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What We Can Learn from Children

(The Verge) – Nina Inez Figueroa, my 6-year-old sister who has taught me more about life than anyone I know, entered my world when I was 16 years old. This diva child is more than just a 6-year-old to me. She paints the world with her vibrancy and compassion, particularly in fuchsia, because she seems to enjoy that color. It’s impossible not to love her, especially since she loves everyone she meets unconditionally.
This girl lives her life appreciating every last minute. From coloring to talking about school, Nina lives every moment to the fullest. As she gets older, I see her transforming into a smart and talented adolescent. She expresses herself confidently and acts as though she is an expert in every field. She becomes so absorbed in her experiences because at that moment, that is exactly what she wants to be doing. She can sing, play the guitar, and recite entire movies (just in case you missed a scene) and she does all of these things because they make her happy.

A picture of the smiling young six year-old, Nina. Photo courtesy of: Sandie Figueroa.
A picture of the smiling young six year-old, Nina. Photo courtesy of: Sandie Figueroa.

This, I believe, is the most important thing in life – to be happy. Seeing through Nina’s eyes, I realize that happiness is not about having the biggest Barbie tent on the block; it’s about appreciating what you do have. It’s those simple things in life, like playing with chalk, talking about Santa, and even relaxing with some hot chocolate and a movie, that make life so good. Going through the motions, worrying and frustrated, will not get you far. But the moments that make you laugh, smile, and warm your heart will make the world magical.
One day, I decided to ask Nina a question that I wasn’t sure she would understand. I said, “Nina, if you could be any age for the rest of your life, what age would you be?” I watched as she weighed her options, which didn’t take long. She replied casually with, “I think I just wanna be old enough to ride a bike.” I was content with this answer, but I decided to ask her why she had chosen it, assuming she would say because one of her friends knew how. However, her response made me think about my own choices in life, and how I make decisions about what I plan to do with it. Her answer was simply, “Because that’s just what I like to do.”
When we get older, sometimes we stop doing things we like to do – things that make us happy. We stop taking pleasure in those moments in life that we enjoy and we focus on those that will make us successful or secure. Why not pick a job that you enjoy, rather than one that will make you money? Why not believe in Santa Claus when you’re 22? Because we grow up. We stop looking at life in a positive way and stop painting it in our own colors.
Nina’s innocence reminds me that I have one life to live and I get to choose how I want to live it. Before I began to see through the life of a 6-year-old, I made my decisions based on the success and security it would bring me. I didn’t spend time with friends or family when I got the chance to because I had to get a perfect score on my test the following week. I didn’t pick a minor I liked because I thought another one would make me more money for the future, and I didn’t take every opportunity I had to commit to my own-current happiness because I was busy worrying about my future. Nina has taught me that I can either enjoy what I have now, and live happily, or I can continue to always look for something better – never being satisfied enough to cherish the moment I am currently living in. My 6-year-old baby sister (yes she is still a baby in my book) has taught me to love what I have, do what I love, and be happy with both of those decisions.

One Reply to “What We Can Learn from Children

  1. Sandi, You speak the absolute truth in this article. Your parent are so very proud of the confident young women you have become. I wish that everyone including me could have seen this light from the beginning. You are right your happiness is what you make it and to stop sweating the small stuff.. I still believe that Santa is real in the eyes of a child young or old… Very well written

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