Belonging is a desired state, at least that is what we are led to believe. Certainly it is a significant aspect of teenage life. This fact is recognised by the NSW Board of Studies who has prescribed ‘Belonging’ as the Area of Study to be explored by all students of HSC English. Students are encouraged to consider the concept of Belonging from multiple perspectives while also identifying barriers to belonging and the choice ‘not to belong’. This is achieved through studying the stories of others, within fiction and non-fiction, poetry and images. Obviously it creates the potential for valuable reflective analysis. The challenge is to ensure it is relevant!
Arguably, belonging is a state of mind. It occurs when we identify commonalities, or aspire to ‘share’ with others. The degree to which we acknowledge a sense of belonging is often dependant on the strength and number of our perceived connections with others. Here is where it becomes tricky on the friendship wheel.
Friends are people we choose to share time with. We share with them our ideas, feelings, hopes and dreams. We rely on our friends to relieve boredom. Friends provide a place to be and a reason to be there. We trust our friends to keep our secrets and bolster our spirits. As a result we often judge the strength of our friendship on the degree to which they mirror our own ideas and values. This has the potential to become complicated, particularly in our teenage years. What happens when we are not sure of ‘who’ we are? What if we project that unstable sense of self on to our friends? In other words, what if our own insecurities lead us to question if our ‘friends’ really value us?
It seems in order to be a ‘friend’, we need to be a friend to our self. Or, to return to the concept of belonging; when we feel as though we ‘belong’ in our own skin, we recognise and value the connections between our conscious, our unconscious, and our intrinsic values. At this time, we begin to accept our identity and are free to acknowledge our self worth. As a result we feel comfortable and secure. This allows us to accept others for who they are rather than who we expect them to be. In these cases we are universally, friendly and thus ‘belong’.
Interestingly the previous Area of Study was Journey. This study encouraged students to consider how the process of moving from one place to another, be it physically, emotionally or imaginatively, provides a vehicle for the discovery of fresh perspectives. And guess what the Area of Study was before ‘Journey’…. Yes, it was Perspectives.