My time in Kansas City will soon be coming to an end, as I get ready to chase after my dream of living in New York for the second time. For those of you who know me (which is probably most of this blog’s visitors), you know that this is something I have been trying to make happen for a LONG time. For the small handful of you who randomly stumbled on this blog, let me quickly fill you in. (And thanks for stopping by!)
Shortly after I graduated from college, I moved to New York to turn this writing thing into a full time career. I fell madly in love with the city, but seven months into my time there, a faulty gallbladder got the better of me, and I was forced to move back home to Los Angeles. After finally getting rid of that pesky thing, I was all ready to find work, save up, and head back east. And then the LA economy got the better of me, and I had no idea what to do with myself. But I got extremely lucky when living angels appeared in the form of my aunt, uncle, and cousins who offered me a home in Kansas City, Missouri.
Midwest living was not something this coastal city girl would have considered before, but my family promised me love and support, and assured me I would be able to find work and save for my east coast aspirations. So I took them up on their generous offer, and packed my bags. And now, nearly a year and a half later, I’ve finally reached my goal, and will be moving to Brooklyn in less than two weeks.
While I am ecstatic about getting back to the hustle and bustle, I would not trade my time in Kansas City for anything. This time has been one of the most valuable periods of my twenties, and the experience has made me mature in countless ways.
And ironically, these are the people who have taught me the most about growing up:
I happened to come to Kansas City during the arrival of the next generation of cousins. Between all of my first cousins, they’ve got kids ranging from four years, to three weeks old. And let me tell you, these kids have got life figured out. No self-help article or inspirational quote can come close to the lessons these adorable goofballs have taught me.
I could probably write a book on the massive amounts of wisdom I have acquired from these tiny sages, but for now, I’ve condensed it to this listicle. So, dear readers, please enjoy the keys to happiness according to a toddler. (Expect many cute pictures ahead.)
1. Be Honest and Unmerciful
You know that friend who has no problem telling you your outfit looks terrible, or that the joke you just told wasn’t funny at all? Well, hanging out with a toddler is a lot like that.
For example, I know a certain three year old who didn’t hesitate to tell me “I don’t know anything,” for singing “You Are My Sunshine” to him before naptime. Or another time, when we were drawing sea creatures, and he offered this delightful feedback on my work, “Natalie, does that LOOK like a humpback whale??”
But did this insubordination bother me? Not at all. In fact, I was envious that as an adult, I don’t always feel comfortable offering my opinion so freely. I’m always worried about silly things like other people’s feelings, but that never seems to be an issue for these kids. Everything that comes out of their mouths is unfiltered truth, and no one gets upset. It’s just hilarious.
But it’s important to remember, this honesty thing isn’t just about being harsh. Like with any overly truthful friend, they may tell you without pause if you failed, but you also know that when they pay you a compliment, they mean it. So when that same toddler asks you a few days later to sing him a song because, “you are good at singing songs,” you know he really does love hearing those soothing lullabies. (And is definitely not trying to stall naptime by another 5 minutes.) Speaking of freely dishing out the compliments…
2.Be Everybody’s Best Friend
I was so overjoyed the first time my baby cousin told me I was his best friend. All that time playing dinosaurs and trains had paid off and now I was the favorite. Oh, what a magical feeling. And then he told my aunt/his grandma the exact same thing an hour later. What the heck, kid?
But I hadn’t lost my title. He just happens to have many best friends. There’s nothing wrong with that. And really, shouldn’t we all be approaching life with that attitude?
Since then, he has told me multiple times that I am his best friend. And it continues to make me as happy as the first time he said it.
I just can’t get him to say it on camera.
3. Know What You Want and Don’t Take No for an Answer
You may be starting to notice a theme here. It seems that toddler happiness hinges on one very important thing: having no reservations whatsoever. This provides a valuable lesson for adults because when setting life goals, you often have to rid yourself of doubt and fear. From what I have witnessed, toddlers possess neither.
If one of my baby cousins wants a toy and their parents won’t buy it for them, do you think they spend time worrying about it? Of course not. They just ask the weakest link (aka me). And on the rare occasion that this pushover says no, they just go to grandpa. Because when those kids know what they want, nothing is going to stand in their way.
The things they want don’t even have to be realistic. For instance, there was a brief period where my four-year-old cousin decided he wanted to be a dinosaur. His poor mother tried to explain over and over that he wasn’t a stygimoloch, and thus not built to ram his head into stuff, but nothing was going to keep that kid from his dream. Sure, it got kind of annoying when he would run into you all the time, but damn if I wasn’t inspired by his conviction. If he can be a dinosaur, and no one can tell him otherwise, anything can be achieved.
4. But Don’t Be Afraid to Say No Yourself
Refusing to take no for an answer does not mean you don’t give it as one. On the contrary, these kids will not hesitate to tell you no.
Getting what you want also means knowing what you don’t want, right?
5. It’s All About the Simple Things
These babies may be full of attitude, but more than that, they are so full of joy. I may joke about the sass they throw at us grown ups, but in all seriousness, getting to be part of their world has been the greatest gift. The sense of wonder they have has been the most amazing thing to witness. To them, the smallest things, which I so often take for granted, are astonishing discoveries. I mean, just take this toddler’s own list of what makes him happy:
(Oh my God, I got him to call me his best friend on camera!!)
After experiencing something as complicated as a health crisis, followed by a long period of unemployment, it’s important to be reminded how awesome something as simple as blowing bubbles truly is.
6. Always Be Adorable
Pretty self-explanatory right? Ok, this really isn’t a key to happiness. I just wanted an excuse to share this video because awwwwwwwwwwwwwww:
So in conclusion, Go Royals:
And Let it Go: