Creative Writing

“If I could give you just one gift” – A Christmas Letter to My Younger Self

The piece you’re about to read is the fifth in a collection of introspective, raw and impactful pieces to be published here on MEDUSA. You’re in luck, because this one is a Christmas special, too! 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.

Emily Walters, co-founder of MEDUSA, is the beautifully talented writer, linguist and artist behind this festive and heartfelt piece.

Emily explores the challenges of self-confidence, self-compassion and self-acceptance. Her words are witty, honest and welcome you into the wonderfully vivid palace of her mind. This letter is a mirror for so many young women and I hope its warmth provides some respite in these testing times.

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


Teenage Em, 

If I could give you just one gift, each Christmas for the rest of your life, it would be this: confidence. Well, either that or another book.

In all seriousness, I want you to remember that there are countless differences between confidence and arrogance. Having just a little more faith in yourself absolutely won’t mean that you’re suddenly mistaken for someone who’s had it all handed to them, never been told ‘no’ or never been capable of truly empathising with someone else’s perspective. Confidence will allow you to soften that tight, anxious grip on things; to stop depending on external validation. Know that neither confidence nor arrogance is the exclusive domain of the undeniably attractive, privately-educated or effortlessly charming. You can flourish thanks to one without repulsing people with the other. I want you to always know that you deserve the strength that comes from confidence; a strength that allows you to accept – without doubt or hesitation – the love, friendship and opportunities of which you are worthy. 

This gift of confidence will prevent you from becoming a collector of red flags. It will teach you that any thought about yourself too cruel to say to a friend is to be immediately expelled. Allow this magical, radical confidence to shrink and unravel all the hours lost in the cul-de-sac of your mind berating yourself for the silly things you’ve done or said or believed. On that note – there are a few things I cannot emphasise starkly enough. You do not need to change your shape to feel or be found attractive. Those who seek to put you down are merely expressing their own insecurities. People who become frustrated when you set boundaries are likel y the ones who benefitted from you not having them. And, finally, just as being pretty isn’t a rent you pay to occupy the space called woman, neither is excelling academically or in your career. Remain grateful for all you’ve achieved, keep grafting and giving your responsibilities your all, but stop allowing yourself to see grades and scores and milestones as measures of your worth. In this terrible, inextricable capitalist system, it’s a righteous act of rebellion to be content with who you are and what you have. 

BUT, just like it’s exhausting and impossible to make every single one of your choices flawlessly align with your ideal moral compass, it’s exhausting and impossible to constantly maintain the unwavering positivity of your brightest moments. So, try to accept fearing uncertainty, knowing you’ll be able to embrace it as opportunity with patience and time. Let go of the contradictions and stumbles; they’re just chances to keep figuring things out. I promise I won’t allow all that you go through to have been for nothing.

Anyway, this wasn’t ever intended to be a letter weighed down by emotional imperatives, and, I imagine you’re most eager to know where you, or we, are at now. Well, it’s Christmas 2020, a glimmer of excitement at the end of a year that even the most unfazed of people would describe as tumultuous. Above all else, I want you to know that you get to spend this year with someone so kind and good that no amount of time as the sole guardians of your shared solitude would be long enough. I’d give you more details, but sorry – spoilers! I will reveal however, you’ve finally successfully committed to being vegetarian. You’ve also turned your love of words and languages and correctly placed apostrophes into your profession. You’ve made friends from all over the world and delightedly held on tightly those you’ve always loved. You’ve been to incredible places with incredible people. You’re giving young creatives the courage and opportunity to share their writing, art and the causes that matter to them. In the spirit of embracing uncertainty, I’ll stop now and leave you to fill in the rest of the gaps. So, don’t ever let go of those philosophies you seek to live by: know more today about the world than you did yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. They really will stand you in good stead. 

You’re so blessed that Christmas has always been a time spent cherishing the company of those you love – never, ever take that for granted. Give everyone some extra, unexplained hugs from me, 


Find Emily on Twitter and Instagram.

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