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For the longest time growing up, it was only my older sister and I for none of my uncles and aunts had children yet. Since my mother is the oldest of all her siblings, it was often only my sister and I at family parties or gatherings. Although I cherish these chaotic but wholesome between my sister and I, I always wondering how my life would’ve been if I had more kids to play and interact with growing up.

I was 14 when my first cousin was born and 16 when my second was born. Since I was already in my teenage years, it felt like suddenly having two new little siblings that lived away from me. But everything changed when I became an aunt at age 18. My niece, Elise (Elle), was born March 6th, 2018. In just her short 13 months of life, she has left more of imprint in me than I could ever leave on her, so here are some of the lessons she’s taught me thus far.

1. Don’t rush the process

Elle loves being the babe she is. She’s unapologetically obsessed with Word Party, banana crisps and loves her playing peek-a-boo with anyone who will challenge her hiding skills. She has taught me to be content with where I am in the moment I’m in it and truly embrace it. When we grow up it becomes so easy to compare ourselves to others and self-criticize ourselves about where or what you’ve could’ve been doing better but that’s what Elle has reminded me to ignore. Regardless of whether life is going my way or not, I’ve learned to appreciate that the place where I’m at right now is where I’m meant to be. So whether I’m stressed because school and academics aren’t lining up like I thought they would be or nervous about what the future will hold because of it, at least I can try my best right now to calm to storm around me.

2. Sharing is caring

Elle is very, very generous with everyone (sometimes too generous) and it’s one of my favorite things about her. She never checks if she has enough cheerios for herself before giving you some and I think we’ve forgotten the pure essence of sharing in our adult lives. For her, it brings her joy to share her books and blankie with you and I aspire to be that way. I want to pour out into people without worrying about myself or circumstances and feel a sense of gratification by doing so. Although we aren’t perfect, we can’t allow our own hesitations to disqualify us into being better people.

3. Celebrate the little things

Elle is probably the happiest baby on this earth. Not a moment goes by where she isn’t giggling about some little thing and it’s the most wholesome exercise possible. It is often said that laughter is the best medicine and Elle swears by this. From the first time she rolled over on her own to the first time she stood up on her own, she’s always had a smile on her face and sometimes that’s the only thing that matters. Adulting is hard, complicated and exhausting so why not celebrate every little success, right? Got your oil changed before your change oil light came on? Win. Didn’t curse out someone who cut you off? Win. Went to bed at a reasonable time? MAJOR WIN. Cut yourself some slack and give yourself credit where it’s due!

4. Stay ambitious and curious

If I had a dollar for every time Elle tried to pick my own nose, I’d be rich with no student loan debt. (Although we’re still working on the personal space boundaries) Elle has taught me that life is everchanging with endless possibilities. As an adult, it’s so easy to revert to the same, old things we’re used to and comfortable with but we should go past that. Instead of settling into things familiar, we should be pressing into the unknown, unmarked territory; because how are we ever going to grow when we’re stuck in the motions?

5. Embrace your gentleness

Just like there are good days, there are also bad days. There are times where Elle doesn’t want to play with Ellie the elephant and only wants to play with you and other days Elle is just in a mood and doesn’t want to be put down. And that’s okay! As Hannah said, “everybody has those days”. PSA to all adults: Sometimes you just got to cry it out, and! That’s! Okay! For some odd reason once everyone started to grow up, suddenly we all weren’t allowed to show our fragileness and that’s wack. Hug your friends to support them, smile to strangers to encourage them and love on yourself because you deserve it.

Elle has made me a better person in so more ways I’ll ever be able to understand and I will be forever grateful for it. I’m sure I’m still a work in progress but at least now I have the best friend and niece to constantly remind me that life is better together.

Fiorella Izquierdo

George Mason University '23

Fiorella Izquierdo is a senior at George Mason University currently studying Communication with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Graphic Design. She is happiest when she is has a magazine in one hand and a chai latte in the other. Music, film, and fashion are some of her other passions, although she can bake like no other. In the future, Fiorella hopes to work as a creative director and travel the world doing what she loves!
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