We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofJazmine Chhet

I am 17 years old and an only child. When I was younger I didn’t care to have a sibling because I was very attached to my parents. I would always go where they went, to stores, to restaurants, and events. My being an only child became a joke with my aunts and my mom’s friends. Whenever I was hanging out with them they would jokingly ask me if I wanted a sibling and I would always say no. 

But around the age of 10 I realized how lonely I would get sometimes. I noticed I started feeling jealousy towards my friends or my cousin with their siblings because I envied the dynamic between them. They have someone to seek advice from. They had each other as role models. 

I wasn’t entirely alone. I had my cousin who’s the same age as me and we’re still close. But sometimes I wished I had a sibling of my own, someone who I could seek advice from or look up to. I often felt bad for my cousin because I felt like I always burden her by talking about my problems. But she has always been positive and has given out helpful advice. 

Sometimes I felt like I was trapped in a box and there was no way for me to get out. My emotions were mixed: jealousy, anger, loneliness, and sadness. I would question how things would turn differently if I had a sibling. Would I still feel lonely? Would I feel happiness?

Yet I never discussed how I felt with my parents because I thought this feeling I had should be kept to myself. Instead, I picked up a habit of talking to myself a lot. It felt a little strange in the beginning but when you don’t have anyone around you or to talk with, you tend to be drawn towards that. I would talk to myself every day for random reasons — just because I was bored and had no one to talk to. I would ask myself random questions or I would have a full conversation with myself. Talking to myself made me feel better, it kind of felt therapeutic in a way. I was in my own little bubble and I could express myself openly without judgment.

Fast forward to the year 2018 my cousin was born. After my aunt gave birth I visited him right after at the hospital. He was small, his skin was a little red, and his eyes were barely opened. I was so thrilled when I found out that he was going to be an only child too like me. At that moment I finally felt that I wasn’t alone because now there would be two only children in the family. When he grows up I want him to know that he’s not alone and that I've experienced it too. I want him to be comfortable talking to me and being able to relate to things. 

In the year 2020, I became more present, expressive, and opened up my feelings with my family. I was more engaging about how I felt and what it was like to be an only child and how I felt like no one could relate to me because everyone in my family has siblings. My baby cousin opened up the door for me to speak freely about myself and that’s what helped me come to terms with myself because being an only child isn’t so bad. I thought I needed a sibling to make me feel happy, but in reality, I have what I need. As we have gotten older, my cousins and I have grown a lot closer. We hang a lot more, like going to stores and events. My mom’s friends take me in as if I was one of their own and even my aunts do the same. I truly see now how much I’m a part of something bigger. Looking back, I realize I was never really alone. 

© Jazmine Chhet . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.