Learning to Combat Only-Child Guilt After 20-Something Years

Hi! I’m Jackie, I’m 28, 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?

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 felt 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.).

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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 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.”

Are you fucking kidding me, Toni?
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. Ever.

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?!

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.

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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 earned good grades, was admitted into an excellent university, landed an incredible job in my chosen career, and was very much the picture-perfect epitome of what it looked like to “make one’s 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. Ugh, that sounds hella privileged, I KNOW.

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.”

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NERD ALERT.

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 in recent years, I’ve felt this only-child guilt more than ever. I’ve been given so much and felt as though I wasn’t living up to what was expected of me. But climbing some elusive, imaginary ladder seemed so lame! I’d rather climb real mountains! Hoorah!

But then the guilt creeps back…

Why am I not happy where I am?, I thought ALL THE DAMN TIME. 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 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 wrote the original version of this piece in October of 2018, after having a conversation with my parents about potentially moving from New York to Montana. I received a lot of pushback from my folks during this conversation which surprised me. I mean, they had always supported my travels! But then I realized they also knew I’d always come back.

I may be a Runaway Rapetti but I always seemed to run back to NY.

And then I found myself feeling guilty about the prospect of moving to Montana: Why don’t you just go back into broadcast? 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?

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The face you make when you are FED THE FUCK UP and NEED A DAMN CHANGE. Jk Ty was just taking forever to take this damn photo. Love you GURL.

But I want a storied life. I need it.

For years, I appeared to never know what I was doing because I felt guilty about actually diving full-steam ahead into what I truly wanted…which was never the same as what my parents wanted for me! I may not have realized that ten years ago as I embarked on my college career, but I’m finally learning.

I spent too many years denying my innermost desires in an effort to stay close to home. The thing is, I didn’t choose to grow up in suburban NY. But I can choose where I go next. And I did!!!

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MONTANA, YOU PRETTY THANG!

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, just mayyyybe, 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 you may want for them. You can’t expect 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 embracing 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 continue to be their ‘Wacky Jackie’ from all parts, near and far.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Ladies and Gents, Singles and Couples, Meet Charmed: The Dating Advice App Ya Need If You’re out There Swiping

Hi, hello, life update – this New Yorker is an official resident of Missoula, MON FUCKING TANA. Ummm, what. It’s been a hellluva four months here and I’m excited to share some news. *drum rollllll* I’ve joined the lovely startup team at Charmed as their VP of Communications and I want Y’ALL TO KNOW ABOUT IT. It’s a dating ADVICE app – NOT ANOTHER DATING APP, THERE ARE SO MANY I CANNOT KEEP UP OMG. I’m, like, literally about to join the farmers one – maybe this city girl can get down with a hoe. JOKES GUYS, JOKES.

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ANYWAY, Charmed is an ADVICE app designed to help online daters easily share their dating matches’ profiles, conversations, and more with their closest friends. Unlike dating apps including Tinder and Bumble, Charmed INTEGRATES with these popular apps, allowing users to bring their friends into both new and existing conversations. A kind of ‘Phone a Friend’ for dating apps, Charmed is for those who have matches but can’t seem to get past the cliché one-liners to score an actual date.

AKA it’s hella cool and y’all need to download it NOW and ADD ME so that you can help me talk to ALL MY DAMN MATCHES WHO APPARENTLY DON’T ACTUALLY EVER WANT TO TALK TO ME OR MEET ME. Major ugh.

Whether you’re in a relationship and looking to help your friends, or you’re the one in need of some witty conversation starters, Charmed offers a unique platform for LITCHRALLY, everyone, AS THEY SAY IN LONDON.

So, heck, that is my Charmed spiel.

I also run the Insta account, which ya can check out HERE.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

P.S. I adopted a cat from the Humane Society of Western Montana; her name is Dolores (where my Seinfeld fans at?!?!?!) and omgoodness I need to do a blog about my road trip from Michigan to Montana because WOW it was fun and interesting and lonely and not lonely and AMAZING.

