I met you several years ago, before Netflix ever thought of a film. You leapt off page after book page, and I felt something like regret: I wished I had met you sooner. I wished I had gotten to know your indefatigable personality, individuality, and intelligence when I was an awkward teenage girl, not when I had already entered my manic pixie spinster adulthood… I told people to meet you, to share you with their students and children, but I couldn’t quite shake that feeling that we’d met at the wrong time.
You see, Enola, I met Mary Russell at the perfect time—just as I was passing out of adolescence and into adulthood. I identified with her; I grew up with her. I have found immense solace in watching her age and mature at the same rate as myself. It seemed as though meeting your stories, then hers, would have been perfect.
A few years after I met you, I met your creator. Not all authors are interesting, and some are incredibly unable to speak well about their own creations. Nancy wasn’t like that; she was magical, in a down-to-earth, refreshing way. When I met Nancy, I remembered how I had felt about you—a prick of something. I learned about the experiences and thoughts that gave rise to you, and I understood you better, I think.
Finally, they made your film, and I watched it, and I realized: What I had always felt wasn’t actually regret that I hadn’t met you as a young girl. What you made me feel, Enola, was the pain of reconnecting with the young girl I once was. Within a familiar, loved context, the Sherlockian world, you took me on a journey of reopening old wounds and seeing—really seeing—myself as I once was, the awkward, smart girl who felt like she never fit in and tried not to want to but couldn’t help it.
Your emotions were raw, your despair at feeling forced into the prison of expectations almost unbearable because of how relatable it was. I saw you, and I saw my past self.
I didn’t meet you at the wrong time, Enola. I just needed to realize what you were showing me. Just as Mr. Holmes uses Doyle’s characters to explore concepts of aging and death, and works like Arthur & George explore issues of race and religion in Doyle’s life, those of us who love Holmes and his world can learn about many things through it—even ourselves.
I met you at the right time, when I was finally old enough to face the hurts, fears, insecurities, and victories that led me through an awkward, troubled adolescence and onto the journey of trying to find grace in an unusual identity. You made me look in the mirror and see my vulnerable, brave, scrappy younger self, and you challenged me to be proud of her, just as I’m proud of you when I read and watch your stories.
Thank you for being yourself, Enola Holmes. You’ve helped me learn to love who I used to be and, in so doing, become just a little better at being myself.