Learning to Combat Only-Child Guilt After 27 Years

After getting SO much positive feedback after posting this piece on Instagram, I’ve decided to post it here on my blog! I hope y’all can relate — please share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear from my fellow only-children!


Hi! I’m Jackie, I’m 27, and I’m an only child. Err…only-adult? I’m basically Harry Potter. I have a scar on my forehead and everything. Ask me about it later. Or now. Nah, read this first and then ask later. Sidenote: Did anyone actually LIKE Now and Later candy as a child? They were impossible to chew! It was like trying to eat a piece of concrete smothered in glue. So gross.

But I digress.

So, what is “only-child guilt” and what is going on and tell me more…

RIGHT. So, it’s only recently that I’ve realized that I have this “only-child guilt.” It’s weird and I don’t totally understand it and so, naturally, I feel compelled to write about it. Perhaps someone reading this will be like, YES, I GET IT! ME TOO! *raises fingers and feet and eyebrows*

A writer can only hope.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting lately…“why I am the way I am” and the whole bit. I mean, I already know that I have OCS (Only Child Syndrome). But, like, all of the good parts of it (independent, studious, extremely loyal) and none of the bad (selfish, bratty, etc.).

Written like a true only child.

I was curious to see if I’d coined the phrase “only-child guilt” – I really want to coin a phrase before I become one with Earth’s volcanic ash, bits of turquoise, and sparkly gems – but alas I didn’t. In fact, upon Googling, I came across many articles about parents suffering from “only-child guilt.” That is, feeling guilty about having just one child. Well, that’s a bit different because I am not a parent. Rather, I’m a child. An only one. No siblings here. Wait, do dogs count? And on we go!

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My siblings.

Only-children are stereotyped as many things…selfish brats who don’t know how to share, play well with others, or share. Did I mention sharing isn’t really our thing? I’m learning. Shh.

In fact, in 1977, psychologist Toni Falbo stated that the presence of siblings “is popularly assumed to have both positive and negative effects, but the lack of siblings is believed to have only negative consequences.”

Now, I don’t believe that to be entirely true– being an only child has been quite a positive experience.

DON’T TOUCH MY COOKIES. GET YOUR OWN YOU CRAZY MONSTER!

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Cookie in hand, per usual.

Deep breaths. There are enough cookies to go around. (We all know there aren’t.)

Growing up, I wasn’t just the only child in my immediate family. I was also the only grandchild on both sides of my family for the first nine years of my life. The only niece. The only nephew.

Wait, that’s not right…

You get it. I was the only baby-toothed rascal in a world of folks who were taller than me. (Spoiler alert: Nothing’s changed except those babies are now adults with fillings and crowns because I’m actually the cookie monster. Shhhh. Root canals are fun!)

I loved it. Being an only child, that is. (Root canals are NOT fun.) I never felt I was missing out by not having a sibling. I’d watch my friends fight with their brothers and sisters and think, Thank GOODNESS I don’t have to deal with that crap! Sharing is most certainly NOT caring!

I promise I’m working on it. Sharing is great. Except don’t touch my cookies.

SANTA, I’M LOOKING AT YOU.

As an only child, I was the apple, orange, mango, and kiwi of my parents’ eyes. Sometimes a persimmon if I was lucky, but let’s not get greedy. Sure, I was kept in a bit of a protective bubble but I was the only kid my parents had! I mean, wasn’t it fair that my mom didn’t let me join the high school tennis team out of an irrational fear that I’d break my wrist?

Or worse!

My parents had huge hopes and dreams and goals and all that good stuff for me. And I was the academic nerd who would deliver! Don’t do drugs! Sex equals babies! Babies suck! I’m an only child! Perfection is key! Roar, roar!

It’s a funny thing when you don’t have siblings. You’re not just one of your parent’s kids.

You are THE kid.

Golden-only-lonely-protected-in-a-bubble-safety-wrapped-for-preservation-little-adorable-picture-perfect kiddo.

I didn’t take many risks as a kid. I played it safe. I looked both ways before crossing the suburban streets riddled with squirrels and crunchy leaves. I never snuck out of Fort Knox– er, I mean my house. I studied and stayed home reading rather than going out most weekends. I knew that my parents literally lived and worked for me so who was I to do anything daring or rebellious, surely risking death or worse…cataclysmic embarrassment!

I didn’t know it as a youngin’ but all of this craziness would stir into a mad mix of bubbly emotions that I’m now calling “only-child guilt.”

I got good grades, was admitted into a great university, landed an incredible job in my chosen career, and was very much making my parents proud. But I felt lost and unhappy a lot… as if I was living a life that wasn’t really mine. It was the one chosen for me. Purchased for me. Where I grew up, it was common to be told you could do and be anything with the underlying expectation that that really meant moving into the city (New York, that is) and working your way up the corporate ladder of whatever industry to be “successful.”

And that sounds hella privileged and I realize that but my feelings shouldn’t be discounted because of the situation I was born into and please know that I am absolutely cringing writing these words but I hope people can relate to it and know that not everything is so very black and white. UGH.

In having just one child, my dad could afford to put me through college and I’m so grateful for that. I can’t imagine having to pay back student loans on a writer’s salary (we can’t all be Carrie Bradshaw, folks). But now I feel this only-child guilt more than ever. I’ve been given so much and often feel as though I’m not living up to what’s expected of me. But I don’t want my life to be about climbing some elusive, imaginary ladder and I don’t care about making much money. I rather climb real mountains! Hoorah!

But then I feel guilty that I’m not making the most of the resources I’ve been given.

Why am I not happy where I am? I just want to give everything away and go somewhere new and different. Away from everyone and everything I’ve ever known based on a feeling. A warm, happy, incredible, adventurous, magical feeling that I want to chase chase chase.

But, you see, my parents are my parents. And sometimes I worry that that’s the only identity they have, especially since they had me while they were still so young. I’m not sure they know who they are without me. That’s a lot of pressure. And I don’t have a sibling to offset any of that pressure.

I’m SO different from my parents in so many ways and I often feel bad that they don’t have a child who is more like them.

How the hell did they end up with such a weird unicorn of a child?

Not that I don’t have anything in common with my mom or dad, but I do have a compulsive need to travel and go go go go go that neither one of them really shares. I mean, my mother has never even been on an airplane.

I KNOW.

It’s weird to share my DNA with people who I’m so completely different from.

Writing this piece stems from a conversation I recently had with my parents about me moving. I’ve lived in and out of NYC since graduating college (as expected) and I recently moved back home to save money while I figure out my next move (as very much not expected). And now I’m thinking that my next move will be farther than either of my parents had ever imagined.

I received a lot of pushback from my folks during this conversation which surprised me; they’ve always supported my travels but they know that I always come back. I may be a Runaway Rapetti but I always seem to run back to NY.

On top of that, I have folks telling me that I shouldn’t move because it’s so far away and what if something happens and family is the most important thing and what the hell is in Montana and your degree will go to waste and you won’t have the same opportunities and it’s SO far away.

And then I find myself feeling guilty again, asking myself: Why don’t you just go back into TV? Why don’t you find a company you actually like enough to stick with and make enough money to live on your own and create a life in NYC? Why can’t you just be happy here, near your family? Why can’t you just be everything you were ever expected to be?

And then I realize it’s because I’m not happy here. Sure, I’m ambitious and smart enough to climb the corporate ladder if I wanted to…but I don’t. I’ve been ambitious enough to create a living for myself without having to report to an actual office every day — I’ve hustled and worked hard for the nomadic life I’ve created for myself.

I want a storied life. I need it.

My dad calls me a whirlwind because I’m always changing my mind about things, which is absolutely true. But I’m learning now that my “only-child guilt” is a major factor in every decision I’ve ever made. I’m a whirlwind because I keep coming back! I appear to never know what I’m doing because I feel guilty about actually diving full-steam ahead into what I truly want…which isn’t the same as what my parents want for me! I may not have realized that ten years ago as I embarked on my college career, but I’m finally learning.

