Sarina has been waiting since High School for this day.
She never had a bigger dream than this:
“I want to go to college!”
Only a few months ago I was heavy with thoughts what else I could do to support her move towards that dream.
If you are new to my story about my daughter, Sarina is special. Born at 24 weeks weighing only 1 pound and a few ounces doesn’t support a strong landing on this earth. It’s a huge challenge that doesn't stop when “growing out of it” doesn't happen.
Sarina is now 27 and waited for that chance for almost 10 years.
Sarina is full of life and wisdom, bright and curious and yes, she is magical. She sees and experiences the world from a different perspective. Her sense of time is not fast paced. It’s gentle, slow and observant. E v e r y t h i n g takes a lot of time.
Sarina lives with challenges typical people don’t have. She is on the Autism Spectrum and has deveopemental delays. Her issues with Sensory Defensiveness are real.
But more then anything else does she have the gift to teach us all something. Things like compassion, honesty and patience are part of her natural being. How to stay curious and be nonjudgemental is something we can learn from her. If you let her into your life, you will never forget her. If she is not seen or looked down at because of her differences, she suffers. Like you and I would.
Today I drove Sarina to Santa Rosa Junior College. Her very first day in college was about to begin. She will be part of the College to Carrier (C2C) program.
C2C is a three year academic and carrier program. It supports the students with challenges to find meaningful education. And work in their community.
I’m on the 4th floor of the college library. In the silent zone! Next to me are young people reading or typing. I’m smiling - I too do belong here - like I’m one of them! I love the quietness. The vibe is high on devotion and showing up. I look around, the average age might be 21. If I keep my own much higher number aside for now 😅.
And - I love the view down to the main campus. “It’s called the quads, mom”, Sarina lectured. It’s a good thing I don’t have enough time to go back home between her two classes. “I do love it here!”
And I L O V E that my daughter is now part of this amazing college life. A bonus she and I deserve!
I have been standing by the window a few times. I could catch a glimpse of her walking by? I’m in a special place with myself. I don’t quiet yet have the freedom of the personal time I crave. I know it will come. The next step for Sarina is to move into her new supported living dorm. In a few month, I pray.
But I do feel a lightness in my heart like being midway up the mountain. A first rest.
My mind rolls back for a moment. After Sarina moved back home about 6 months ago I was like on remote. My time did not belong to myself. She moved to California from Germany. My husband and I from Texas.
Living with a special needs child is haunting. From the moment you find out that your child is different, everything changes. All your phantasies of raising a family turn into nightmares. Of doctor appointments and tearful nights holding on to her life.
Since Sarina moved back home, the 24/7 skin-to-skin caring has been draining. I knew this would happen. I have lived it before.
I knew early on that I would do anything for Sarina to find a life outside of my protection. I wanted her to be have a place and community of her own. When Sarina was 17 my time as her mentor, advocate, therapist motivator needed to change. All I wanted to be was to be her mother. I was crystal clear about it.
I had practiced letting go. I had felt the pain that comes along with it and the freedom. I had prepared myself. And - I had not given up on my own dream. Teaching and studying Yoga was my survival tool. It gave me the insight and self reflection to notice when the pressure was too high. When the chains of raising a special child woudl start to suffocate me.
I knew Sarina would thrive in an environment that supported her free spirit. Her hunger for knowledge and her zest for life. At the same time she needed help to learn the skills of living as close as possible to an independent life. Not sheltered and alone. And definitely not at home.
We found this possibility for her in Germany. In 2011 we moved from our home of 20 years in California back to were we are from.
When my husbands work brought us back to Texas in 2015 she stayed on. Unfortunately the dream for her did not last. The program changed. It was not supporting her anymore in the best way possible. I knew, she was now left behind.
Sarina still needs support and encouragement to follow the daily basics of a healthy life. She forgets to eat, doesn't move, forgets time and when to go to bed. She gets sucked into reading, her iPhone, TV. She starts to identify with the life she is reading about. She withdraws and in a way she becomes like a homeless person. Alone, negclegted, and weird. She needs reminders for all the daily living skills. If her day structure is sound, she can manage almost all.
I went back to what I did before she moved out. I started the grinding search for a program that would fit. Close enough to us, so we can support her and most important, love her. Love across the ocean and on Skype is not vibrant enough. Well, it's no enough. Period.
The energy I put out into the universe to please come up with a plan was not ignored. This program showed up. The only obstacle? It was in California. The land we love. But, Sarina lived in a different part of the world and we a few thousand of miles away.
Another move was necessary. Obstacles or stepping stones. Right? With the right attitude, they can be over come. This opportunity wouldn’t wait around.
Special young people on the autism spectrum don’t have many chances to live up to their dream. To look at the list of things for them to do hurts. It's painful to see. It is most of the time empty.
We moved to Santa Rosa, California in mid March of 2017. I had lived in the new home for a week when I flew to Germany to help her move back.
She needed to be here for testing. If her disability qualified her for this program, they would offer an interview. Only twenty spaces per year become available. A whole train of musts needed to be checked of the list. We met them all. I put my own life on hold for a while. The interview happened. Two days later she we got the call. Yes! She was a candidate!
E v e r y t h i n g in Santa Rosa was new for us. I missed my tribe, my support system. Since she had no day structure, I became the main motivator in Sarina’s life again. And that’s much more then a full-time job.
But this is what we have been waiting for. It was a conscious decision. Supported by a no-fear-attitude from all three of us. I knew that if we jump, we will not fail.
It was the only way to make this dream possible. My gratefulness is huge. My heart skips a beat. Hope is magic.
My girl is leaning into her new life. I gave my chains a slack, they too will be gone soon.
I gaze down again to the squad. It’s buzzing with people, energy is in the air. Sarina will make it!
I stand in stillness, observing and listening to my breath. No, there is nothing to be nervous about, nothing to fear.
Only to celebrate.
Sarina is on her way!