How to write a personal essay about oneself – Going to live in the USA
In this post I intend to showcase how to write a personal essay. A personal essay fits in the category of Creative nonfiction writing. You can use pseudo names to represent real people.
Creative nonfiction writing definition is not fixed because of the evolving nature of this genre.
Gutkind, L. describes creative nonfiction as the voice of the nonfiction genre packed with news, long-form essays that blend style with substance, writing that pushes the traditional boundaries of the genre, notes and crafts.
I HEARD through the grapevine that my former college-mate, Sanders, is now permanently living in America. The entire neighbourhood seemed awash with this rumour.
The beautiful, state-of-the-art mansion, Sanders is reported to have built for his parents, was on everyone’s lips. Not only had there been a noticeable shift in his parents’ lifestyles, but a significant change, leaving them being counted among the highest echelons of society.
Those with privileged access to Sanders’s information, also divulged that he is the actual owner of a popular restaurant situated at Norton Centre. However, Sanders had been smart enough to put the Z-Brothers in the forefront to run the business for him.
Looking back on all the things Sanders was said to have achieved, I could see his move to a foreign country made a lot of sense. Regardless of being the hardest decision to make, it had been the best he had ever made in his life.
If I told people that I was together with Sanders at the University of Zimbabwe studying Psychology, no one would believe me. Simply because we were now living in worlds apart. Despite being ‘highly educated’I had nothing tangible to point at, in terms of having my own assets.
I had spent 15 years in employment. I feel those years just went down the drain because I never reached a point of feeling satisfied with what I had achieved. I had not been actually there, to have gathered enough money to buy myself a decent house. Let alone a car.
In my category of university leavers, none would dare boast of earning a salary commensurate with their educational level. Access to basic provisions seemed virtually sealed. I guess those who had managed to get there, did so through crooked or clandestine means.
Now that the US dollar was within Sanders’s easy reach, what possibly could stop him from chasing his dreams? We all know how things work out in our society. He who has the fattest pocket gets the platform to influence important decisions in life.
That made me suddenly realise I had a lot at stake. I had to act swiftly to change my life or risk dying a pauper.
Instinctively, I went to seek advice from Sanders’s parents. I needed to know where exactly he lived in America. Getting this information was easier than I had anticipated.
His parents had no intentions whatsoever, to withhold such information from me because I was not a stranger to them. They had known me since the old days I was together with their son at college.
Without knowing it, things began to unfold and progress smoothly. The following week, I contacted Sanders. Within a short space of time, I had managed to sort out all the necessary travel arrangements including getting a visa, as well as the air ticket.
Time flew quickly. Finally, the day I had been waiting for arrived. I couldn’t wait to join Sanders in the dreamland, a place I envisaged as flowing with milk and honey.
Before my departure, I made one more final thing. I equally distributed my few belongings among my sibling brothers. I had no reason to cling to any of my possessions since I was not yet married. Strangely enough, I have remained very single up to this present day.
I threw a farewell party on the last Saturday before my departure. I invited everyone I liked and respected. The venue was a dilapidated old city council hall, the only place I could afford. Attendance was great and the hall was fully packed, making it an unforgettable get-together event.
On landing at Philadelphia International Airport, I found Sanders waiting for me. Before we hugged each other, I knelt down and kissed the ground where I stood. I did this to fulfil an old myth I have repeatedly heard.
As the myth goes, kissing the ground symbolised a welcoming and initiation ceremony. It was a moment of introducing the visitor to his new environment and its inhabitants.
As such, a gesture like this was seen as essential to inviting auras of success and having a breakthrough in the new land.
Ironically, little did I know that this marked the beginning of a new strange life. The beginning of a new type of struggle that I had never imagined. A cry of an immigrant.
For the first three months, I stayed with Sanders at a flat he was renting in Philadelphia. That helped me a lot in getting settled. However, there were certain things I had to sort out by myself.
On top of my priority list, was finding a reliable job. Also, getting my own accommodation since Sanders was sharing the flat with his partner. Honestly speaking, three people living under the same roof makes it a crowd.
In my country of birth, Zimbabwe, I was rated as an eloquent English speaker. But the problem I got confronted with in this part of the globe was unfathomable.
Almost everyone I spoke to, struggled to hear or understand what I was saying. They kept saying, “Pardon! Pardon!” How I hated it!
In other words, they were telling me in no uncertain terms that I was speaking an alien language. Probably from another planet. It was not the type of English they all knew.
The implications were not that simple. It meant I had to work very hard on polishing my accent.
Otherwise, I would make myself a target of all sorts of ridicule. The greatest challenge which remained was how I was going to achieve this?
According to a Speech Therapy textbook I once read, it’s highly impossible for a person to successfully switch on to a different accent once they have gone past the prime age of learning, 11-13 years of age.
No matter how much effort they put in the panel- beating the accent, there would always be some traces or hints to give it away. I made up my mind. I decided I was not going to throw in the towel yet. It had to be proven though.
Analysing my life in the diaspora, this year is my eleventh year of stay. It has been practically impossible for me to survive on just one job.
The salary is not adequate compared to the huge demands of my life. I have bills to foot every now and then. Bills for rentals, gas, car insurance, medical aid, council tax, to pick a few. To be honest, the money is just not enough.
On top of that, I receive numerous requests from back home. They come flooding in from all directions. In a family of 7, I shoulder the sole responsibility of looking after our parents, as if I am the only surviving child.
Four of my brothers are now married but they often plead with me, to pay tuition fees for their kids. In fact, the upkeep of almost every member of the family revolves around me.
I’ve tried to be strict, but it’s easy for them to capitalise on the chaotic situation prevailing at home these days. I often get told of the acute shortages of basic commodities like medicine in hospitals, which are paramount to someone’s survival. I wouldn’t dare say no to appeals that are illness-related. Would I?
The problem with folks back home is that they think people living here in the other part of the globe sit on top of silver and gold. They are completely ignorant of the plain truth that money here is earned through strenuous work, which most immigrants are exposed to.
Immigrants can’t exercise much choice in terms of choosing a job since the job market is flooded with labourers.
However, helping folks back home is like tying yourself with a tight knot of the dependence syndrome. Once it gets hold of you it takes years to untangle yourself from the complexities of its grip.
The time I arrived to live in Philadelphia, I thought to myself, I had made a huge breakthrough. At last, I had managed to get myself out of the financial crisis I was living in.
Since then, I have worked hard night and day, without proper rest. In the process, I have compromised my social life. I hardly can spare a few hours off work to have a dinner date.
I have tried relationships, but they all have given in to the insurmountable pressures in my life. They all have come crumbling down.
From the salary I earn from 2 both jobs, I still can’t afford the luxuries that go with lubricating a healthy lasting relationship. Let’s face it, ladies simply enjoy being spoiled to show them affection. I’m not blaming them but that’s the reality – they need that constant attention.
We all know that flowers and cosmetic shops run dry on Valentine’s Day.
To lubricate your relationship with a loved one, being generous with gifts, treats every now and then constitute the magic.
In the past 10 years, I’ve lived here in the USA, I have failed to strike a single relationship with a decent lady. Will I ever find a suitable girlfriend to settle down with for life?
The time I came over here, I felt so energetic and full of life. I don’t think I still have that kind of strength to carry on unless I risk having a stroke.
Looking back home, my brothers are said to be doing very well. They have settled and now have families of their own. Their children are attending private and expensive schools. And all live in desirable residential areas.
If only I had known. If only someone had fully explained to me what life is like living here in a foreign country, I would have made some informed decisions.
I doubt if I would have gone ahead to migrate. I would have remained in my home country instead. Eventually, I would have found a suitable lady to marry to start a family with. My name would have been passed on to my children, the rightful heirs of whatever wealth I would have managed to scrounge around in the land of my forefathers.
Now I know it’s not money alone which counts in life. If money is pursued in isolation, it can be a source of all troubles and untold melancholy.