Tonza D. Ruffin, My Story, Not My Bio

My girls

I am a woman, single mother, and daughter living in North Carolina. Since 1999 I have dedicated myself to advocating for the voiceless as a criminal defense attorney. In 2016 as a result of a series of unfortunate events I decided to pursue my passion for writing and advocating for women by being transparent about my journey here on this earth.

Growing up, I moved back and forth between the Bronx and Bertie County. Hence, my personality is a little bit city and a little bit country (although I prefer the term southern).

For so many years, I suppressed my dreams and desires. I feared rejection and failure. This fear made me work hard to live the way I thought the world wanted me to live. I excelled academically, I worked hard, I tried to make everyone around me comfortable. Periodically I would rebel against societal standards by acting out. While these acts of rebellion gave me temporary relief from the sense of suffocation I felt, they also gave me a false sense that I was living my life fearlessly. The reality was I was moving further and further away from figuring out who I was and what made me happy. I was being self-destructive. 

My childhood home on Bell Avenue

As a little girl, I was raised in a home where it appeared that my parents were living the “American Dream”. Actually, they were living the “American Dream”. My father had his own auto mechanic’s shop in Mt. Vernon, NY, and my mother was a registered nurse. Through hard work, my mother would say on her part, my parents were able to buy a beautiful English Tudor home on Bell Avenue when they were in their 20’s. Wanting nothing but the best for their little girl, they enrolled me in a private Montessori school and kept me active in extracurricular activities. In fact, I loved gymnastics so much I remember believing that I was going to be the next Nadia Comaneci. The name Nadia Comaneci should give you some insight into how old I am! 🙂

My Mom, Me, and My Dad

Despite this “wonderful” life, I remember feeling a sense of loneliness as a child. There was no doubt that I was being provided for. I was acutely aware of our “material blessings”, but loneliness came because of what the world did not see, what was going on Behind Closed Doors. My father was an incredibly abusive man who managed to mask his rage so only those closest to us knew the hell that existed behind the doors of our beautiful home. From the time that I can remember being aware of my surroundings until the age of 10 when my mother hit her breaking point and escaped, I was thoroughly convinced that my father was going to murder my mother. This fear overrode any happiness that my parents were attempting to provide through education, gymnastics, and a beautiful home.

My law school graduation photo

Once my mother made the leap and escaped from my father’s wrath, we attempted to build some semblance of normalcy, whatever that is. Although I was academically gifted, I was not a studious, docile teenager. In short, I drove my mother crazy! I gave birth to my first daughter at the age of 19, after completing two years of college. When I finished college, I got married and ran off to Atlanta in an attempt to find the “American Dream”. That marriage was so short-lived that I rarely talk about it. I gave birth to my second daughter at the age of 28, after completing law school. I gave birth to my third daughter at the age of 37 because I believed I had grown and was ready to parent the “proper” way. It wasn’t until my second marriage failed that I actually stopped to catch my breath and try to figure out why my life was such a “mess” and looked nothing like the life I dreamed of. Once I really took a step back I realized;

  1. I had no clue who I was as a person
  2. Because I had no clue who I was, I was trying to fit into a mold that the world around me had created for me
  3. I was utterly and completely uncomfortable and unhappy in the mold that the world created for me, but I did not know any other way to be because I had no clue who I was. 

I wish I could tell you that these epiphanies came about all because of my dedication to self-love. The reality is my location (rural North Carolina), and several hiccups after my second divorce forced me to sit down, soul search, and figure it out. I knew in my spirit the path I was on would lead me to an empty existence. Still, I had never taken the time I needed to take to figure out who I was and what would make me happy during this time that I am given here on this earth.

This is the longest period of time that I have been single in my adult life, and sure there are days where I yearn for companionship, but I must say this has been the most rewarding time of my life. All of the energy I have used in my past relationships has been redirected and reinvested into me. I must say I think I have made a pretty good investment.

If you come across me now, you might be taken aback by the person that I am. I laugh loud, I work hard, I play hard, I am adventurous, I am curious, I am driven, I have moments of deep insecurity, I am loving, I am vulnerable, I am explosive (not one of my finer qualities), I dance around my house alone, I am an awful perfectionist which makes my insecurity worse, I sing out loud in my car without any concern for whose watching, I have trust issues, I do not live through my children, I no longer try to force my children into the mold that I created so that I could feel validated as a mother, I am a risk taker, I am guarded in my personal life, I am kind, I am grateful. I am perfectly imperfect and so excited about the rest of my life!

Much love,


***This post was updated on March 24, 2020.

Author: Tonza D Ruffin

southern woman, southern mom, and southern lawyer!

5 thoughts

  1. Thank you for providing the opportunity for me to look through the window of your life. I really enjoy reading your blogs they are refreshing and inspiring. I remember the little girl with the pigtails on Ghent St.

  2. You certainly have accomplished a lot in your life time so far. Meaning you still have so much more you can do. As I’ve said before, you had and have a great roll model, being your Mom. Having said that, you certainly are a wonderful roll model for your children. Very proud to know you and call you a friend.

    1. I am looking forward to the journey ahead. I wholeheartedly agree that there is still so much more I can do and I am excited about the possibilities!

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