Lessons from the Toy Box

When I wrote my first blog for The Strong more than a year ago, I talked about nostalgia—so it seems appropriate that I should come full circle and take some time to reflect back on my time at the museum before heading off to a new job in a new city.

I’ve learned a great deal in the last two years. I can safely handle artifacts and identify French fashion doll manufacturers. I know more than I ever thought possible about poseable wooden clowns. My vocabulary, too, has expanded, and I now possess an arsenal of terminology that will probably only come in handy for answers to obscure trivia questions. When a crossword puzzle clue demands it, I’m ready with “chromolithography,” “intaglio eyes,” and “gusset joints,” to name a few. As I look back, however, I’ve found that while I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about the artifacts, they have taught me a thing or two about myself and about life.

From The Game of Life, for example, I’ve learned patience. We tend to think about life in large, sweeping arcs—always planning ahead, setting goals, and thinking about the future. The path that leads us there, however, has surprises in store. We spin a bunch of twos in a row and watch while our friends bound across the board in intervals of nine or 10. We have to skip a turn or choose a new career. However, as long as we don’t abandon the game out of frustration, we can eventually achieve those goals and, at the end of the day, Countryside Acres (or Millionaire Estates, if you’re lucky) will still be there waiting for us.

Barbie has taught me humility. Sure, the girl looks great in those pink plastic pumps, but she can’t stand up on her own. Sometimes we have to sacrifice vanity for practicality. Barbie would probably agree that she would not look nearly as glamorous with flat, wide feet, but at least then she wouldn’t have to always rely on someone else to get her from point A to point B. In that sense, Ken really lucked out (I envy his effortless plastic hairdo, too).

The Easy-Bake Oven has taught me that change is inevitable, but not predictable. When you slide that miniature confection into the oven and turn on the bulb, you don’t know what will emerge at the end. Will it look just like the image on the package, or will it appear drippy and inedible in comparison? Uncertainty is frightening, especially when you’re hungry, but it’s worth the risk.

In conclusion, I owe a great deal to the The Strong and its collections. But even with all of this newfound wisdom I still sometimes feel as though I am about to step into the unknown. As I move on to a new chapter in my life, I’ll take my final lesson, bravery, from the Slinky, a toy that would never have come into existence if it hadn’t first taken a terrifying tumble. So, in the spirit of fearlessness, innovation, and lithe metal springs, here goes nothing!