Strong Girl: Sajara

Meet Sajara. Sajara Stark.

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It was one of those perfectly warm August days in Portland – the kind where the five o’clock heat hovers around 75 degrees and there is a just a slight breeze in the air.

It was also one of my first days as a middle school student and I couldn’t have been more excited to be traipsing around the big kid turf, start a new world of classes and make new friends. Beginning my middle school years with a soccer practice was extra appropriate, as that was one of the things that had energized me in elementary school, allowing me to run and kick and cheer, and giving me a place to connect with girls who would become life-long friends.

It was on that warm summer evening that I met Sajara. She flew down the field, dribbling the ball like she has learned to play soccer before she learned how to walk. She was ready to jump in wherever she was needed and meshed in with the rest of the gang like we were old time pals, even though we had only known each other for an hour.

Over the next three years, Sajara and I would have classes together, laughing at lunch while trading desserts, singing and dancing in the halls without embarrassment and being dubbed the “chatty girls,” by our eighth grade teacher.

While we didn’t go to high school together, every time we met up for coffee or French pastries, we could pick up right where we left off. Even though the times we’ve seen each other have been far too few, Sajara is someone who is genuinely interested in those around her.

She has grown so much from that young girl I first met on the soccer field. She’s opening herself to new experiences, traveling across the world to pursue something she loves and sacrificing the comforts of home and friends to care for a family she has never even met.

This is where her new journey begins …

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How does the word “movement” fit into your life, especially any changes that have happened over the last few months?

Having grown up in a very active family, physical movement has always played a significant role in my life. I have been involved in athletics since I was four or five years old beginning with soccer. I found a passion for running when I was in fourth grade, and joined a track team where I participated in events from sprinting to jumping hurdles. To this day, I enjoy running as both a form of exercise and stress relief. More recently, movement fits into my life in the form of moving to a new country. After graduating from the University of Oregon this past June with a B.A. in Sociology and my secondary course work focusing on French, I decided that I wanted to continue my education. I applied and was accepted into a program to work as an Au Pair abroad, so I packed my bags and moved to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a charming suburb of Paris.

What are you currently doing and what brought you there?

Currently I am working full time as an Au Pair in Saint Germain for a bilingual (French and English: Mom is from France and Dad is Scottish descent from England) family with three children. I am also taking language courses at a local cultural center to continue improving all aspects of my French. The summer before my senior year of undergraduate courses, I did a month long term abroad in Angers, France. After my endeavors there, I vowed that I would have to go back. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to pursue a career in some type of international field, but I wasnʼt quite ready to go to graduate school yet. Being an Au Pair gives me the opportunity to sharpen my language skills, strengthen and build international connections, and gain new cultural experiences. Another perk to this program is that it grants me the time to learn more and develop aspects of myself. I think itʼs really important to “get out” in order to gain perspective and be a more open, aware, and contributing member of society.

What is one goal you have this year?

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Sajara with her Au Pair friends in France.

Although I have many goals, I would have to say my primary goal this year is to learn how to be more in the moment. Iʼm definitely a planner. While that can be a great trait, at times I find that I get too caught up in planning and am not spending enough time being thankful for what I have or what I am doing in the present.

Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

Without a doubt my family is my biggest source of support and inspiration, especially my parents. Their personal values and morals are so pure in thought and deed. They do not hold themselves higher than others, but rather seek to create an equal playing field for those in and around the community. There isnʼt anything any one thing they say or do, but rather the steadfastness of their actions that speaks volumes, and encourages me to better myself on a daily basis; I think very highly of them, and I certainly aspire to inspire others as much as they have me.

What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

One thing I know to be true, is that honest and open communication is a necessary element of developing and maintaining trust. I believe trust has to start at a base level, with yourself. Whether it comes to personal or professional relationships, the ability to openly communicate your thoughts and ideas will ultimately allow others to trust you. I wholly believe that trust is a major building block for success in life. The fact that it is not ameasurable quality also makes it valuable because it is something you have to earn, so there is an element of responsibility that goes along with being a trustworthy individual.

What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

Once in a while you meet a person, be it a friend, mentor, or someone else that brings out the best in you. Somebody you just “click” with. While this might sound a bit cliché, my boyfriend brings more Joy to my life than I could have imagined. He truly is my other half, and I canʼt imagine being happier with another person.

Thanks, Sajara, for sharing your heart with us. Your journey this year is one that will teach you so much! You are already growing in big ways and you’re giving so much to those around you.

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