It’s like I’ve been denying my innermost desires so that I can stay close to home and try to live up to my parent’s expectations. The thing is, I didn’t choose to grow up in suburban NY. But I can choose where I go next.

I love my parents and am thankful for the life they’ve given me but this is not just a new chapter in my life, this is a new BOOK. And maybe they need a new book too.

People need to know that they can’t have children and expect that they will want all the same things that you may want for them. You can’t expect that they will think and act and be just like you. And you can’t expect them to stay stay stay because just like stagnant water that shit can be HAZARDOUS.

I may be 100% of their combined DNA but I’m also stardust and light and adventure and I’m no longer the kid who is content with sticking to what’s “safe”. I’ve always been a bit weird and quirky and I’m finally ready to embrace that completely, even if it means following pursuits that my parents don’t fully understand. They don’t have to.

I am not my parents and no longer do I have to feel guilty about that.

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I will be their ‘Wacky Jackie’ no matter where in the world I am.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

 

Why I Donate My Birthday to charity: water Each Year

Because 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water. 

Because 13-year-old Letikiros Hailu hung herself after the clay pot in which she carried water home after a six-hour RT walk broke…and she couldn’t bear the thought of showing up to her family empty-handed. 

Because I’m inspired by 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith’s story:

Because I attended the annual charity: water gala in 2014 and was awed by the passion of their employees, volunteers, and supporters. 

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Because clean water is something so many of us take for granted. The water in our toilets is cleaner than the water that many folks TREK for daily…kids even miss school just to walk miles to retrieve dirty water for their families. 

Because I can afford to.

Because I have everything I need.

Because we should use celebrations to give back to those in need.

We should draw attention to things that really matter.

Material things DO NOT MATTER.

Skipping your $5 latte one day WILL NOT KILL YOU.

HELP ME HELP THE WORLD!

Click the link above to donate to my 27th birthday campaign for charity: water! I’ve raised over $7300 over the years and I’m looking to make it to $10,000 by the end of this year! Together, we can make sure everyone has easy access to safe, clean water.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

I Asked My Tinder Matches THIS Question and Their Answers Surprised Me

This post is for all y’all transitioning from divorce to dating. And it’s also for those looking for a bit of entertainment… 😂

Alright, so you may or may not remember the time I eloped. TBH, not many people do…

Exhibit A.

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Exhibit B.

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Alright, I get it! Y’all forgot! Probably because it was extremely short-lived and every time someone said ‘Congratulations!‘ I wanted to hurl be like…uh, for what?

I don’t regret it but I’ll be the first to say it was a mistake. Like, attempting to cut your own bangs or sharing highly personal information on the internet! Oh, wait… Whoopsie!

To me, marriage is not a big deal. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s not something you should aspire to do just because. But, I realize not everyone agrees with me on that.

And it’s a huge deal to some people.

So, as I dove back into the dating world (Lord, help me), I was curious what guys would think about dating a soon-to-be divorcée (I’m still technically married on paper but literally that’s the extent of the relationship).

I embarked on this social experiment because so many friends have asked me if I’m going to tell these dudes about my situation. I’ve thought about it myself…like, I’m not technically divorced yet so how do I bring that up? Like, at the end of a date should I say, “Surprise! You just went on a date with a married woman!”?

😂

Probably not. So, I decided to ask these guys straight up and their answers (pleasantly!) surprised me!

First, there was Noah.

He’d been burned before and was a bit cautious about the whole thing…but he seemed to get over it relatively quickly.

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Then there was Cody.

His opening line was lacking but he ended up asking a lot of questions which led to a great conversation.

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He proceeded to ask what kind of ceremony I had, what my parents thought about the divorce, etc. He seemed very intrigued by it all and ended up asking me to dinner by the end of it. 😂 Dinner is pending, as is my divorce.

Adam was next.

Though it was something he’d never considered, he seemed extremely unbothered by it.

