Karen

I have had an interesting life. It began living on the boardwalk in Atlantic City until I was 12. I was an outsider to my home school as I had to travel in a Jitney Bus from the age of 5 to kindergarten through sixth grade. The boardwalk was not a neighborhood and so I had no friends with whom to play just by stepping out my door. Outsiders are bullied and thus began my years of fearing school and not feeling emotionally safe.

Being an outsider was not my only problem, I was chunky, tall for my age and had the buckest teeth you ever did see. It was like wearing a bullseye and the arrows just kept on coming. Home was not the safe haven I needed for I was the oldest and my parents had their own issues. My sister and I were very different and though we shared a bedroom must of my childhood and adolescent years, I don’t remember even one day or one interaction between us. My brother was six years younger and he was the prince. I did have one safe haven, my grandmother, Anna. She and I were buddies. She died when I was fifteen. I did have some friends who had similar situations but our times together had to be arranged especially when I was younger.

We moved to Margate when I entered the seventh grade. I made some friends there and spent time walking to houses close by and making up for my lost years. The bullying continued but my friends became the buffer.The move to Margate was good and life had normalcy for me and my sibblings.

High School presented new challenges. I was overweight and wore braces. We had fraternities and sororities and it was considered necessary to join if one intended to be accepted. I did not join for I did not approve of the initiations(pledging) that were mean and had indentured activities ongoing. My father was against it but it was not my choice anyway. This was the first decision I made where I stood on my own. My mother wanted me to join as she is extremely social status conscious. At sixteen, I made the decision to lose weight and the braces came off my teeth. I also belonged to a Jewish Teen Organization that I loved and that was my saving grace in high school. However, for all four years in high school, I had the same homeroom with a boy that bullied me continuously and encouraged others to do the same. School was never emotionally safe for me though I compensated in many ways mostly due to my humor and childlike ability to play with it all. These two personality traits have carried me through the worst of times.

These years of emotional abuse and lack of support for my vulnerability had a lasting effect on me. My decisions as an adult have reflected my feelings of not feeling good enough and the lack of confidence to take care of myself and to know what that really and truly looks like until about 5 years ago at the age of 60. Abandonment issues and the anxiety that accompanied it rendered me powerless at times to stand with myself and to make emotionally healthy decisions. I have been most fortunate to have very loving counselors who led me to the processes that has freed me and given me the opportunity to live a full and happy life.

Twenty-five years ago when my life was falling apart, 2nd failed marriage, a son with significant neurological disabilities and little family support, I began this journey of self=actualization. As part of this journey, I created a character by the name of CJ (Creator of Joy) that would teach children how to emotionally take care of themselves and give them the feelings of being lovable even though their surroundings told them differently. These were the messages and words I so sorely needed to hear as a child. The only Voices I heard told me what was wrong with me. And yes, “We Are The Voices We Hear.” I created the CJ program called, “Joy, What A Way To Feel,” that included a guide for teachers, parents and children of the activities and voices that would help create feelings of worth and well being. I lost CJ to partners for almost ten years. Upon regaining full ownership, I began to complete all the materials and marketing pieces to bring CJ to the preschools in a pilot program that was very successful. I also created 7 other characters that now help CJ teach the program. My research in Emotional Intelligence and my needing to become thus showed me that what CJ was to really teach was the seven attributes of Emotional Intelligence and so six years ago, I rewrote the entire program though the premise remained the same. Financing has been a problem thoughout these years for I had to maintain myself and my children. Working full time did not allow me to complete my dream of making this world emotionally safe for children.

Now I am retired and have technology at my fingertips. I am married to a wonderful man who supports me and who is now on his own self-actualizing journey. Together we hope to reach people far and wide with the message that, We Are the Voices We Hear, so let’s be sure they are kind ones. That means that we must bring an end to bullying and teach our children how to be emotionally intelligent so that their voices will not hurt or demean another.

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