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MY LITTLE MEOWING MUFFIN, DOLORES 

 

 

Let’s Make 28 Great Again

For the past five years, I’ve ‘donated’ my birthday to charity: waterWhy?

Because birthdays are about celebrating LIFE – and, for me, Sept. 27 is a day to reflect on what I’ve done so far and what I want to do going forward. What’s the meaning of life?!?!? and all that crap.

You know?

So, as I turn 28, I don’t need things. To be drowned in gifts is so 1999. To be drowned in drinks is so 2012. (jk that shit is forever) And SURE I wouldn’t turn down a pup. Or cake/cookies/anything that will send me to the dentist for yet another root canal.

But I digress.

When I first learned about charity: water, their concept was simple: What if every person ‘donated’ their birthday so – in our lifetime– we’d get to celebrate every person on the planet having access to clean water?

Liiiike, holy bananas. It really is that simple. I was hooked.

Below is an excerpt from the first story I’d read in relation to charity: water. I found it hard to believe that shit like this could be happening in a modern world like ours. But that’s the thing. The modern world like ours is not theirs. We live in a bubble. A bubble made with clean, soapy water that runs and runs and runs from our taps and our garden hoses and we think nothing of it. And then there are kids like Letikiros. Kids who have to give up school days to walk miles for water – dirty, unsanitary water – in the blazing heat.

Letikiros Hailu, just 13, walked four days a week for water and attended school part-time for the other three days. Since there was no school in Meda then, reaching the classroom in a neighboring village was another 6 hour round trip walk. In order for Letikiros to be able to attend school at all, her mother would pay to rent a donkey each week which could carry four pots of water on a single trip from the Bembya River. But there simply wasn’t enough money to relieve Letikiros of her water duty altogether, and she quickly fell behind. By the age of 13, she had only completed the third grade.

One day in 2000, no one will ever know exactly what went through Letikiros’ mind after she collected her daily water. What is known, is that she somehow slipped and fell, smashing her clay pot full of water into small pieces. She must have watched in horror as the water spilled out on the dusty ground. More than 10 hours of walking and waiting had been undone through a simple misstep. Those who knew her well believed she must have been overcome with shame. She knew her mother and sister were at home waiting for the water. She knew they needed her water to cook dinner. And now, even the clay pot was destroyed — a valuable asset for the family. So rather than continue home down the path empty-handed, the 13-year-old slipped the rope from the pot through the branches of a tree, then around her neck and hung herself.


Okay, so, like, you totally want to do something after reading that…right? I’ve been following charity: water for yearssss now. I’ve volunteered with them. Met tons of their employees. Heck, I even tried to get a job there. I attended their gala back in 2014 and I walked the length of Manhattan that same year ON my birthday (it was damn hot that year too, my GOD) to help raise awareness. Blah blah blah, Jackie, what’s so great about charity: water anyway?

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Over the years, YOU have helped me to raise over 8k for this incredible organization. And every single freakin’ dollar has gone to the field. SO. Here we are again. Another trip around the sun, another opportunity to do some good in this world.

Here’s a link to my current campaign:

https://my.charitywater.org/jackieraps/let-s-make-28-great-again

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Thank you thank you thank you!

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

‘Tis the best time of year

Saw the below pic on Insta today and thought YES! but also… “Christmas month” could be captioned so many other ways… and so my gal Kayleigh and I riffed this fun little LIST.

