In every generation, there is a chosen one...wait, that’s the opening sequence of Buffy. What I mean is, everyone, no matter what generation they’re from, has (at least) that one thing that changed their lives. It might be a movie, like The Sound of Music, Star Wars, or Casablanca. It might be a show, like I Love Lucy, Cheers, or--well, Buffy. It might be a comic, or a song, or a particular musical artist. For me, it was a book - or rather, a series of books - that was released 20 years ago today.
I’d heard everyone talking about how good Harry Potter was, but I was a little late to the party - the first book was released when I was 8, but it wasn’t until age 11 (roughly the same age as the characters I was reading about) that I finally started the series. At the time, of course, I had no idea the effect it would have on my life, or the dark times ahead that it would help me get through. All I knew was that it was magical, and though I also knew that sort of magic existed only in the imagination, the wizarding world created by JK Rowling felt (and still feels) completely real to me.
One of the things I love about Harry Potter is that it’s not about the magic. To the casual observer, it might seem otherwise, but those of us who have immersed ourselves in its pages know that it’s a truly universal tale - one of friendship, bravery, knowledge, loyalty, and the power of love over hate. Summing up everything it’s taught me and explaining my love for the characters and the series as a whole would take far longer than a mere essay’s worth of writing, so I’ll stick to the main points.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” All too often, we can become wrapped up in the past, wishing for what might have been or what could be, and forgetting what is. Harry Potter taught me to live in the present, and to not let myself be held back by the past, but rather, to grow from it.
“Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” Harry Potter taught me that confronting fear is the best step toward defeating it.
“...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.” This one didn’t really hit me until a few years after originally reading it, after we lost my dad. Rereading this line, even to this day, gives me comfort, because I know how true it is. After all, “Do you think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.”
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” You can be the most naturally gifted person on the planet at any particular thing, but talent =/= goodness. Harry Potter taught me to choose wisely, because each choice we make helps define who we become.
My dad loved the world of Harry Potter as much as I did, and even now, reading the books and watching the movies helps me feel connected to him. Many of the things I’ve learned from Harry Potter were also instilled in me by my dad, and though losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced, this series was one of the things that helped me through it. For these reasons and many, many more, I want to thank JK Rowling. Thank you for creating such a magical world. Thank you for making the darkness brighter. Thank you for showing me that girls can do anything. Thank you for connecting me not only to my dad, but to so many other people around the world with whom I share a love for this series. Thank you for Harry Potter.