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Andrew didn’t seem to care much either.

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Never, Andrew. The answer is never.

Now, Duncan.

He was the first to give me the answer I had honestly expected more of…

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Granted, he did change his perspective when I expanded on my current situation…

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Honestly, I was expecting an “oh hell no” somewhere peppered in these responses, but nothing! These guys truly surprised me!

I then “met” Brendan and asked him the same question. His answers were long and thoughtful, and my favorite. It was no surprise to find out he’s a fellow writer.

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Isn’t Brendan the best? I mean that flower comparison, come on!!

So, there ya have it! If you’re going through a divorce, don’t worry what others will think. I figured guys would unmatch me after getting this question (some might’ve, I didn’t notice), but I really enjoyed reading their answers! Granted, some didn’t reply at all…probably afraid of why I’d asked. 😂

Disclaimer: I’m not coming out of a long marriage with tons of baggage (no kids, well, no dogs in my case, etc. etc.) but even if I were, in Adam’s words, “Everyone’s an adult, we all have a part. Past.”

Thoughts? Comment below!

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

“This Is the Best Cheesecake Ever,” Said a New Yorker in Berlin

Ah, New York. Home to the best of the best. From pizza and pastrami to bagels and bodegas, if you want it, NY has it. And it is the best.

Also, apparently home to the “best fly fishing east of the Rockies,” according to the New York State Conservationist MagazineWho knew? 

Of course, the Empire State is also known for its infamous New York-style cheesecake. From Junior’s to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and S&S, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of your arteries closing as you take ‘just one more bite’ of the creamy cake made of fromage.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with a New Yorker in general. Colin Heinrich offers a guide “how to win an argument with somebody from New York” …but he’s not a native New Yorker so I wouldn’t trust him.

Anyway. 

Back to Berlin. Remember that time I was in Berlin and it was awful? Ok, it wasn’t that bad…just, like, weird and grungy with a real sex, drugs, and rock & roll house music type vibe. Sounds like my kind of place, right?

*Taps ruby slippers off-white BOBS Skechers together, desperately trying to get back to NY*

BUT WAIT.

The cake made of cheese, guys. The cheesecake. 

I was led to a little place called Five Elephant by Loic, the photographer I booked for an Airbnb Experience. More on that in another post…but here’s a sneak peek:

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Dammmnnn, nice photo skills, Loic! Ok, back to the cake.

Loic asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a drink (beer) or a coffee.

Me: ‘Oh, yeah! Cawwwfeee for sure!’

Loic: ‘Er…’

Me: ‘Great!’

On we went. Loic insisted that the place we were going not only had great cawwfee but the *best* cheesecake as well.

*New Yorker skepticism sets in*

 ewis1.gifWho does this guy think he is? He’s not even from Berlin and now he thinks some random cawwfee shop has the ‘best’ cheesecake. We’ll see about that. Has he ever been to NY? Nope, he hasn’t. WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?!

But…GUYS.

Five Elephant is on an unassuming street in Berlin’s more artsy fartsy district, Kreuzberg. And, well, I’ll try to describe the cheesecake…but first, a photo:

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Do you see that thin layer on the top? Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But cheesecake will never be the same without it.

And that crust? Yeah, again, I don’t know but it was THE BEST.

And the actual cheesecake? ‘Holy bananas’ is all I can say.

It was as if the cheesecake was whipped for days on end by little elves. Magical, delightful, cheesecake-making elves. (Sidenote: I am ready for snowy weather and Christmas. Can you tell?)

GUYS. I know I can be dramatic, but LOOK at Jonathan’s review. He is a “LOCAL GUIDE.” The internet doesn’t lie! 

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Yo, that guy Jonathan that reviewed this place WAS RIGHT. 😂

The comments go on and on…I’ve noticed folks have knocked off stars for the cafe’s lack of WiFi, but seriously. You will not need to connect to anything except your inner soul once you take a bite of that cheesecake.

I almost don’t want to ‘publish’ this blog post for fear that this place will really catch on and turn into a chain and then it’ll be awful.

