I know I’ve already written one of these, but so much has happened in both Emma’s journey and mine since I wrote my first letter to her that I needed to write something new. This is also felt like the right way to say goodbye to a character who has meant so much to me. If you’re interested in writing a letter like this one to a female character who’s inspired you, this post has all the details about The Fan Mail Project! And if you’ve already written a letter to Emma (or any other character) but want to change any part of it, you can always send me an edited version at firstname.lastname@example.org!
As I watched you and your husband step toward a portal to return home to live a happy life with your growing family, it hit me…
This might be the last thing I ever write about you.
I’ve written thousands of words about you over some of the most tumultuous years of my 20s, and as I approach this last post, I keep thinking about what could possibly sum up the journey we’ve been on together for more than half a decade.
When I started writing about your story, my entire life changed. I wrote things that reflected parts of myself I never imagined showing to the world. As I wrote about your discovery that there is bravery in vulnerability, I became a more vulnerable writer because I wanted to be brave like you. As I wrote about your story, I began to write my own story.
I found myself as I wrote about you finding yourself.
Needless to say, it’s a little intimidating to think of how I can put all that into a proper tribute. But because you taught me that opening your heart is the most heroic thing you can do, I’m going to try.
I believe that people are brought into our lives for a reason, and that includes fictional people. You came along exactly when I needed you. I felt stuck. I felt stuck in a job that wasn’t fulfilling, stuck pining for someone who didn’t care about me, stuck in a negative mindset that I thought I had to develop to fit in with the adult world.
I was letting things happen to me. I was letting other people define me. I was letting the negative voices around me and inside me tell me who I was supposed to be.
Then, on a cold New Year’s Day in 2012, I watched you say these words, and my life was never the same:
“People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You’ve just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’”
That day, I made a resolution to start a blog that would be filled with the kind of writing I wanted to do, and I started down a path toward finally punching back and telling the world who I am.
I’ll never be able to find the perfect words to say how much watching you learn to define yourself on your terms allowed me to do the same. So I suppose I’ll just say thank you. Thank you for being a work in progress from the first moment we saw you onscreen to the last—forever an imperfect princess, a flawed savior, a hero with hang-ups. You made me feel like I didn’t have to have it all together to be a hero; I could have moments of fear, weakness, and self-doubt and still be strong.
In fact, you showed me that the strongest people acknowledge those moments and lean on their loved ones when they feel overwhelmed. You can still save yourself and be your own hero when you draw strength from the people who love you in difficult times—that’s a lesson we as women aren’t taught enough. We’re too often taught that strength means doing it all on our own, and I will always be grateful to you for teaching me and so many other women that lessons like that are built on a lie. Love gave you strength, love gave you magic, and love gave you the power to believe.
Your story was a story of belief, and it was made all the more relatable because you didn’t come by that belief easily. You were the kind of Disney princess grown women could relate to—a woman who had loved and lost and learned that the world can be cruel. You were older than your average animated princess and had reached a point in your life where you had all but given up on things like True Love and having a family of your own, and that’s a place I sometimes find myself in, too. But you never gave up hope completely—you still wished on that blue star candle, you still stayed in Storybrooke, and you still took a chance when a pirate offered you his heart. And because of that, when I find myself beginning to doubt, I think of you, and it inspires me to never stop hoping—because if you could still find it in yourself to believe, I can do the same.
You taught me that happiness is possible if you allow yourself to believe in it. You spent a lot of time fearing true happiness because life had taught you that the other shoe always drops. I know that feeling all too well. When things are going well in my life, I can sometimes become paralyzed by the fear of it all going away. But you showed me that fear is just another thing that tries to tell us who we are. And when fear tries to define me, I’ve learned to follow your example and punch back.
Sometimes you can punch back on your own, but sometimes you need help. And I’m so grateful to you for showing me that there is no shame or weakness in admitting when you’re struggling. Watching you learn to cry, to accept comfort, and even to talk to a therapist (or a humanized cricket/conscience—but the point still stands) gave me the strength to find healthy ways to deal with fear and other overwhelming emotions.
I had almost stopped believing when you came into my life. But you reminded me on that cold New Year’s Day and nearly every day since that belief is a choice; optimism is a decision—and it’s a decision I have the power to make. Choosing to believe allowed you to become the best version of yourself, and it did the same for me. Your story helped me believe that I had the power to define myself on my own terms, and I am a better, happier person because I allowed myself to believe I could be.
Even in your last moments onscreen, you never stopped inspiring me. Watching you fully embrace and walk confidently into your happy beginning once again inspired me to believe that my story is just beginning, too. Your story isn’t over, and neither is mine. Even though I won’t be writing about you anymore, the lessons you taught me will never leave me. Your story will continue every time I choose to let myself be happy, every time I allow myself to be vulnerable, and every time I choose to believe in myself.
Years ago, you taught me that love is strength. I loved writing about you, and that love made me stronger than I ever believed I could be.
Thank you for the magic.
Thank you for the memories.
Thank you for the moments I’ll carry with me forever.