Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you? My idea for an essay is about being content with achieving the...

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?

My idea for an essay is about being content with achieving the best grades, and being a good person.The ever constant drive for the “A” and how “driven” I am about the hard work I put into being the best person I can be in all aspects of my life and how with that comes the sense of accomplishment but I want to use driving my car and the peace I find while driving as a metaphor for the satisfaction I get from working hard not just for my good grades but how that hard work relates to my life in general; that hard work pays off and I can use my “drive” to achieve success to ultimately reach a state of mind in which I am completely content.

This is the idea in my head but I can’t seem to get started with the wording, as you may be able to tell. I need to stay below 700 words and would like this to tell a story about me but in a light way.

I’m one of those people who have a reputation for being rather intense and always striving for perfection but in a funny sort of way. I don't mind working hard but I hold myself to a higher standard. I don't want to settle for less, I want to be the best. I feel most content when I achieve this. It doesn't always happen but I do try.

The one thing that offers a sense of balance to the intensity is when I drive my 5 speed car and listen to music. Its a way to empty my mind and just relax. I thought it would be a creative idea to combine the two. 

Any advice or help you can offer would be most helpful. Also, if you think I should approach this from a different angle, that too would be appreciated.

I'm really just trying to find a creative way to capture my drive in life  while achieving a balance and using my car as a metaphor. 

Thanks so much!

This is some background info for the prompt.

Nearly everyone can identify a location that brings contentedness. But this doesn't mean the prompt isn't challenging. You will need to make sure you are presenting the chosen location effectively.

The tips below can help:

Choosing a "Place or Environment":

Step one in tackling this prompt is coming up with "a place or environment where you are perfectly content." You have a lot of latitude here--you can write about any specific location on the globe ("a place"), or you can be less focused and discuss the type of surroundings ("environment") that brings you contentedness. The place can be small or large, inside or outside, commonplace or extraordinary. You could also bend the question to explore imagined places--locations accessible only through your imagination.

As you brainstorm this essay prompt, think broadly about the place or environment you are going to discuss. Your options include:

  • A building: Your house, church, school, tree fort, or grandma's home. A store, movie theater, café, restaurant, fitness club...
  • An interior space: your bedroom, the secret room under the stairs, your science classroom, the locker room, your aunt's kitchen, the shower, the driver's seat of your favorite car...
  • An exterior space: the woods, the ocean, the lake, a city street, a rooftop, a meadow in bloom, the dessert at night...
  • A travel destination: Machu Picchu, the San Diego Zoo, the top of Mount Washington, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a food market in Shanghai, a tent in the Bad Lands...
  • A performance or athletic venue: the stage of a concert hall, a tennis court, the football field, the shoulder of the road on a bike, the theater...
  • An imagined place: the world portrayed in a painting, J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, Diagon Alley, the Star Ship Enterprise, Jane Austen's England, Downton Abbey...

The list could be much, much longer, and please don't let these limited suggestions steer you away from your own place of contentedness.

What Does "Perfectly Content" Mean?:

Many have interpreted this question to be asking about a place where they are at peace. Indeed, that is one way to read the question, and being in a peaceful state is one type of content state.

But the word "content" can mean much more than a state of peacefulness. It is also a state of satisfaction, and you don't need to be peaceful to be satisfied. An adrenaline junkie might be most content when skydiving, and a musician might be most content when performing a solo to a standing-room-only crowd. These high pressure situations can be magical, meaningful and "content" moments, but they are not peaceful.

Be Careful When You "Describe":

Always keep in mind that the essay is meant to tell more about yourself, and for you to demonstrate your ability to tell a story about yourself. The first task asked of you "Describe a place or environment" -- is also the least challenging part of the question. Describing, unlike analyzing, is a pretty low level form of thinking. This part of the essay has no self-analysis or introspection, so it is not saying much about you, your passions, or how well your mind works. Because of this, don't spend too many words describing. Be clear, concise, and engaging as you describe the place you have chosen, but then move on. The description should not be the bulk of your essay.

The "What" and the "Why":

The end of the prompt is most important. The question is asking you why you feel and act the way you do in your special place. Why is this place or environment meaningful to you? Dig deep. A shallow response isn't going to impress anyone. Someone who writes "I'm most content on the soccer field because I've always loved soccer" hasn't really answered the question. Why do you love soccer? Are you a competitive person? Do you like the teamwork? Does soccer help you escape from other parts of your life? Does it make you a better person? How has your time on the soccer field made you grow? What exactly makes the soccer field so full of meaning for you?

