The lessons I am learning from my cousins


Katelynn Heilman

A collection of photos of me and all of my cousins.

As the holiday season and enhanced family time commences, I have the opportunity to absorb a luxury that I don’t always get to indulge in: watching and listening. With cousins of mine spread across every room of the house I grew up in, I have discovered the blessing of seeing phases of my life I have already experienced unfold in the lives of my family members.

Constantly, I am learning life lessons and receiving closure from lives that aren’t mine but feel so similar to mine in every aspect. 

From my youngest cousin, I watch a time in my life I wish I still remembered. At this time, Band-aids are on constant call as he figures out the structure of the world and that things hurt when you run into them. Although absorbing lessons from a six-year-old proves to be the most challenging—because he is mostly just a constant flash of color, joy, and mischievous running in the opposite direction—I still manage to gather that the world is filled with too much laughter to take it as seriously as I sometimes catch myself doing. 

I also have a cousin who, at eleven years old, is already far cooler than I will ever be, let alone when I was eleven. She is assured and confident in a way that most adults still don’t know how to be. As I find myself asking her where she got her phone case and adorable jewelry that she picked out and watch her as she rapidly texts on a phone overflowing with her friends, I am reminded that if I trusted my gut and chose to have confidence in my decisions, I might be half as cool as she is. 

With the maturity to hang out with adults four times her age and the excitement to still find fun within her peers, my twelve-year-old cousin knows more than anyone else within my family. She is trustworthy and an amazing listener; this earns her the responsibility of every secret, fact, or piece of information ever. With these tidbits, she grows and learns, making her one of the wisest pre-teens I’ve ever known. She has taught me time and time again to listen and from there to improve.

At thirteen, my second-oldest cousin is one of the most stylish, well-rounded, and ambitious people I know. She is an individual who, in early November, made the decision that she wanted to decorate for Christmas and then did it, even putting a wreath on their front door with no fear of looking like “that” neighbor. Thinking about this story alone, and even more stories when I think of her, I am inspired to chase after and execute the things that I want—not paying attention to the parameters that attempt to create barriers within my marathon. 

I am inspired to chase after and execute the things that I want—not paying attention to the parameters that attempt to create barriers within my marathon. 

The most intriguing cousin to learn life lessons from is the one who skips behind me younger by only one year and a little less than a month. While watching her as she lives an incredibly fulfilled life with an even more remarkable spirit, I am constantly shown how much growth can happen between two consecutive ages in time, but also how much I will miss if I let life sprint past me or let myself sprint past life. She regularly reminds me to stop running sometimes. 

I constantly try to collect insights from every individual in my life; the blessing of getting to learn life lessons I missed along the way of growing up, however, is an unmatchable luxury. I hope to continue learning from my cousins and from every other individual within my life that has jackpots of clarity hidden beneath the steps that they take every day.