Dear Young Tonj…

A couple of weeks ago my cousin posted a photo of us (my cousins, sister, and mom) on Instagram for Throwback Thursday. I immediately became nostalgic because I remember that day vividly. We were at our house in Belleville, and headed to Sea World. Before we left, we danced around the living room and took pictures. It was great. I fell back in love with a picture I has seen a million times. Then I noticed something. I noticed me AKA Young Tonj.


This picture generated all kind of warmfeelings in my heart. I loved this little girl. She was so happy and free and dancing. This is probably the only picture I have of myself dancing. This is before words like violence, divorce, fire, racism, insecurity, heartache, and death held any weight or meaning in my life. I was just a worry free kid. I had no idea that within months of this photo, my life would look completely different. I’ll be honest, I look sad or angry in a lot of my childhood pictures. When I see this Young Tonj, I can’t help but to feel sad for her. If I could talk to her now I would say this:

Dear Young Tonj, 

Life may seem hard, but trust me, you will survive. You may not understand what is going on now, but one day everything will make sense. You are a special, important, and one of kind kid. You are loved. Keep smiling, smiling will get you through difficult times. Be brave. Your courage will comfort you even when you feel like giving up. Although you can’t stand your sister sometimes, she is your biggest ally and sometimes she is all you have. Young Tonj you are amazing just the way you are. Young Tonj you are always enough. 





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