I think I speak for the masses (well, those on social media) that have felt like we “know” someone because we see the 1% of their life they want us to see on social media. I’ve gone as far as calling people by their social media username vs their real name (wow, welcome to 2019). This is our generation, this is so me (now). I’ve gotten to experience life before social media, during its evolution and now (full blown social media addict).

The other 99% not shown on social media isn’t there for a reason. We want people to basically “eat with their eyes” so to speak. The more cheery, filtered and enticing the photo, the more “likes” and “engagement” we get. It’s just the name of the game, especially for those using social media to monetize their brand.

I’ve had messages come through to my account (and mind you, I feel like I do try to post some of how my kids actually act and behave), saying that they wish they could be like my family because we’re perfect.

Perfect?!

This stopped me in my tracks because I’ve actually thought the same before about other people’s accounts and this is NOT OKAY. Not at all, not 1%. One of our workers reminded me once “Don’t try to be like their outside when you have no idea what their inside is like.” We don’t, you don’t and I don’t. We don’t know what a person’s story is behind social media, how their upbringing was, what their day to day skeletons look like. It’s an ILLUSION of the masses!

Well, I thought I’d never blog about my actual personal life but I’m on a roll so here I go. Here’s the story of me. The next time you look at my social media account with yummy food pics (Where my kitchen was destroyed behind the scenes), smiling children (who were throwing a tantrum .5 seconds before) and my pretty scenic lake view (that we worked insanely hard to obtain), you’ll know that this is who I am at the core, how I became me and why. Everyone has a story, this is just mine (well, one of them).

It was a normal morning in Brooklyn, NY where I lived with my parents and younger sister. I was 3.5. We lived in an apartment in Brooklyn, which often times had fire alarms where we’d rush down what felt like a million flights of stairs since we couldn’t take the elevator. That’s besides the point. It was a cozy little apartment. I have many fun memories of Christmas and Santa Clause climbing in through our balcony (from VHS tapes and memory somehow). I always wondered growing up how my parents pulled off having the real Santa in our apartment each Christmas but it was every little kid’s dream and I remember it as such. We had a fabulous cleaning lady who also watched me from time to time. She’d let me play with all of the pots and pans under Mom’s kitchen sink.

My mom brought my sister and I down to the underground parking garage where we’d get into our car and she’d take me to school, just like every other day.

Except this day was different. It would change the course of the rest of our lives, all of us.

My mom walked us to our car, but oddly, there was a van parked in our 2nd parking spot, which seemed out of the ordinary.

She figured she’d tell my Dad that someone parked in their spot when she returned and that the van had no license plate, except we didn’t return that day.

The door van slid open. Men with guns jumped out, wearing full ski masks, grabbing us into the van. They left a note on the windshield of my Moms car and then sped off with us.

(Later on, it would be revealed that the building maintenance person was held at gun point prior to this ordeal where his keys and clicker to the building were stolen. This is how they gained entry. The codes and keys were never changed).

It was anyone’s worst nightmare, something you’d only know of on TV if it didn’t happen to you personally but it was happening right before our eyes.

The men didn’t know that I was a pretty smart almost 4 year old and my mom kept repeating for me to read the street signs as we drove. They eventually blindfolded her.

The men took us somewhere, destination unknown, walking us up what felt like metal steps, like a fire escape route.

A dark cold apartment (freezing actually). No furniture, not one piece. Garbage bags covered all of the windows. My mom had no idea where we were – it was a far drive from our parking garage in Brooklyn. I remember they fed us freezing cold food and let my sister and I play with dice while my mom had us in her lap on the floor trying to mitigate any of us getting hurt by these men unknown. I suppose they could have let us starved. Reading the reports back are heart breaking now as a mother myself. “All I kept thinking was if this would be my kids last meal and if the pillows in the room were going to be used to muffle the sounds of gun shots while killing us.”

My mom bundled us tight while my sister started crying. The men kept telling her to shut the baby up. She thought they’d kill us if my sister kept crying. She was also trying to keep her 3 year old occupied and calm on her lap – now that I have one of my own, I know that must’ve been pretty damn difficult (in the freezing, pitch black). The gun man disappeared into the darkness of the barren room.

There are a plethora of other details in our ordeal but about 14 hours later, the gunmen told my mom to pack up our stuff after they were notified my dad had called the cops after finding a ransom note on the windshield of the car in the parking garage. They blindfolded her and walked us down the metal stairs again. They sped off in a car.

Not knowing what to do and thinking they’d come back to shoot us, she ran with us and hid between two cars.

After a while, we ran to a traffic light where my mom found a cop car and tried explaining what had happened.

We were interrogated. The cops took me for hours (alone) driving around the city we’d been taken to by the kidnappers, thinking I’d be able to identify where we were being held hostage but I wasn’t. Unbeknownst to us, 45 cops, detectives and others had been searching for us since the time the ransom note had been found earlier in the day.

The ransom note had threats…to us, our family members. My parents took the kidnappers advice and moved us out of NY.

So here I am, in Florida, 26 years later and that’s why. That’s my story (well, a small part of it.)

The next time you see beautiful pictures on social media, just remember, it’s solely a glimpse into the 1% that person chooses to share with the world. Their life now may not be what is was before or what it was before may not really be what it is now. We’ll never know.

Everyone has their story.

Dedicated to my Mama – she’s one badass mom.

Xo,

Jo

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