But I’m not that popular, so publish I shall! 

Alas, it was a cake made of cheese that left me beguiled by Berlin.

You win, Berlin.

You win.

Spread kindness and cheer (and cheese and cake), xo
Jackie

Geneva: A Beautifully Boring City but a Hilarious Airbnb Story You Need to Hear

Isn’t it a drag when you expect so much from a place only to realize it’s rather quite dull? Or you meet a really pretty/handsome person and then they turn out to have zero personality? Bienvenue à Genève! 😂

Ok, Geneva wasn’t all bad. I’ll give y’all some tips if you decide to venture to this Swiss city…but don’t expect any nightlife or culture or affordable food or, well, anything.

😂

The lower your expectations, the better time you’ll have!

But First…Our Airbnb Host

Alright, this is too good not to share with y’all. Mon got to our Airbnb in Geneva before I did and she recounted the following exchange with our host:

Anna: Just so you know, none of my neighbors know that I run an Airbnb. So, if you see anyone and they ask anything just say you’re visiting.

Mon: Ok, will do.

Anna: Great. My kids and their father are on holiday right now and they don’t know either.

Mon: 🤔😅😂😂😂😂

I DIED WHEN SHE TOLD ME THAT. Mind you, we stayed in HER CHILDREN’S ROOMS!! And her Airbnb has over 100 reviews!! This woman has been conning her family for A WHILE NOW. 😂😂😂 What if her family returned early? What if they arrived in the middle of the night to find us sleeping in their beds!? SO many questions!!!

Plus, while we were there she had another Airbnb guest staying in her other child’s room! 😂

We opted for an Airbnb over a hostel in Geneva because they were essentially the same price and the hostels didn’t look particularly lively.

What to do in Geneva?

If you love the outdoors, great. Head over to the lake and take in the views. For just two francs (cash only), you can access a dock area called Bains des Pâquis.

Mon and I went to a grocery store called Coop and grabbed a bottle of wine (Geneva is open container), some food, and spent the day by Lake Geneva.

There was a cool structure that folks were jumping off of into the lake…Mon did it twice and got a huge bruise on her ass after landing the wrong way…both times. 😂 Whoopsie!

What else is there to do?

You can venture across the bridge to St. Pierre Cathedral. For just five francs you can climb to the top and take in the panoramic views. The staircase up is narrow and not ideal if you’re claustrophobic like me, but having my best friend with me helped. I probably wouldn’t have done it by myself. 😂 It was worth the initial stomach pains though! (I was literally that nervous about getting trapped in the staircase.)

If you’re looking for another cool view in Geneva, don’t miss La Jonction! This stunning spot isn’t too far from the main city center…it’s where the River Rhone and the River Arve meet. The Rhone is the pretty side, while the Arve is rather murky (and smelly! 😮).

See that little viewing platform above? That’s where the walk will take you initially… but see that tree? It perfectly blocks the view of the divide! So, Mon and I saw this bridge (from where these pics are taken) and were determined to get up there…we found a path and made our way up! It was a fun adventure and I definitely recommend it!

Other Tips for Geneva

When most people think of Switzerland, they think of fondue, etc. Well, that’s not really a thing for locals here. In fact, I couldn’t get a good read on what their go-to cuisine was other than expensive. Even fast food will cost you a good $15-20 francs! Stick with grocery store food to save money!

The public transportation is easy to use…there are plenty of trams and buses. It’s similar to Berlin in that it runs on the honor system. Apparently there are random checks for tickets but Mon and I never had ours checked.

If you take the bus/tram to a stop called ‘Nations’ you can see the UN building, as well as the famous ‘broken chair’ art installation. It’s literally across the street from the UN.

While there are cool sights to be seen in Geneva, there is zero nightlife! I’m glad I was with Monica because it would’ve been less fun venturing around alone during the day as there’s not tons to do.

So, I probably wouldn’t recommend Geneva for a solo trip. 🙅 Have you been? Let me know!

Will you runaway with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie