A few weeks ago I saw an interview with Jodi Jill, a woman her spent her childhood living in a storage unit, and although her story brought tears to my eyes, I also saw a light in her and her beautiful soul shined so bright.
I knew I had to find her and ask if I could write about her story on my blog. I’m so thankful she agreed. I hope her courage and her story will inspire you and show you that with a little faith, hope, and courage, anything is possible.
This is Jodi’s story.
Jodi Jill was raised in a 10 by 20 storage unit from the age of 7 until she turned 22 and counted 173 people who knew of her secret and didn’t try to help.
It’s heartbreaking to me to know that not only did she endure a life in which she was cut off from the world and not even allowed to go to school, but to know that nobody had the courage to reach out and help her and her siblings.
Her life wasn’t always like this, in fact from birth till the age of 7 she lived in a house with her parents and her sister in Iowa. Then one day, her parents told her that they were moving to a new house and they packed up and left town.
They ended up in Loveland Colorado in a 10 by 20 storage unit and Jodi was told that they would spend only one night there. Sadly when the morning came, the family didn’t leave and in fact Jodi lived in that storage unit for the next 15 years.
I was in total shock when I saw her story trying to picture in my mind what life was like for this little girl living in a storage unit. My boyfriend and I have a storage unit and anytime we need to go and put something in or get something out, I just want to hurry up and get out of there. It’s so small and confining and it’s so hard for me to understand why anyone would live in one. In fact Jodi doesn’t understand to this day why her family chose this life.
Her parents told her that everyone hated them and although Jodi didn’t understand why, eventually she started believing it. I know as an adult it’s difficult to think that someone may hate us but for a child to be taught to believe that she is hated is unimaginable to me.
This precious little girl didn’t even have any toys growing up and she didn’t have friends to go out and play with like normal kids do, and worst of all, she was denied an education by her parents.
Her parents never taught her how to read and at one point the family decided to start visiting a library, so when Jodi was 15 she taught herself how to read by listening to cassette tapes which had matching books.
She learned many things from books and most important of all, she learned that the life she lived was not a normal life. She realized that outside of the storage unit, there was a whole world that she had yet to experience. Longing to experience the world outside the storage unit Jodi and her sister ran away after she realized that people who are old enough don’t have to all live together.
It wasn’t easy for her and there was quite a focus on her parents keeping them close. It took her months to break it down, but at some point it became more of a hassle to house 5 people in a storage unit then it did to let them go and her parents became really focused on some real negative issues that had their attention more then the children did.
Free at last for the first time in years, Jodi and her sister enjoyed the life of freedom that they were denied for so many years living in that small storage unit. I’m sure it was scary for the 2 girls out alone in the world, but at the same time it must have been exciting as well because they finally had the freedom to experience the many wonderful things life has to offer us.
It reminds me of how lucky I am to have been raised in a life in which I received an education and was allowed to have friends and toys and playtime and all of the things that most of us had as children.
If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud. Emile Zola
Jodi fell in love with books and a few years after Jodi and her sister left home, she created a job for herself as a literary agent. She also loved writing and at the age of 32 she published her first book Tours for Free Colorado in which she wrote about the fun and free things she experienced in Colorado after leaving the storage unit.
She stayed in Colorado for several years and although she changed her last name, her Mom ended up finding Jodi and her sister so Jodi decided to leave Colorado and head out to Los Angeles to create a brand new life for herself. After moving to Los Angeles Jodi’s love of reading and writing lead her to a job as a columnist for the examiner.com writing a column about celebrities.
Jodi still has many fears and not everything has gone away. She treats each individually by trying to understand every issue before beginning. She doesn’t try to rationalize but instead recognize what is real and what is feeling. She says dividing these up really makes a difference for her. It cuts down on fear as she walks through the process knowing that she doesn’t need to excuse how she feels, but instead be brave enough to address what she does know.
At the end of the day, she is still scared, but excited because she has learned so much in the process. Living the storage unit was terrifying and she still finds days she feels lack in understanding how things work, but she knows that this process in an on going work.
It was difficult for her to rebuild her life after being secluded from the world for so long and there are still issues that she finds shocking that she didn’t know and still doesn’t understand to this day.
But she tries to treat everything as an adventure and brace for the best. She fails and she succeeds and she finds herself laughing at things because she didn’t understand and her original impression was different than what it really was.
A perfect example of this is something so silly like the chicken chain of “Popeye’s.” For years she always wondered why the Pope would say yes to chicken and name a store like that. She ended up going in one day and when they said the word out loud, she recognized it had nothing to do with the Vatican.
I asked Jodi how she stays so positive after enduring the life she lived with her family and she said she loves to make people smile and she loves to be positive. She tends to shy away from people and situations of any caliber that are gripping, whiny, or negative.
She feels it’s better to see a sunset alone and appreciate what life has given her then to hang out with contagious, chronic grumps. She consciously makes this choice and keeps her home, life and actions in a very positive, happy focus. Of course we all experience rotten days, but most of the time she feels that your situation is what makes your attitude.
I asked Jodi who inspires her and why and she says Walt Disney is her biggest inspiration because his impact on families make smiles on faces and wishes she could make an impact even in a tenth of a sliver as he did. She says what makes us cherish life can be spread by a simple action and feels Walt Disney showed that.
Her other inspiration is Stan Lee and feels his creativity is amazing and yet his humble attitude is one of awe. He is an amazing example of a creative individual who has found a way to impact our world and all his fans smile too.
When I asked Jodi what advice she would give others on how to rebuild a life after enduring something so painful and how to move on she said that moving on is a huge prospect that can be very overwhelming but she figured out where she wanted to be, decided what is healthy and ran for it.
She said you need to forgive yourself for being in the situation, drop the dead weight whether its friends or situations, be thankful for the lessons you learned along the way, and then start moving forward.
She said don’t look back, don’t badmouth and most important of all, don’t ever give up. You can’t control where you came from, but destiny is where you can flourish.
Although Jodi endured a painful life for 15 years living in that storage unit, what drew me to her story was the fact that no matter how painful that life must have been for her, she was so courageous and brave and knew she wanted more for herself and not only broke free, but imagined and created a life she loves for herself.
As I watched her on the Jeff Probst show I saw a remarkable woman who reminded me that no matter what we have faced in life, we have the choice to either remain in a place of sadness, anger, and pain, or we can choose to create the life we truly want for ourselves.
Jodi is 42 now, and is a successful columnist for examiner.com. She still loves going to Disneyland and although she has never been on a date or had a boyfriend, I have no doubt in my mind that there is a very special man who will find his why to this amazing woman.
I’m so grateful to have connected with Jodi and I hope her story inspires you as much as it has inspired me, and I hope you always remember that anything truly is possible if you believe it is.
Always Remember that you are Beautiful, Strong, Powerful, Fearless, Amazing, Divine, and most important of all YOU ARE ENOUGH! Divine Diva Donna
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