A Happy Beginning: A (New) Letter to Emma Swan

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 nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com!

once-upon-time601

Source: ibtimes.com

Dear Emma,

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.

 

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13 thoughts on “A Happy Beginning: A (New) Letter to Emma Swan

  1. “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.”

    That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks and I feel like I need a giant NGN hug. This is such a bittersweet moment, and you have done a great job capturing how important this character has been for a lot of people, myself included. I feel the same way I did when I moved away after graduating college. Having to leave all those good friends and memories to move on to the next chapter. No longer part of my everyday, but always with me and never forgotten.

    The fact that I am putting saying goodbye to this character (and our weekly discussions here) in the same realm as one of the most emotional moments of my life is saying something. This show will forever be linked to the past 6 years of my life. Before OUAT I had gone a good 10 years without being really invested in a TV show, and who knows if I will ever find one that makes me feel the same way again. When the show started I was pretty much the same age as Emma, and in a really good place in my life. In the past couple years as things got harder, following her story became a comfort and an escape, and now that this character is gone I am feeling lost and a bit nostalgic for those good times. But of course I wouldnt trade in one bit of this melancholy for any of the memories that came before. And like Emma, I will always have that fighter in me that will do what I need to survive, while still maintaining that hope that things will get better (even if at times it gets buried pretty deep).

    I have loved coming here for the past 4 years and watching you grow as a writer and a person and I will forever be grateful to this character for inspiring you to start this site, and inspiring me to find it. ❤

    • *sends you a big NGN hug*

      Describing this as the feeling of moving away and leaving your friends behind is PERFECT. It’s knowing you’re all going to go on and have your own stories but you won’t necessarily be part of each other’s anymore. But there’s still that sense that you can visit each other again or relive the memories of this incredible time if you need them.

      I’m so thankful for Emma for so many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is the fact that she brought you to NGN and helped us become friends. We’re going to need to get together soon to celebrate the happy beginning of the character who brought us together. ❤

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Im actually crying in my office right now. Emma will always mean so much to so many of us, and in this letter you have so perfectly articulated why she is so beloved. Thank you for sharing your amazing, vulnerable, and optimistic writing with all of us. You are a gift.

  3. In case anyone was wondering where I was . . . I haven’t actually watched the first two eps of the season yet . . . Honestly, I didn’t want to ruin my memory of the finale, so I was holding off . . . this also means I haven’t actually read Katie’s post yet . . .

    So, looks like I need to watch and read — which I will do. I’ll be back with (hopefully) brilliant pithiness!

    Ok, it’s more likely to be flail-y blathering.

  4. Once again, lovely job on this Katie. I love how you celebrate and highlight the value of story in our lives. Emma Swan and her story has the power to inspire us. I am so glad you found Emma and
    — that she inspired you to fight back and become the amazing Katie that you are
    — that you decided to share your story and journey with us
    — that we got to, not just watch your journey, but make it part of our own stories; we journey together
    — that you created a space for us to discuss and enjoy all the journeys

    Emma inspired us; now we can turn around and inspire others. We have happy beginnings waiting for us.

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