NSW students will be particularly well acquainted with the concept of Belonging (English: Area of Study). You will have studied the ideas and emotions in depth; pouring over prescribed texts and wading through supplementary options. So, by now you probably have a detailed understanding of how the texts you have studied communicate both individual and group desires to establish a connection to people, place and culture. You will appreciate that there are times when we ‘choose’ to belong and other times when we do not and sometimes, we are not even given the opportunity to belong. You will recognize the barriers, challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome before a sense of belonging can be established. You will have contemplated the importance of self-awareness, or identity. And hopefully, you have also reflected on your own experiences of belonging and considered how the texts you encountered this year influenced your perspectives.
Discussions with my classes have led me to the belief that a ‘connection to place’ is fundamental to feeling, ‘I belong’. Connection to place occurs when we feel accepted, valued and comfortable within a particular space. With this sense of being ‘at ease’ comes the understanding that, even though challenges will arise, ‘I’ have the foundation (mindset and skills) to achieve what ‘I’ set out to accomplish. Let me clarify; when I speak of place, I am referring to both the physical location of our ‘room’ or ‘home’ (or even ‘State’ and ‘Country’) and the more significant ‘inner’ place. The inner place, as I see it, is that ‘space’ within ourself that is known only to us. Metaphorically speaking, it is the ‘multi-roomed home’ ‘inside’ us. When we can locate that ‘place’, and recognize the rooms and their functions, we are less likely to seek external means to ‘fill’ a perceived inner ‘emptiness’.
How do we find a ‘connection place’? Partially the answer lies in our ‘connection to people’. Those we feel connected to may offer the extra support and ‘fuel’ we require to keep moving when it seems as though the path ahead is dark. Equally, at the times when our path is ‘well lit’, our connections to people provide us with much appreciated companionship and laughter. Of course, connections to people also present the opportunity to be mentored, trained and encouraged, so that we may develop new skills and perceptions.
However connection to people may not be enough. Perhaps we also need a ‘connection to culture’ since this bond offers a sense of being a part of something that has existed for a long time. As a result, a connection to culture provides the opportunity to refine and measure our internal guidance system. The existence of an established behavior or belief pattern may become reassuring since it offers a ‘well worn’ or established path for us to follow. While it is true that ‘culture’ may be restricting, once we are secure in our ‘place’ and with our ‘people’, culture offers reassuring familiarity and support. Of course, I should add, as Robert Frost suggested, sometimes taking “the road less travelled” has much to recommend it. Nevertheless, even if standing in a “yellow wood”, being secure within our ‘connections to culture’ allows us to consciously choose the ‘less worn path’, rather than embarking on a fear fueled attempt to escape or rebel.
The film, Looking For Alibrandi offers an ‘easy to digest’ illustration of what I have just written. My favorite quotes are,
“I wonder what it would have been like growing up an Andretti, who never was an Alibrandi and should have been a Sanford and may never be a Coote.”
“What’s important is who I feel I am… I’m Michael and Christina’s daughter and I’m Katia’s granddaughter and we’re not cursed, we’re blessed.”
So, if you are looking for a bit of ‘down time’ which may also help you clarify your understanding of the concept of belonging; watch the movie. Even if you do not have a migrant background, following Josie and her friends as they experience the trials and triumphs of their HSC year, may just bring a smile to your face (perhaps even a tear).
I guess I should warn you, the film does contain mild sex scenes and a suicide so please watch from a critical mindset to understanding ‘Belonging’. I am sure you will find many aspects you can relate to.
image from SBS.com.au