What toddlers taught me

What toddlers taught me

By Heather Nelson

It’s common knowledge that your 20s aren’t always the best time of your life. Sure, you’re young, you’ve got time to adventure, to explore the world and its twists and turns… But, there’s something about your 20s that’s lonely, taxing and trying. 
If you would’ve asked me August 2011, where I’d be in four years after college graduation, I’d probably have guessed that I’d be working as a journalist full time. I’m two years removed from graduation; I’ve not seen a penny earned for my writing. 

But this isn’t a post about my writing. 
It’s been nearly two years since I took a teaching job at a daycare center. I recently earned title of full time classroom teacher in the toddler room; I teach 2 year olds. It’s quite the task, but I think the toddlers have taught me more than I’ve taught them. 


Patience 

The amount of patience you need to work with kids is immeasurable. I never considered myself a patient person. I hate waiting for packages to come in the mail and for fresh baked cookies to cool. Two year olds require more patience than I knew I had. The kids are at a critical age of learning. They want to be independent; they want to feel important. I’ve found myself re-reading the same book 10 times because a child requests it. I merely laugh at spilled milk (and the post-lunch mess) that I clean up multiple times a day. I smile when a child repeats a statement or question, even after I’ve acknowledged him/her. And I’ve learned to embrace the question, “Why?” 


Adaptability 

The children in my classroom have experienced a lot of change lately. The children seem to easily adapt to their environment. New teacher in the room? OK, let’s get to know her, ask her questions, make her read to us, play with us. The children in my classroom generally embrace change and are able to adapt rather quickly to any situation. I admire their willingness to embrace the new beginning of each day and accept (for the most part) what’s in front of them. As long as it’s not dried cranberries for snack instead of cookies….


Love
This is, above all else, the biggest attribute I’ve gained from my toddlers. My heart grew 10 sizes on the day I became their teacher. Not only because I had to grow in humility, but because I felt like I gained 16 kids of my own. On the worst of days, I can look at my kids’ smiles, hear their laughter, feel the warmth of their hugs, and I’m comforted in knowing I’m loved. There’s truly nothing like walking into work each morning greeted by smiling faces and at least ten, “Hello, Ms. Heather!”s. I love my job more than I thought possible and it’s because of the kids. 

I’ll never regret the path that I’ve taken to get where I am today. I’m always learning, adapting, changing, loving harder…. And if I’ve learned anything about “adulting,” it’s that prioritizing your values and finding a job you love are more important than the salary you earn. 

Bye 2015, hello 2016

By Heather Nelson

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Celebrating four years of friendship at our favorite place, The Sandbar.

Blogging about the year end makes me feel like a little piece of me has withered away. In a sense it has — I (could be) one year closer to dying.  (Or I could die in five minutes.) Regardless, I’m one of those people who hangs on to bits of the past. If you took a peek at my closet, you’d find my favorite Barbie doll from when I was three, an accordion folder of treasured schoolwork, and old issues of Sports Illustrated I can’t seem to throw away. It’s funny, though, because I don’t look back at 2015 with much endearment.

2015 kicked my ass.

I relate it to this: I fantasized that when I graduated from college, I would have all the answers. I’d have the dream job, the dream life that I’d long imagined as a child. I’m sitting in a coffee shop (writing this) six months later, and I have none of these things. 2015 got me on that one. I didn’t know what 2015 had in store — the possibilities were wide open. That’s the rest of adulthood.

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Pledge class 2011 in initiation order for the pub crawl.

Life threw me quite a few curve balls. The first: I failed a journalism class, which left me three credits short of receiving my degree from the University of Kansas. The second: I quit my full-time job as a campus missionary to take care of myself, which leads me to…. The third: I was “diagnosed” with depression and general anxiety — I started seeing a therapist (major humility for me). The fourth: I spent two months in unemployment limbo.

Through all of these things, I’ve learned the art of vulnerability and humility. It’s important to share experiences that you’ve learned from so that others don’t feel alone. If 2015 taught me anything, it’s that. I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, thinking, “I must be the only miserable person on the planet.” (Really, what percent of 23-year-olds are working at their dream job?) It’s hard to exit the black hole in your mind.

So, here’s my suggestion for 2016: share life with one another. Worry less about closing yourself off from people who might hurt you. (Be less of a robot.) Pain is part of life. (Trust me, I’ve experienced plenty of this.) Listen to your gut. (*Shia LaBeouf voice* just do it.) If you feel that tug to share an experience, advice, a hug, a hand… Do it. The world needs extraordinary humans to spread love.

It’s too late to say sorry, 2015, but we’re gonna have an adventure of a lifetime, 2016.

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Nelson family Christmas 2015.