This is the latest in my collection of letters to female characters who’ve inspired me throughout my life as a fangirl. If you have a character you’d like to write a letter to, click here for details about The Fan Mail Project—you have two weeks left to get your letters written!
I’ve tried to start this letter no less than 10 times in 10 different ways. In fact, I’m sitting right now with tear tracks on my face because I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect way to start this letter for the last hour, and nothing’s felt right. I want this letter to be perfect because you mean so much to me. I want it to be the best letter I write for this project that was inspired in no small way by the impact you’ve had on my life.
But the start of this letter doesn’t have to be perfect—none of it has to be perfect. Because the biggest lesson you’ve taught me is that it’s okay to be imperfect; it’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to admit that you’re struggling. Your story taught me to take the parts of myself that I see as weaknesses and make them strengths, to acknowledge that my imperfections and flaws are a part of me, and to use that acknowledgement to grow into a better and stronger version of myself. So if this tribute is flawed, that doesn’t mean it’s without value. You taught me that, and that lesson changed my life.
We’ve been on a long journey together, Beckett. I’ve watched Castle since the pilot episode, and I’ve admired your character just as long. From the start, I loved your confidence and competence, your inability to suffer fools, your hair, and your coat collection. You were the reason I bought my first pair of stilettos and my first trench coat. It was your picture I brought to the salon when I decided to get red highlights in my hair. And, thanks to you, I hardly ever go to Starbucks without ordering a skinny vanilla latte.
But something changed during Season Four of Castle. Your story became the story. You’d always been a hero, but the narrative was suddenly laser-focused on you becoming your own hero. And that story helped me reclaim my story. It helped me see myself as a protagonist and not just a supporting player in other people’s stories. In becoming your own hero, you taught me how to become my own hero.
Season Four of Castle aired during a difficult time in my life. I was anxious more often than not about the direction my life was going in. I didn’t love the work I was doing at my job. I felt insecure about my appearance. And I was completely convinced that I would never be truly happy until I was in a romantic relationship. In fact, I was completely convinced that I would never be truly happy at all. I’m a perfectionist, and, at that time, I believed that meant being miserable if there were aspects of myself and my life I considered imperfect. I didn’t think I deserved to be content with an imperfect life. I didn’t think I deserved to be happy.
And then “Kill Shot” happened.
That episode was nothing like I expected it to be. As you struggled with your PTSD, Castle wasn’t there every step of the way, acting as your knight in shining armor. You didn’t decide to work on your deeper emotional issues in therapy because you wanted to be worthy of his love or because you thought he deserved the best version of you. You spent most of the episode alone—or with Esposito, a friend who understood and related to your struggle in a way Castle couldn’t. And when you decided to open up to your therapist, it was because you wanted to do it for yourself. You wanted to be a better version of you not because Castle deserved it but because you deserved it. Yes, you knew that getting help would hopefully allow you to be ready to have the kind of relationship you wanted with the man you loved, but that was just part of the story. You weren’t just a character written to love and be loved by the male lead. You were a character written to fight her own battles.
You thought that you wouldn’t be whole until you got justice for your mother. You thought you couldn’t be truly content until you put the man who killed her behind bars. But what you came to discover was that Castle was right when he said that you deserved to be happy but you were afraid. You were keeping yourself from happiness because you believed you were damaged goods. But at the end of “Kill Shot,” you decided to take Esposito’s words to heart and to start accepting yourself as you were but also acknowledging that you have the potential to be more.
“I want to be more than who I am.”
Those words have stuck with me for years. They remind me that I have the potential to be more than my flaws, more than my anxieties, and more than my insecurities—that they don’t have to define me or direct the outcome of my life. They remind me that I have the power to take control of my story. And they remind me that it’s never too late to change for the better because I want to—not because someone else tells me I should.
By the end of that season, you finally discovered what it meant to be more than who you were. And it didn’t mean checking off all the things you believed you needed to accomplish before you could let yourself be loved. Instead, it meant becoming more willing to believe you were enough exactly as you were. And it meant becoming more open to the possibility that you wouldn’t be letting anyone down by choosing your own happiness.
When you stopped chasing dangerous leads in your mother’s case and, instead, let your heart lead you to Castle’s doorstep, you made me believe it was okay to feel good about myself and my life even though I hadn’t achieved everything I’d planned on achieving yet. And that was something I’d never felt before.
I’m still a perfectionist, and there are still times when I beat myself up over not having accomplished all the things I want to do yet. But I’m happy. And I’d be lying if I said you had nothing to do with that. You taught me that I deserve happiness no matter what I’ve done with my life. You taught me that I don’t have to be miserable to be driven. In fact, you finally accomplished getting justice for your mother long after you stopped letting that case all but destroy your life. You were able to accomplish more working from a place of peace and self-acceptance than you were ever able to accomplish before. And that’s inspired me to work toward peace and self-acceptance in my own life.
There are a billion other things I could also thank you for. Thank you for being a nerd—for loving science fiction and soap operas with intense emotional attachment, defying every stereotype of how a “nerdy girl” should look and act. Thank you for making me feel like it was good to be complex and that it was okay to have layers I’m not comfortable sharing with everyone right away. Thank you for making mistakes and falling back into old habits, because it makes me feel like it’s okay to struggle sometimes with being the best version of myself.
Thank you for always being more than just a pretty face, but also, thank you for reinforcing the idea that you can be feminine and strong without having to give up one or the other. Thank you for always being more than just a love interest, but also, thank you for reinforcing the idea that loving someone and letting them love you doesn’t make you weak.
But most of all, thank you for helping me believe that being imperfect and being truly happy aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. That’s an extraordinary lesson, and I’m incredibly grateful that I learned it from such an extraordinary character.