Creative Writing

“I am learning not to make museums of people” – A Letter to My Younger Self

The piece you’re about to read is the second in a collection of introspective, raw and impactful pieces to be published here on MEDUSA. Motivated by the cathartic power of writing and reflecting, many of our contributors are sharing the words they would offer to their younger selves if they were able to travel back, reach out and subdue the uncertainties they encountered earlier on in their lives. With such an open-ended prompt, the letters divulge a myriad of memories, affording insights into challenges faced, extending words of wisdom and ultimately honouring and acknowledging how much the author has grown and learned.

Ellie Nightingale, writer, historian and frequent MEDUSA-contributor is the wonderfully creative author of this poetic and meditative piece.
Her writing courageously navigates loss, complicated relationships and how to deal with failure – we’re confident you’ll find her musings on accepting change, learning when to hold on and when to let go as fascinating and hopeful as we did.

Take a few moments of calm to enjoy and let us know your thoughts,


At only 22, I’m aware there is something quite ironic in wondering what I’d say to my younger self. Perhaps worryingly too, I have a plethora of options as to what I would go back and recount. But when I sat down to look at what united so many of the challenges I’ve faced, relating to friendship, relationships or general hurdles along the way, there was one common thread

See, I am learning to not make museums of people.

As long as I’ve known, I have been a person who struggles with change; I cling on to the past, I allow nostalgia to consume every inch of my body, I perform continuous autopsies of my history.

My reluctance towards change is what leads me to create – what I like to call – “museums of people”. When I experience a loss, no matter how big or small, I bestow upon myself the title of “museum curator” – and I take my responsibilities seriously. I curate countless text messages, social media interactions, photos… and I safeguard them. Some time ago, I decided that I was responsible for protecting the memories between those lost and me; such a burden weighs heavily upon my shoulders –  but I continue. These scattered collections of past memories soon transform into a sprawling mental museum of loss.

I’ve come to realise that while loss and grief are excruciatingly painful, they are also natural parts of life. When I anointed myself the protector of all my memories, I didn’t bring the lost thing back, but I did stop myself moving forward: a complete state of inertia which was useful to no one, especially not myself.

No shining revelations appear no matter how long you perform futile autopsies on failed relationships or friendships or situations – that I can assure you. You loved, and then you lost. You were friends, and then you weren’t. You tried, and you didn’t succeed. Sometimes, that is simply how life goes. In fact, I’m becoming increasingly open to the fact that my perceived failures are so often a redirection. As daunting as it may be, there is so much freedom to be found in change.

I may never lose my nostalgic tendencies, but each day I wake up and I choose to live in the world of the present moment. Some days are harder than others of course. Yet, every step, no matter how small, is another step in the right direction – forward, forward, forward.
If I could tell my younger self one thing then, it would be this – step away from your role as curator of all that is lost. Step away, turn and face the door, walk outside into now. Ask yourself, where shall I go? Who shall I meet? What shall I do next?

If you’d like to share a letter of your own, get in touch!

Follow Ellie on Instagram and Twitter.

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