I’m not going to say that I moved around a whole ton when I was a kid or anything like that. One place as an infant, one place as a child, one place as a teenager, that’s about it – enough, at least, that there’s no one geographical spot in this world that I consider to be my home. No, there’s only one thing that gives me that sense of belonging, of warmth and childhood familiarity, and that’s when I hear Hedwig’s Theme playing.
I don’t really remember my life before Harry Potter. It seems to me that I was born the moment that the book was first opened, the new spine cracking audibly and my world filled with the smell of fresh ink on musty paper. And that simple act, that simple book borne from the mind of a woman who, chances are, I’ll never meet, changed me in ways that I’ll never fully understand, because really, I’ll never really be without it.
For a long time, when people asked me why I wanted to be a writer and when I was still desperate to come up with a story to explain it, I’d tell them that it was because of Harry Potter. Now, whether or not that’s true is hard to say – my mother tells me that I loved books and storytelling even before J.K. Rowling came into my life, but I do remember there being a large part of my childhood where I didn’t just think “I want to be a writer” – I thought “I want to be a writer and create worlds like Harry Potter”. And to a certain extent, that has always stayed with me, to this very day. Fantasy has always been my calling. It’s the genre that I most enjoy writing, and it’s the genre that I actively seek out as often as possible. I idolize people like J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis – people who took the fantasy genre and made it their own, adapted it to tell the stories that they were meant to tell. To a certain extent, I get almost offended when someone refers to fantasy as “low-brow” or a “non-academic genre”, as though their saying so is a personal attack against a very important part of myself. Because at this point, it is a part of myself. Fantasy came upon me with the very first reading of Harry Potter, and it nestled into my heart and soul.
I remember reading an article a few years back, as well, reflecting on the generation of children that were raised on Harry Potter and making the claim that these kids were raised to be much more compassionate, much more understanding, and much more open-minded. At the time, I hadn’t really thought of the ways that Harry Potter had changed my mind as well as my life. After all, it had always been there. I couldn’t even say that I was ‘obsessed’ with it, really, because it was just a part of my life, something that I lived with the way that I lived with having hands, or breath, or a face. I just couldn’t imagine my life without it, so I didn’t consider the ways in which it had changed my thinking. But looking back now, I definitely think it did.
Hermione Granger taught me that if there was something I believed in, whatever it might be, I needed to stand up and fight for it. She taught me that ignoring problems and simply letting them be doesn’t fix them, and even if your voice is nothing more than a small shout in the wind, at least it’s a voice. At least you’re doing something.
Severus Snape taught me that even the cruelest, most unpleasant people in our lives are still people. They have still loved and hurt, and they are simply trying to do the best that they can in a world that can be so cruel at times, even if their best doesn’t always come across as enough.
Ronald Weasley taught me that it is totally possible to be important, loved, and wanted even when you don’t feel like you are. You might think that you are nothing more than one in a large set, easily lost and forgotten amongst the rest, but that doesn’t mean that everyone sees you that way. There is no way that Harry would have defeated Voldemort without Ron’s love, friendship, and support, and yet Ron saw himself as the disposable member of the team – which is something that I think all of us need to remember when we start to feel that way ourselves.
Albus Dumbledore taught me that even our heroes are little more than human. Not even greatest person on this earth is infallible – every single one of us have made mistakes, said the wrong thing, even hurt people at some point, but that doesn’t necessarily make us bad. So it does no one any good to put people on pedestals, but neither does it help anything to pretend that someone’s shortcomings undoes all the good that they are simultaneously responsible for.
And Harry Potter – sweet, flawed Harry Potter, the boy who grew up alongside me – taught me that this world is an imperfect and difficult place, but you cannot allow it to kill your light. You need to fight for your happiness, refuse your hatred, look for the good in the world because it most definitely exists despite it all. “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
Harry Potter teaches so many lessons that I agree with that it’s almost difficult for me to say for sure if it was my original teacher, or if all of these things would have come to me eventually, with or without it. As I said before, I just can’t imagine a life without Harry Potter, or a me without it either. It’s just built so much of who I am. I can’t help but imagine that to remove it from me completely would be to pull the losing peg out of a game of Jenga – it all comes crashing down from there, and there’s nothing left.
And as much as that’s probably an odd thing to say (“it’s just a book”, I’m sure a lot of you are thinking), it’s also sort of awe-inspiring. That’s what I love most about stories – the power of them. Their ability to completely shape and reshape who we are. Nothing more than the right combination of words, uttered or read at the right time, is capable of changing the way we think completely. Stories can save lives, can reorder society, can pull tears from your eyes or place smiles on your lips. Not every story will do that for everyone, of course, but every story has that potential to do it for someone. And when you really think about it – one woman who I have never met, who lives in an entirely different country from me, has played an enormous role in shaping who I am today. And that is one of the most beautiful things in this world.
So stories are my passion, and Harry Potter is responsible for a lot of that. It’s a part of me, something that I will never truly be without, and I think that that’s true for a lot of us today. We are the generation that grew up on Harry Potter, and so many of us have been changed by it. Whether that article that praised us for our open-mindedness and compassion is true or not, we are still different people today than we would have been, all because one scrawny little boy with glasses and a lightning bolt-shaped scar entered into our lives.