Hello, it's good to meet you. My name is Jodee Blanco. From fifth grade through high school, I was the school outcast for the same reason so many other kids today struggle to fit in, simply for being different. I was teased, taunted, kicked, spat on, and laughed at. And the harder I tried to make friends, the worse I was bullied. For me the worst part wasn't the abuse; it was the isolation, the ache to belong that seemed to go on forever inside me. You may have read my memoir Please Stop Laughing at Me... that chronicles what happened or its sequel Please Stop Laughing at Us...
I'm a successful adult now but I haven't forgotten those lonely years. In fact, I talk about them every day in schools across the country, where I share my story with students, teachers, and parents to motivate change and awareness. My message is always threefold: It's not just joking around, bullying damages you for life; bullying isn't just the overt acts of cruelty, it's also the deliberate omission of compassion, that not being included is bullying too; and that if you are ostracized or picked on, there's nothing wrong with you. It's usually everything that's right with someone that makes them a target of abuse. Sometimes, after I've given a presentation, students will want to sit down with me and share their stories. I always take time to listen, and afterwards, they often tell me how much better they feel having opened up to someone who understands what they're going through firsthand. And it's a moving experience for me to know that all that bullying I endured as a teen had a purpose, that it's enabling me to save lives today.
I wrote this journal so that you and I could get to know each other in much the same way I do with the students who approach me after they've heard me speak at their schools and want to talk.
Let me explain how I've structured this journal and how to achieve the most of our time together.
It's divided into four sections. The first, Book One, entitled "Your Story," is a guided diary. It's broken down into themes inspired by select passages from Please Stop Laughing at Me... These are italicized. After each passage I include some questions as a writing prompt. Then, I give you really cool ideas and suggestions on everything from how to communicate more effectively with adults to the best way to handle a bully The second section, Book Two, entitled "Your Poetry," lets you express yourself through writing poems, one of the most effective ways to release strong emotions. Book Three, which is called "Your Letters," gives you a chance to say the things you've wanted to say to different people in your life but haven't. And Book Four, entitled "Your Words to Your Future Self," is a place where you'll leave three messages for yourself to be read five, ten, and twenty years from now.
I wanted this journal to be more than the sum of its parts. I wanted it to be both a comfort and a means to deeper understanding, and a tool you'll be able to use throughout your whole life. Promise me that you'll be open and honest in these pages, that you won't be afraid to tell the truth. I won't ever judge you or tell you how to feel. I'm here at your friend, confidante, and guide. Take my hand and let's begin.
Let's get started!