For the past five years, I’ve ‘donated’ my birthday to charity: water. Why?
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.
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?
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.
Hi, hello, I’m currently a freelance writer, editor, Jack(ie) of all trades…
but I’m very much still figuring out my life.
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!
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.
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 and 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.
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.
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!
HI Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
Green Tortoise Hostel, Seattle
HI Downtown Hostel, Vancouver
Hostel Fish, Denver
Lucky D’s Hostel, San Diego
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.
HI, IT’S JACKIE HERE. I’m currently listening to the 80s pop channel on Pandora (sidenote: apparently I’m a grandma for still using Pandora?!?? whatever), sitting in my new, cozy room in Michigan (yes, MICHIGAN), and reflecting on what the hell has happened in 2018. It’s been a fucking journey. I went back to read the blog post I wrote this time last year and realized I DIDN’T EVEN WRITE ONE. Like, I wrote a “Cheers to 2016!” and “Cheers to 2017!” but I was in such a crappy place this time last year that I couldn’t even properly ‘CHEERS!’ to the New Year. In fact, I was DREADING 2018. This time last year I was four months into a marriage that I knew I shouldn’t be in. I eloped for all the wrong reasons and felt young, dumb, lonely, and lost. And it makes me sad for my 26-year-old self. But, GUESS WHAT!? I’m 27 now (weird) and things are great (fab, in fact) and I’m SO EXCITED for 2019.
I learned so much about myself in 2018. For starters, I let go of a relationship that was sucking the life out of me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do but I’m so much happier for doing it.
thank u, next.
I reflected A LOT on my own self and what brings me happiness and why I am the way that I am and all of that good stuff and I wrote THIS piece and so many of you responded with such kind words and I can’t thank y’all enough for that. I wrote another piece for a writing competition (which I hope to do more of in 2019) that was more of a reflection on my past relationship and, though it didn’t win, I’m thinking I’ll share it on here soon. It’s 5,000 words though, so…grab a cup of coffee first. Writing is extremely cathartic for me but sharing my words is a bit more difficult and I haven’t mustered up the courage to publish that piece yet but I’m working on it…
Earlier this year, I moved to Astoria and then, after six months, I realized it wasn’t for me. I was raised to be a city girl and I have plenty of close friends who live in and around NYC but I craved something a bit simpler, yet more grand and awe-inspiring. I’ve always loved lakes and mountains and I felt like I was forcing myself to be Carrie Bradshaw. Although, we all know she wouldn’t have EVER lived in Astoria. Anyway. I moved back home to Northern Westchester and gave myself some time to figure things out…
…But not before attending a gala, because duh that’s what everyone does in NYC, did you not watch Gossip Girl? JK we kinda snuck in but shhhhhh it’s fine it’s fine. 😂😂
It was my first time back in Europe since Sept. 2017 when I went to Spain with Shanna and her family. This time around I went back to Iceland for a quick 20-hour stint before hopping along to Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and England! I traveled by myself, with my best friend, and with friends both new and old…and it was splendid.
^Monica captured a real ‘Jackie’ face there. 😂
Read more about my time in Europe here, here, and here!I did A LOT of cool things in Europe. From eating danish danishes in Denmark and searching for Nessie in Loch Ness to partying in Edinburgh and taking a dip in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, it was an adventure. But, the true highlight may have been nerding out at the Michael Jackson On the Wall Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. OH – and when I was in Berlin I saw the balcony where he dangled baby Blanket from that one time and that was great too. 😂😂😂😂😂
And then there was my GOLDEN BIRTHDAY. I turned 27 on the 27th of September and on that day I found myself on a flight to Kalispell, Montana. By myself, with my Man of the Woods album in hand (of course), I was ready for another adventure. And I’ll save the ravings because I already wrote about how freakin’ awesome it was HERE.
But here are some pics to prove just how PRETTY MONTANA IS:
From Montana, I flew to LA where I reconnected with some of my FAVORITE people who reminded me to listen to my heart and soul and that making big moves and changing things up can be scary but super duper fulfilling. ❤
Back in NY, I celebrated Spencer’s 30th (he doesn’t look a day over 25) and I was even a bridesmaid at Shanna’s wedding! So much good stuff to be happy about — I love you guys! ❤
Holy bananas, 2018 was a good one. I mean, I even witnessed a dog WALK ON WATER earlier this year, like, COME ON ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?! LOOK AT THAT MAJESTIC CREATURE.
My goal for 2019 was to finally move out of NY but woohoo I hit that goal earlier than expected! I’m in Michigan for now but it’s more of a stepping stone (though I’m enjoying it so far!)…I’m getting my feet wet before making the bigger move to MONTANA. I can’t wait! I’ve let go of a lot of things this year (both material and emotional) but it’s allowed for really exciting, incredible things in my life.
Also, this has been my first full year working completely freelance with no in-office jobs and it’s been a hustle but sooooo worth it!!!!
Anyways, thanks for being a part of the adventure! And thank you to all of my new and old friends who’ve made 2018 super kick-ass.
After gettingSO 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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
I will be their ‘Wacky Jackie’ no matter where in the world I am.