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  • Spooky month, mashed potato month, and peppermint month // gingerbread
  • And “Christmas cookie” month
  • And “Santa-shaped cookie” month
    –> are Santa-shaped cookies NOT Christmas cookies, Kayleigh?!
  • “tree lighting” month
  • “get fat” month
  • “I wanna ice skate!” month
  • “covered in bruises from ice skating” month
  • “mulled wine is festive but gross” month
  • “Charlie Brown” month
  • “couples holding hands and me vomming” month
  • “12 days of sexmas” month
  • “couples posting pics in front of the Christmas tree” month
  • “people giving each other meaningless candles and scarves for gifts” month
  • “another year of not being kissed under the mistletoe” month
  • “cheesy Hallmark movies that we hate but secretly love and wish we were in” month
  • “happy endings don’t exist except in massage parlors” month

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In other news, ’tis my BIRTHDAY MONTH and I’m stoked. 27 has been mad rad and 28 will be supa great. 🤘

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

‘Someone Great’ Delivered This Piece of Great Magic

** An edited version of this piece was featured on Thought Catalog under the title, Netflix’s ‘Someone Great’ Delivered The Best Piece Of Breakup Advice You’ll Ever Read


I’ll admit it– I’m a SUCKER for a cheesy romcom.

So when Netflix suggested I watch Someone Great starring Gina Rodriguez (as Jenny), you KNOW I clicked. And watched. And laughed. And cried.

But it’s one scene in particular that GOT ME.

Jenny sits on the F train with tears streaming down her face as she pens a letter to her ex.
A person she was with for nine years– most of those years spent in her twenties.

And, as a person who has penned many a tear-soaked letter and journal entry, it hit me in the feeeeeels.

So, naturally, I decided to transcribe all 226 of her spoken words into a kind of p o e m.

Because maybe you don’t like watching romcoms, but you need to hear this too.


Do you think I can have one more kiss?

I’ll find closure on your lips and then I’ll go.

Maybe, also, one more breakfast, one more lunch, and one more dinner.

I’ll be full and happy and we can part.

But, in between meals, maybe we can lie in bed one more time?

One more prolonged moment where time suspends indefinitely as I rest my head on your chest.

MY hope is if we add up the one more’s, they will equal a lifetime.

And I’ll never have to get to the part where I let you go.

But that’s not real, is it?

There are no more ‘one mores.’

I met you when everything was new and exciting,
and the possibilities of the world seemed

endless.

And they still are.

For you.

For me.

But not for us.

Somewhere between then and now, here and there–

I guess we didn’t just grow apart…

…we grew UP.

When something b r e a k s,
if the pieces are large enough,
you can fix it.

Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t break.

They

s

h

a

t

t

e

r.

But when you let the light in, shattered glass will glitter.

And in those moments – when the pieces of what we were catch the sun – I’ll remember just how beautiful it was.

Just how beautiful it will always be.

Because it was us.

And we were magic.

Forever.

###


Oof. Breaking up is hard to do.

But what I love about this cheesy movie is that the happy ending wasn’t found in the reconciliation of a relationship. Nor was it found with the beginning of a new romance.

It wasn’t, ‘Oh, I don’t need him, I’ve got [insert newer, handsomer guy]!’

It was THIS!

Jenny’s heart-wrenching, tear-soaked letter that reassures all of us that even shattered glass can bring LIGHT.

Glittering, shimmering, shiny light that makes YOU feel happy and joyful and alive.


I’ve been working through my very first break-up for the past year now and it’s been a rollercoaster. But I’m finally at this shimmery, glittery phase.

And the funny thing? I actually wrote my ex a letter about a month ago to let him know that. Like, I can finally look back at our relationship with happy, fond memories. I can think about it without feeling angry or upset. I can smile as I think about the good ol’ times.

And, at first, that confused me.

If the times had together were so happy, why did it end?
I guess I wanted the ‘one mores’, as Jenny put it.

One more this, one more that–
I’ll get it out of my system and THEN I’ll feel better.

I can move on.

But I’ve finally learned why certain happy times lay in the past.
And they don’t need to be dug up in the present.

Because constantly digging up the past leaves a lot of messy dirt, strewn about. It’s only when we rest that we’re able to see growth. The flowers are finally blossoming and, my, they’re lovely.

You see, there lies a relationship that was good and great but wasn’t meant for always.

And may it rest in peace.

Someone Great reminded me that finding someone great shouldn’t be my objective.

I am someone great.

And so are you.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie