonging outside the confines of a relationship in connections to ideas such as culture, place or even within themselves. As each individual is intrinsically different, so are the ways in which they fulfill the fundamental human need to belong. Norbu presents the ideas that individuals can find contentment and fulfill the need to belong through connection to traditional culture and village life. In the first scene, a series of quickly changing mid shots show the activities of daily life in their rural setting. The villagers all wear traditional Gho’s and shrieks of joy emphasized through an echo when practicing archery suggest they are content with these repetitive activities. Essentially, they conform to the expectations of their traditional culture and life and find a true sense of belonging and fulfillment in this connection. Norbu thus demonstrates in this connection that a true sense of belonging and its positive outcomes can be found outside relationships. Duke Senior in As You Like It, can similarly be described as finding a genuine sense of belonging and contentment with his place and environment, the Forest of Arden. He asks Amiens and the audience “Are not these woods More free from peril than the envious court?” In the use of the words “free from peril,” Shakespeare suggests that in this place Duke Senior feels comfortable, content and untroubled and thus has developed a true sense of belonging with this place. The character of Jacques also finds an inner contentment within his meaningless existence.. At the end of the play, Jacques states “I am for other than for dancing measures” and retires to Duke Senior’s “abandoned cave.” He deliberately chooses not to belong in relationships with his comrades, instead he finds his own sense of contentment within himself, and thus Shakespeare demonstrates that a true sense of belonging can be found within an individual.

 

The complexity of the concept of belonging often means that individuals find belonging in different places to other individuals. Whilst many individuals can attain a true sense of belonging in relationships, due to the nature of these connections and the positive outcomes they have for individuals, there are some relationships in which individuals experience the opposite from truly belonging. Furthermore, there are many circumstances outside the confines of relationships in which individuals can attain a genuine sense of belonging, including culture, place and within themselves. Analysis of a range of texts including As You Like It and Travellers and Magicians inquire into these ideas and foster an appreciation for the need to consider different circumstances and individuals before making assumptions about the multifaceted concept of belonging. Ultimately, relationships are often the connections in which individuals find the truest sense that they belong, but the fulfillment of the fundamental need to belong is not strictly limited to the confines of a relationship.

Related

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *