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

What I Definitely Don’t Wanna Be When I Grow Up…

Hi, hello, I’m currently a freelance writer, editor, Jack(ie) of all trades…
but I’m very much still figuring out my life.

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I earned a BA in Journalism from Northeastern University back in 2013
but, over the years, I’ve considered becoming a flight attendant…
and I’ve been rethinking this pursuit lately.

In fact, I recently applied to a bunch of airlines and even landed a few interviews!

But y’all know me. I’m essentially George Costanza.

And I’ve since reconsidered.

And, sometimes, it’s easier to find clarity when you figure out what you DON’T want. 

I’m still not sure what I’m doing but I know
I definitely DO NOT want to be a… 

Doctor – blood? eek!
Lawyer – abiding by the law? eek!
Drug Dealer – not abiding by the law? also, drugs? eek!
Chiropractor – fake news! eek!
Baker – have you watched my insta stories? eek!
Coroner – eek? eek!!
Mathematician – numbers? (I had to Google 9×7 the other day) eek!
Toilet Attendant – smell ya later? eek!
Librarian – shushing people? (I literally cannot whisper) eek!
Candle Maker – SCENTsational headaches? eek!

So, like, I’ve basically got it all narrowed down. 😂
I left flight attendant off the list because it’s not a definite NEVER ever
but, like, never for now? Classsssssic Jackie.

“Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be … when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am.”
– Death of a Salesman (speaking of which, I do NOT want to be a salesman either)

Truly, though, over the years I’ve realized the things that make me happiest are being outside and being around animals (the non-human variety, of course).

Anyways, I did a thing and made a YouTube video!
It’s been a minute and, as much as I LOVE writing, sometimes I just need to TALK to understand my own train of thought…

…because half of the time this train is choo-choo’ing out of the damn station before I have time to register that it was even there! 😂

As an INTJ, I live inside my head 99% of the time.
So, here are 3.5 minutes of me trying to decipher these thoughts of mine…enjoy!

 

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Why I Continue to Choose Hostels over Hotels

Because clean sheets are overrated and bed bugs need lovin’ too!

I’m kidding, jeeeeez. The common misconception is that hostels are dirty, dingy, and dangerous butttttt that couldn’t be further from the truth! I mean, sure, sometimes you check in to a hostel in San Diego to find that your new roommates have locked you out in an effort to finish cleaning up vomit on the floor so that you don’t get a “bad impression” of them. And then *click* the door unlocks and you’re greeted by the strong smell of limes, an extremely intoxicated 20-something, and a teen cleaning up the mess. You spot the empty bottle of tequila, a condom wrapper, and Flaming Hot Cheetos on the nightstand. All this and it’s ONLY 7 FUCKING POST MERIDIEM.

Ah, hostel life, you sigh, before muttering, I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS! and you hop back down to reception where you inform Bradley that I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS! and he skeptically asks, how old are you, and you say, 27, and he failingly tries to disguise his surprise as he agrees that, yes, maybe you are too old for this, before assigning you a new room.

TRUE STORY.

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Never has there been a more appropriate gif.

And, yet, I continue to choose to stay in hostels because that’s where all the hella cool people are. Minus the vomming folks but I’ve been there too so, like, whatever.

From the 61-year-old man from the South Bronx who stayed at Hostel Fish and kept calling me ‘sista’ after learning that I too am from New York to the 30-something working there who once walked ACROSS AFRICA in the name of clean water, hostels are filled with the stories of incredible travelers, wanderers, and curious characters. 

My most recent stay at Hostel Fish in Denver took me back to my first time staying at a hostel four years ago. Remember that time I met the coolest people who crammed me in a car and invited me to venture to Canada with them? On that same trip, I ended up ziplining img_12303and hitchhiking. The great thing about staying in a dorm-style hostel is that it serves as an endless revolving door of awesome people. Most recently in Denver, one of my roommates was 23-year-old Michelle from Reno, NV. It was her first time staying in a hostel and she reminded me so much of myself– I too was 23 when I embarked on my first solo adventure and stayed at a hostel for the first time.

Upon meeting me, Michelle asked if I was going on the hostel’s pub crawl and if I was “old enough to drink.” I literally cackled. When I told her I was 27, she was like, “I THOUGHT YOU WERE, LIKE, 19.” Ah, jeez. 

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This is my face when people think I’m 19. Also, my face when old men “accidentally” moon me. Also, my face 98% of the time.

She seemed a little nervous and unsure– all feelings I had when traveling alone for the first time. Meeting her was like meeting myself all over again and being able to observe how much I’ve grown as a traveler over the years.

Then, there was the old man also staying in our room who “accidentally” mooned me as he was getting dressed one morning. There was the charming 30-something fella with the “#1 Dad” necklace, worn proudly around his neck. We bonded at the bar over our mistakes in marriage and our mutual desire to travel and explore as much as we can.

Staying at a hostel gives you the opportunity to meet folks from ALL walks of life. Back in Denver, I also met Max from Ukraine. He’s a smiley dude working at Hostel Fish and his general excitement about life is magnetic. He told me he feels like he’s exactly where he needs to be at the moment and it was hard not to believe him. Another incredible human working at Hostel Fish is Diego. An extremely talented artist, yoga teacher, and wanderer, this Colombian native is so inspiring. We talked for a while and he was kind enough to show me a bunch of his sketches, complete with stories to go along with each. Check out his work here! He also has the most unique handwriting of anyone I’ve ever met and keeps journals just to practice his penmanship.

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If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, I cannot recommend it enough– especially if you’re traveling solo! In fact, I still keep in touch with plenty of folks I’ve met in hostels throughout the years. From Laura (we met in Berlin) who lives in the UK to Shelbie, Dalton, and Alan…all of whom I met when in Seattle, I have a growing network of fellow adventurers around the world now!

Here’s a list of all the hostels I’ve been to in my travels– feel free to message me if you want more info about the hostel life!

States:

  • HI Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
  • Green Tortoise Hostel, Seattle
  • Samesun, Vancouver
  • HI Downtown Hostel, Vancouver
  • Hostel Fish, Denver
  • Lucky D’s Hostel, San Diego

Overseas:

  • Kabul Party Hostel, Barcelona
  • Singer109 Hostel, Berlin*
  • The Circus Hostel, Berlin
  • Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, Denmark
  • Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh
  • Makuto Hostel, Granada
  • Kex Hostel, Reykjavik
  • The Yellow Hostel, Rome

*I would NOT recommend staying here if you’re looking for a fun hostel where it’s easy to make friends. I stayed here for one night in Berlin before switching to The Circus Hostel where I had a MUCH better experience. That being said, Singer109 was really clean and well-maintained…just had ZERO atmosphere and felt more like a hotel.

And that’s all for now folks! Time to explore more of Sunny D before reluctantly heading back to Michigan.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie