Hello Bean + Nash readers! I’d like to start by thanking Gabby and Caroline for inviting me to be a guest blogger. These ladies are the bomb.com, so I’ll do my best to write a post worthy of their creative geniuses. Here we go!
As I prepare to enter my senior year at college (gulp…can that be real?), it seems people are asking me more and more what I plan to do after graduation, and everyone is also interested in what kind of internship I have this summer that’s preparing me for the real world. I know these questions are usually asked from a place of genuine curiosity and interest in my life, but part of me can’t help but resent them. Am I really supposed to have everything figured out at the age of 21? (no) Am I supposed to graduate at 22 and magically know what the REST OF MY LIFE will look like? (no) Will the three months between my junior and senior year of college really give me all the answers I need once I’ve had a chance to gain some “real world experience”? (you guessed it…no)
Nonetheless, I did what I was supposed to (ahem…socially pressured to) do and applied for countless summer internships in Boston, Philadelphia and Cleveland. I made it through rounds of interviews, but in the end was offered nothing. I’d be lying if I told you this wasn’t disheartening. I’m not used to being not good enough and with the pressure of many of my friends landing huge internships in places like New York City, I felt like a failure. How could I work so hard…for nothing?
As fate would have it, neighbors of my family in Philadelphia were simultaneously searching for a new nanny for their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ella, and were also coming up with nothing. We were put in contact and, as they say, the rest is history! Initially, I felt like there were some people who scoffed at my decision to take care of a child for 40 hours a week instead of getting that “real world experience” I mentioned earlier. Well, shout out to my haters – sorry that you couldn’t faze me because I think I’ve learned more about the real world this summer with Ella than I ever would have behind a desk.
In no particular order, my time with Ella has taught me or reinforced for me the following:
1. Responsibility and Role Modeling
Monkey see, monkey do. There’s a reason this phrase exists, and I’m pretty sure its origins are found in two-year-olds everywhere. The other day, I watched as she told her baby doll that she was beautiful and loved. I tell Ella this every morning when she gets dressed and (once I wiped away the tears) I remembered that her little brain is like a sponge! Ella has reminded me that I need to be my best self at all times because she is learning from my words and actions. Similarly, the way I present myself to the world outside the toddler bubble is equally as important. We have to be accountable for our behavior at all times, and we have to be consistent in our character.
2. Crisis Management Skills
Children are unpredictable and messy. For someone like me, who is Type A, organized and likes to have a plan at all times, you can imagine how excited I am when we’re at the park and a poopy diaper quickly turns into a ticking time bomb. I’ve had to get really creative in my solutions to the inevitable problems that come up day after day. Ella forces me to think outside the box and work quickly under pressure. She’s also honed my body language reading skills. I have to stay a few steps ahead of her in order to avoid macaroni and cheese all over the floor and crayon on the walls (both of which have happened…rookie mistakes).
3. How to Make a Difference for Another Person
The only way I know how to answer the questions regarding my life’s plan is to say that I want to do something that feels like it has a real purpose. I want to dedicate my life to helping other people and making a real difference. This summer has completely reinforced that for me. Whether it’s the days we make our own playdough (for real…get at us), the days we spend at the local library reading books together or the days we spend at the playground running around, pretending to be pirates (Ella could give Captain Hook a run for his money), I know Ella and I are making a difference for each other. We’re growing and learning together. I’m enriching her life by teaching her words and colors and motor skills, but she’s also enriching mine by teaching me patience, imagination and fearlessness.
4. How to Love Unconditionally
Admittedly, it isn’t always glamorous to spend your days with a toddler. We get on each other’s nerves at times. Ella hates it when I pester her to use the potty (but, Ella, don’t you want to put a new, shiny sticker on your potty board for going pee on the potty?!), and sometimes I just really don’t want to play “I’m gonna get you!!” anymore. However, in the moments I feel like I just cant wait for her mother to come home, she’ll smile at me or hug me or say “I love you Eff” (she can’t say Beth or Bethany so this is where we are…just go with it) and melt my heart all over again, reminding me why I took this job in the first place. Ella has taught me what love really looks like. I don’t always love every minute of the day, but at the end of the day, I do love her and I would do anything for her. Seeing her happy makes my heart happy. This quote from the poet Hafiz reflects this truth so beautifully: “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Learning to give without expecting anything in return has made me a better person.
5. How to Live in the Moment
Every day is different and brings with it new challenges and triumphs. I used to spend a lot of my mental energy worrying about the next step and considering the countless “what ifs” that are always so present in this life, but Ella has reminded me the importance of living in the moment and enjoying today without worrying about tomorrow or obsessing about what happened yesterday. Her innocence and curiosity about the world around her reminds me that there is always something beautiful about right now. I think many of us spend too much time chasing happiness, searching for meaning and balance, affirming that we want to live our lives fully, not knowing where exactly to look and what exactly to do in order to achieve that. Ella has shown me that happiness is now, in this moment, in her laugh, in my goofy impression of a monkey, in the cute, little way she hops down the stairs, and in the four minutes we spend singing about the wheels on the bus or the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm.
Thank you, Ella, for making me better. Thank you for making me happy. Thank you for teaching me so much more about life and the world around me than I ever thought possible. You’re beautiful and loved, kiddo. Don’t you ever forget it.