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

Globetrotting with a Bootleg Phone Plan and No Data: A Solo Travel Guide

Happy Friday the 13th y’all! I’m in Berlin at the moment…I arrived yesterday evening and spent about 13 hours sleeping. 😂

As I eat currywurst (the national fast food of Berlin) for the first time in my life in a spot called KreuzBurger, I figured I’d also take the time to let y’all know how to survive solo travel in lands far, far away.

Pro tip: Don’t stress, plan less, and learn to wing it!

Easier said than done for most, I know, but don’t get caught up in all the little things when traveling abroad! As long as you have your plane ticket, a phone, cash/credit, and your passport, you’ll be just fine!

What about an international phone plan, Jackie?

Take it from someone who has an $80 LG phone that runs on Virgin Mobile and has been to 12 foreign countries…you don’t need an international phone plan. Once I leave American soil, I turn data off and solely rely on WiFi.

Of course, if you’re traveling to more remote places, etc., then investing in an international plan may be smart.

The great thing about most foreign countries… especially big cities in Europe…is that they have free public WiFi all around! Outside, inside, in the metro stations, on the buses, and essentially anywhere else you’d need it!

Also, did you know Google Maps works without WiFi?! As long as you know where you’re going, the locator dot will continue to tell you where YOU are on the map! So, as you move along, you can see if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

If you’re traveling alone, I recommend getting flights, trains, etc. that arrive during the day… especially if you plan on walking to your hostel, etc. once you arrive.

Berlin is the first foreign city I’ve ever traveled to alone where the main language isn’t English (save for Iceland, but I had been there before), so I booked a flight that got in at 5pm. This gave me allowance to get a bit lost in the streets as I made my way to my hostel (and I totally did 😂), knowing I’d have plenty of daylight to work with. Plus, I’m always sure to keep to main streets and, if Google maps isn’t helping me, I pop into a nearby cafe or shop to grab some WiFi. 😅

It may sound stressful but it really isn’t. I tell myself that if worst comes to currywurst, I can always hail a cab! (Hopefully… 😅)

Coming from NYC, I feel confident getting around any major city…even without relying on my phone!

Pro tip: Look up and actually READ the street signs and don’t fear getting lost!

I’ve found that folks who rely on their cell data and mapped out routes in foreign cities often miss out on little things because they’re so fixated on not missing a turn. I actually just met a girl from Australia who also said she doesn’t have an international plan because she doesn’t want to be staring at her phone during her travels!

This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to talk to folks and SEE what’s around you! We’ve become so dependent on our phones but we don’t need them!

What do you do when you go abroad? Let me know in the comments!

Also…if y’all have any tips for Berlin, let me know! I’m here till Monday and have done zero research…whoops! 🤦

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

48 Hours in Edinburgh: A Solo Traveler’s Guide

Greetings, y’all! I’m currently writing from the Downtown Hostel in Copenhagen, but I wanted to share more about my time in Scotland!

Why Scotland?

Well, my main goal for this trip was GETTING to Europe for as cheaply as possible…the best flight out of NYC that I found was a WOWair flight to Edinburgh with a 20-hour layover in Iceland – check out my post about the Blue Lagoon if you haven’t already!

I didn’t know much about Scotland prior to visiting, but I knew it’d be beautiful. Whether you’re traveling alone or going with a friend or two, here’s some advice for ya!

What money do I need?

Scotland is part of the UK and the country uses the pound sterling.

Where should I stay?

Stay at the Budget Backpackers Hostel (also known as the Kickass Hostel)! It’s easily accessible if you’re flying into Edinburgh. Just hop on the Airlink bus ($7.50 for a round-trip ticket) and take it to the last stop (Waverly Bridge). From there, the hostel is a ten-minute walk away… however, you will have to trudge uphill a bit! If you have a ton of luggage, you may wanna take a cab!

What should I do?!

I arrived in mid-afternoon on a Saturday in Edinburgh…after a 6:30AM flight from Iceland. After checking into my hostel, I decided to wander around on my own to see the area. From the Royal Mile to the Scott Monument, everything was within walking distance.

For solo travelers, I also highly recommend going on a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness with a company called Rabbie’s. Not to be confused with RABIES.

😅

I went on a tour that left on a Sunday morning at 8AM and lasted ALLLL day…it was tiring because I’d stayed out till 3AM with some newfound hostel friends the night before… but it was well worth the early wake-up call!

The tour included several stops, including the Commando Memorial, Glencoe Park, Three Sisters Mountains, Loch Ness and more! We even went on an hour-long boat tour in an attempt to find NESSIE!!

Things I learned…

  • The Scottish Highlands are gorgeous and only two million folks live here.
  • “Loch” means “lake” in Scottish Gaelic.
  • The folks in Scotland believe in tons of mystical creatures and superstitions.
  • Much of the landscape in Scotland was formed from giant glaciers passing through millions of years ago, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions!

My final day in Edinburgh was spent wandering the streets after having a less-than-wonderful dining experience at The Elephant House (more on that here).

Have you visited Scotland? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie