This is my newest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about a lot of characters over the years, but you’re the one I’ve written about the most. Writing about you pushes me to be more vulnerable, more honest, and more open—even when it’s terrifying. You’ve made me a braver writer, which has made me a better writer. And somewhere along the way—as I started writing all those posts and essays about your journey on Once Upon a Time—I started becoming a braver and better person, too.
Writing about you demands bravery that matches your own. But one of the things I love most about you is that your courage runs so much deeper than vanquishing villains and traveling to unknown realms. Breaking the Dark Curse at the end of Season One wasn’t accomplished because you fought a dragon. It happened because you were brave enough to finally believe you could truly love someone and have them truly love you, too. I don’t face too many dragons in my everyday life, but I do know what it’s like to be afraid to open your heart to people. So thank you for giving me an example of bravery I can relate to.
Thank you, also, for giving me an example of optimism I can relate to. Optimism is a part of your genetic makeup. However, heartbreak made you believe that shutting down those parts of you that wanted to hope would protect you from being hurt again. You spent so long looking over your shoulder—preparing for another disappointment—that you didn’t let yourself see potential happiness when it was right in front of you. And when you did see that potential happiness, it scared you. You feared that for every good moment, a bad one was waiting right around the corner. It was impossible for you to believe things could simply be good.
I know that fear all too well. I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, which means I’ve spent too much time preparing for something bad to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was hard for me to appreciate good moments, because I was often worrying about the potential bad moments to come. My natural instinct is to be hopeful, but as you face the disappointments that come with growing up, sometimes it feels safer to just stop hoping.
That was the state of mind I was in when I discovered Once Upon a Time. Then, I started watching your story develop, and I started writing about that development. I saw someone who was scared to hope letting herself believe in the possibility of good things. I saw someone who was often too focused on bad moments starting to accept that things can be good. I saw someone choosing to be happy, and it didn’t make her naïve or weak; it made her stronger than ever.
So thank you, Emma, for showing me that optimism is a choice, and I have the strength and power to choose it. You’ve shown me that it takes true strength to choose to be happy when life gives you plenty of reasons to worry. It’s been incredibly inspiring to watch you find reasons to smile, even when things around you aren’t perfect. Because things will never be perfect. There’s always going to be good and bad, light and dark. Thank you for showing me that the important thing is choosing to see the best instead of the worst—both in situations and in people.
You’ve taught me so much: that love is strength, that self-acceptance is its own kind of magic, and that sometimes you have to punch back and tell the world, “No, this is who I am.” But perhaps the most important thing you’ve taught me is that good things happen when you open your heart to the power of hope.
There’s a special kind of bravery that comes from letting yourself hope that someone can love you for exactly who you are. That bravery as shown through your relationship with Hook has meant the world to me, as a young woman still waiting to find that kind of love. You’ve done so many heroic things, but I still think one of the most impressive things you’ve ever done was sharing your box of mementos from your past with Hook. To find the courage to trust someone with the things that made you who you are—for better and for worse—is no small feat. That scene and so many others like it have helped me hold on to the hope that I might be able to find that kind of love in my own life—love that makes me stronger because I feel supported and safe to be my truest self.
I’m grateful for your relationship with Hook, but I’m also grateful for the fact that it’s not the only important relationship in your life. Romantic love is a big part of your life, but so is love for your parents, your son, your brother, your friends, and yourself. You’re not defined by just one role or one relationship, and that makes me feel like I can draw strength from all kinds of love in my own life, too.
You’re the hero of your own story, Emma. And you’ve helped me see that I can be the hero of my own story, too. I can do that by choosing to keep my heart open, choosing to see the best in people I love, and fighting for my own happiness and the happiness of others.
Thank you, Emma, for growing into a better version of yourself, because it’s helped me grow into a better version of myself. Thank you for always feeling relatable—from your love of grilled cheese sandwiches to your desire to punch people in the face when they make you mad. Thank you for being a mess sometimes, because it’s helped me embrace the messy parts of myself, too. And thank you for showing me there are so many ways to be brave.
I’m a happier, stronger person because of you and your story. And if that’s not a reason to say thank you, then I don’t know what is.