Stephanie Butland

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Thank you, everyone who entered my life-affirming birthday competition. I was really impressed by all that everyone managed to do with 250 words. The winner is Emma Whitehall – you’ll find her piece below, and if you want to find out more about her, her website is here. I love the central premise that life-affirming is not the same as happy – many of you touched on that theme – and the idea that there are times when we meet our former selves, and reach a helping hand out to them. (In fact, I remembered writing about those things myself, in the context of The Human League here and Duran Duran here. Oh yeah. Cut me and I bleed New Romantic.)

So, please enjoy Emma’s life-affirming story below, but before you do – honourable mentions to the following, who wrote thought-provoking pieces that I really enjoyed. Thank you all: Emily Field, Robert Howard, Samantha Newbury, Fiona Sharp,  and Nichola Wilks.

A letter to 18 year old me, crying in a campus bathroom.

Emma Whitehall

Right, first things first – he’s a dickhead. I’m sorry, I know he plays guitar like Slash and has that perfect rockstar hair, but he is not worth all those nights you spend grinding yourself into the dirt. If he looks at you and just sees a convenient distraction, that’s his loss.

Please don’t give up. There’s so much waiting for you in the future; new friends and adventures and love that drowns this out a thousand times over. And, one day, you’ll check Facebook and find that this teenage rockstar dreamboat has turned into someone’s dad. And you’ll laugh. I promise.

You weren’t made to be a lapdog. You’re going to write beautiful things – strange, beautiful things, full of emotion, and fuck anyone who thinks you’re weird right now because you prefer vampire novels to “Look Back in Anger”. There are anthologies and magazines and even rooms full of people who are just waiting for writing like yours. Telling stories always was our first love, and that’s never going to leave you. You know how Granda says “don’t hide your light under a bushel”? He’s right.

You’re smart and funny and creative and so very brave. You love so passionately, and so easily. Don’t let the wonderful parts of you shrivel up and die in this bathroom when you have so much life to live beyond these walls, and beyond that boy.

I’m waiting for you.


29 year old you.

(c) Emma Whitehall 2017