A final note: If you really explore the "why" of this question and go easy on the describing, your essay will be on track to succeed. It might help to rethink the prompt in these terms: "Tell us about a place that is meaningful to you so that we can get to know you better." 

 Last of all; be certain to pay close attention to style, tone, and mechanics. 

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you..... so that we can get to know you better." 

In assisting you to answer this question, there are a few observations that should help you provide the best answer, especially as your assignment is intended to make you better understood. It seems that contentment to you involves your desire to attain perfection - or your version of it- but you have a humility that is often not apparent in perfectionists. That is an important element to focus on. Your metaphorical use of "drive" reveals your ability to think on a broader scale and will allow for a creative interpretation. You are a quick thinker and you care what others think about you which is why you do not want to be misunderstood in your attempts at this essay. Your place in the world is obviously very important to you. You may enjoy your own company or maybe you take others along with you when you drive. However, it seems that you are inspired by wide open spaces.

Being able to glean this from the information you have provided means that you will have no trouble in getting your message across but you must trust yourself and your ability to do so. To get started on a good introduction and thesis statement, use your "drive" metaphor. Consider some ideas like these below:

Contentment can be felt at many different junctions in life insomuch as it represents happiness and a certain fulfillment. However, I would like to think that contentment is actually a journey. A feeling of contentment leads to an opportunity for reflection which, therefore suggests that the journey itself holds the ultimate contentment- for me anyway. Life holds many challenges and always approaching the uphill wondering what lies on the other side is what motivates me. I am a driven individual; results reflect success; hard work culminating in A-grade essays allows me to maintain my speed. I am also a free spirit and the open road reflects the future contentment that keeps me driving myself, metaphorically and literally. 

I do not like to be restrictive in my thoughts or my destinations. The more driven I am, the more I achieve, the more I can dream and the further I can go. It is really important to me to maintain balance in my life because I cannot find satisfaction from achieving good grades if I have nowhere else to go. 

In the body of your essay, include some direct references to places that you may encounter along your route. It may be places from your childhood - your granny's home, a favorite holiday destination perhaps or even familiar smells that create a sense of comfort and belonging - as it is important that your essay is focused. This is a good way to get to know you - the places and people who are important to you even though, for you, they are part of the puzzle, part of the journey which is the contentment itself. Remembering places and people definitely reveals something about you and what is important to you. 

In conclusion, you may want to revisit your "drive" theme. Relate it to the introduction and how this essay is another "junction" on your contentment roadmap which allows you to have direction and focus.

Here is a video further explaining the common structure of essays:

rachellopez | Student

I really like the ideas you have chosen! Since this is an essay about yourself I can't really come up with any ideas for you to include in your essay. What you really need to do is build on what you already have. You said that you get satisfaction from working hard and doing well. Is there a specific reason why it makes you so happy? Maybe you are the first in your family to want to go to college or to graduate high school, or maybe everyone in your family has done those things and you want to live up to them and they are role models to you. Something along those lines could really add to your writing.You said you are happy when you drive and listen to music. What type of music are you listening to that makes you calm and content? Is there a certain reason that driving calms you? All I can really say is to dig deep. Any memory of these things that will show your readers the emotions you fell in your happy place. Good luck! :)

mchandrea | Student

Thank you for a very detailed description about the answer you wanted. You seem like a very intelligent person and I liked your idea about literally driving a car and having a drive for perfection and success.  To assist you in writing your essay, I can only say very little since you already have a content you want to work on. This is quite a personal essay, so be honest. I think this essay is more about you and merely the place. the place is just a key to let the reader get to know you better.

As you have mentioned, you love both -- the drive for success and literally driving a car. I think this means that you have two places that makes you feel perfectly content. One, is your school where you work very hard for perfection and to stay at the top and be the best. And the other is your car where you can be at ease and just cool down and let go of all the stress that comes from school. To compress these in under 700 words might be a bit of a challenge for you.

 Let me ask you a couple of questions, and I hope it helps you in generating ideas for your essay.

1. What makes you want to stay on top, be the best? Was there an experience of losing or failing? A past that you don't ever wanna happen again, perhaps?

2. How does driving help you express yourself or become a  better person?

For the metaphor you want to use, i say you find something common between those two. Why do you like achieving so much and why do you love driving too? Because I see that for you, they just go together.Think about a feeling or an experience and expound on that.