I was going through an old photo album, not on Facebook, but an actual photo album the ones you hold and flip the pages… Yeah, one of those! I was going through a very old one and I came across this picture of young Nono at what looks to be my fourth birthday party at McDonald’s. This was in the late 80s when McDonald’s was great! When we didn’t know that they were selling us genetically modified food. When they still had a great playland that felt like you were escaping to another world. When they gave you those awesome paper crowns! Where are the crowns McDonald’s? I want my crown back! I might even buy something at your establishment again if you still had the crowns, but anyway I digress. Looking at the picture I felt a mixture of emotions. It brought me a lot of joy because I look so content and happy with where I was in life. I obviously dressed myself for the occasion and looked fly according to my four-year-old standards. I was relishing the moment of people I love coming together to celebrate me, and I was ready to dig into that cake; with no thought of what it would do to my waistline.

I also felt hopefulness because I saw that there is/was more to me than what I am currently experiencing. Sometimes when you’re going through something traumatic you forget that anything else ever existed before this season. Your pain and trauma become your past, present, and future and you can’t see life being anything else. I also felt a bit sad and disappointed. I think that young Nono still lives in me somewhere, but life experience, failures, and setbacks have left me feeling like I have failed that young girl. I am not who she would want to grow up to be. If she saw me today I’m sure she would not believe that I was her. Because there was a point in my life, where my thoughts became toxic and that began to change the way I perceived my life and in turn the way I lived it. I am not saying that negative thoughts got me sick but they certainly have kept me in a mental prison where I can’t seem to escape. My mental captivity has lead to my physical being remaining in this constant state of limbo as well, and it is torture. I don’t want her to experience these feelings, so what advice would I give her so that she doesn’t become me?

I would tell her that she is beautiful. I would instill in her that her brown skin, kinky hair and big lips are all perfect. I would tell her to not try to alter her appearance one bit, and not to let anyone relax her hair. I would tell her that disobeying your parents when it comes to your career is not a bad thing. I would encourage her to audition for Julliard and other performing arts colleges because you can make a career out of acting. I would tell her not to waste her energy or love on boys and men who could never treat her and value her the way she deserved. I would tell her to not take good people for granted because they are few and far between. I would tell her to make a better effort to keep in touch with people and to follow up on every lead. I would tell her to trust God more than people. I would make sure she knew that she was not immortal and to live life to the fullest but not recklessly. I would tell her to start a YouTube page in grad school because she will be an early adapter by now, and that can be very financially profitable.

Lastly, I would tell her that the greatest challenge in her life would come in her late 20s, but do not let that change her as a person. To still be happy for others even though she is suffering because one day she will want them to be happy for her. I would tell her to gracefully allow people to help her and that it doesn’t make her weak because she accepts help. In fact, it makes her strong to show vulnerability and imperfection. There is so much more I want to tell my younger self, but something tells me there are a lot of things I could learn from her. For starters, I need to recapture her youthful optimism. It would make me a happier person, and possibly free my captive spirit.

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