The college quest continues!
This time our search led us out of state,
And this time I had 3 questers with me rather than 1.
On Friday, Rusty and Molly joined me at 6:00 am for an early start to a busy day. We had plans to tour the University of Akron and we were taking Brandon with us.
Next year Brandon and Rusty will be seniors so they are at the age when college visits start happening. Since Molly wanted to tour U of A anyway I thought we could make it a fun bonding experience for the three of them, while giving the kids a chance to see if the University of Akron is a possible future school for them.
We arrived at Brandon’s residential facility at 7:00 am to pick him up then headed due west into Ohio. Brandon was thrilled that we were headed into Ohio again, having never left the state of Pennsylvania in his 16 years until a recent trip across the border with our family to see a movie in Boardman. You would have thought we were taking him to see the ocean for the first time, or on an African safari, by the way he greeted the news that we were going to Ohio for the day…his second time ever leaving the state. We informed him to expect many more trips to Ohio in the future. It seems to be our second home.
It humbles me to see how little it takes to thrill Brandon. Perhaps that is the nugget of a blessing buried within a hard-lived life… every simple joy feels like a miraculous blessing. It is good for my kids to be exposed to the humble gratitude and awe that exudes from him. It certainly makes us take stock of all we take for granted and fills us with a deeper sense of gratitude for all our blessings.
The more time I spend with Brandon the more I witness the effect of living a life of survival…
The survival needed to live through the early years of abuse.
The emotional survival of enduring the loss of a mother within a year of finally getting a mother.
The physical survival of becoming your own caretaker and parent when your last surviving parent falls sick with cancer.
And the social survival of finding one’s place in the lockdown environment of spending your teenage years living in a group home, instead of the security of being part of a family.
With that “survival mindset” comes a lack of future thinking. All thoughts and choices are based on surviving today. Dreaming of a future beyond this 24 hours is a luxury not possible for kids living in survival mode.
This can be seen in most kids with a similar trauma history…kids whose every thought must be consumed with how to get their basic needs met, how to protect themselves from danger, and how to survive another day.
Kids whose cabinets are empty can’t be bothered to worry about Friday’s math test.
Kids who lay awake at night listening for the slamming of a car door indicating the return home of an abusive father gives no thought to what skills they need to develop for future employment.
Kids who spend their nights laying at their dying mother’s feet, afraid to fall asleep for fear she will die in the night, can’t dream about their future colleges and careers.
These kids don’t have that luxury.
Manners, grooming, social etiquette, punctuality, and grades are secondary to surviving another day, and so these kids, who are often written off by teachers, neighbors and social workers as lazy, non-motivated, worthless teens with no direction and no hope, are simply children who are trying desperately to survive…
Children who have never been given the stability that makes dreaming about a better future a possibility.
I see this absence of future vision in Brandon. He can not fathom a world where life could be good and he could be great.
I see the trepidation and uncertainty in his eyes when I ask him what he’d like to be when he grows up. It is almost as though “growing up” and surviving childhood has seemed so unattainable that he has never allowed himself to consider what he might want his future to look like.
So, when I told him we were going to tour a college so that he and Rusty and Molly could see if they might want to go to college there he was stunned at the thought.
“So is this the only college in Ohio?” he asked.
When I explained there were many, and he could visit any that he might want to attend, he was flabbergasted. All through our tour he kept asking for reconfirmation, “So, maybe I could go here some day?”
As he looked through the literature he was blown away at all the choices of majors and minors.
“I didn’t know there were so many different jobs you could have,” he expressed with awe. “What do you think I could I be when I grow up?”
“Anything you want,” I answered.
He responded with a shy grin, uncertain if I was teasing him, disbelieving he was capable of dreaming those big dreams, yet hoping perhaps there was some truth in my words.
It was a wonderful day. My heart overflowed with gratitude towards my Heavenly Father for allowing me to witness this transforming journey that He is taking Brandon on. There is a rawness, a vulnerability, and a hopefulness in Brandon that humbles me and drives me to do right by this child.
I pray God will use me as He opens a world of hope, healing, unconditional love and the opportunity to dream big dreams and not just survive, to a young man who deserves that and so much more.
It was a delight having these three connect and bond over the experience.
When our tour came to an end we drove over to the Homestead (since we were in the “neighborhood”) which allowed Brandon the chance to see the Homestead and allowed my parents the opportunity to meet our new addition.
It was a blessed day ❤