Everyone has a thing that changed their lives forever. Whether it was a song that came out of nowhere and hit you right in the heartstrings or a television character that just felt like you. Maybe it was a movie that told your story in a way that you never thought you’d see. For me, that life-changing thing found me in a musty corner when I least expected it. I was eight years old when I found a blue and green copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone at my mom’s favorite thrift store. From the moment I cracked that book open and read about the boy with the lightning scar that lived under the stairs, I was hooked. I grew as the Golden Trio grew, caught in the magic and captivated by the world. It wasn’t just the magic that captured me, though. I cried with Harry, I grieved with him and lost with him. I found someone like me in Hermione, who valued her intellect over everything and who loved with everything she had. I saw my family in the Weasley’s ramshackle (but still whimsically beautiful, and everyone’s favorite) home. We, too, were poor but blissfully happy and very much proud to be ourselves. We, too, weren’t perfect and we also fought a great deal, but loved a greater deal more. I spent hours conjuring up what my patronus would be (a wolf, if you’re interested) and imagining the role I would have had in Dumbledore’s Army. I turned to Harry and his friends during my darker days, and he always reminded me to turn on a light.
Harry Potter pretty much saved my life growing up, and I still carry a great deal of what his story has taught me. And it’s these things that have saved my life again and again.
- Harry taught me that it’s okay to rely on others without it being a weakness or a character flaw.
Remember when Harry turned to Hermione for help? Whether it was a potion, Harry didn't trust himself doing on his own, homework troubles, or foiling Voldie's diabolical plans, Harry never hesitated to turn to his friends and his mentors for guidance. And it was when he tried tackling big things on his own that Harry started losing both himself and his control.
- Harry taught me that failure comes, and that you are not your shortcomings.
One thing that always gave me strength throughout my childhood was Harry's perseverance through failure. Like being wrong about the Half Blood Prince and stalking Draco Malfoy for awhile. Or the time he accidentally used magic outside of Hogwarts and blew an already bad situation way out of proportion? Harry mourned his failures, beat himself up, and even obsessed on his failures until they nearly devastated and destroyed him. It was what made Harry so human to me, and it was a heavy feeling that I could easily see in myself. At the end of the day, however, Harry always struggled through his failures and kept fighting. He never did it alone, but he always did it.
- Harry taught me that loss is inevitable, but loss is no excuse to stop loving.
Harry started out an orphan, in a family that treated him like garbage. Over the years, Harry grew close to many people who came into his life hoping for more permanence than fate allowed. Despite losing a great deal of the people he loved, Harry remained capable of loving those still with him in life. He taught me that grief doesn't mean stopping, it doesn't mean love ends and never returns again. As someone who has seen death up close, even as a small child, I found solace in Harry's ability to honor the love of those that he lost without completely letting the aftermath of said loss consume him. Harry showed me that grief is ugly, that grief is hard and heart breaking, and that you're allowed to be completely wrecked. Harry also showed me the power of protecting the memories of those who were lost. And that sadness is okay when reminiscing over the lost, so long as there's some happy in it, too.
- Harry taught me to keep fighting-- no matter how much it hurts or how hard it gets.
Harry spent a great deal of his life power-struggling through some pretty crappy circumstances. He gave up a great deal of times, he surrendered and let the bad defeat him a few times. But, somehow, he kept fighting. He kept going, and working, and fighting. He showed me that I, too, could be defeated again and again and still find my victory eventually.
- Hermione taught me to be unabashedly myself, no matter what anyone else thinks or says (including my friends).
Was I a bookworm? Hell yeah, I was! Was I bullied for the way I looked and my not-so-great hair? Most of my life. Who did I turn to when the hurtful words of others made me feel like I wasn't good enough? Hermione Granger. She gave me strength, with her unkempt hair, unabashed pursuit of knowledge, and her unyielding loyalty towards her friends and family. She made me feel safe as who I was, and she makes me feel safe as who I am, still to this day.
- Hermione taught me to stand up for what is right, to fight for good, and the equality of the oppressed-- no matter who mocks you for it.
No one supported Hermione's efforts with S.P.E.W at first, not even some of the house elves that she was trying to make better lives for. That didn't stop her from fighting for them, for doing what she felt in her heart was right. It is because of Hermione's compassion and daring nature to stand up and fight for her convictions that I am now an advocate of justice and peace. If it weren't for Hermione's tireless compassion for what she felt in her heart was just and fair, I would not be on the path I am now. I would not be on my way to becoming the ball-busting civil rights attorney that I someday will be.
- Hermione taught me that you can be the smartest person in the room, and still be dead wrong.
Hermione was undoubtedly one of the brightest characters in the book, even referenced on several occasions to be "the brightest witch of her age." But that didn't mean she wasn't infallible. On several instances, Hermione made pretty clumsy judgement calls sometimes. One even turned her into a cat for a little while, and another got her petrified by a basilisk.
- Harry, Ron and Hermione taught me what genuine friendship looks and feels like.
I've grown up the only surviving child of very wonderful parents, a child who tried to quell the loneliness of loss through the powerful bonds of friendship. I have had my fair share of toxic friendships, moochers, and fair-weather friends who came into my life like personal little hurricanes. They left a great deal of devastation in their wake. Growing up with The Golden Trio, however, taught me the unconditional love associated with good, genuine friendships. Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship showed me (and continues to guide me, as an adult-like-creature) that we create our families by choosing those who complete our souls and feed our art and passions. The Golden Trio taught me that friends can hurt you, yes. But hurt isn't all a friend should do. It's because of their bond that I love the way that I love, and if it weren't for The Golden Trio's friendship I wouldn't have realized that unconditional love can (and should) apply to friendships. And that love doesn't come with a grain of sand, but a whole damn desert. (And I wouldn't honor my Teri nearly as much as I do)
- Harry taught me that heroes don’t have to be perfect.
Harry isn't always the best of friends, or the best student. Harry is pretty bad at potions (without technically cheating), kind of awkward and clumsy in affairs of the heart, and oftentimes loses his temper when too much pressure is applied. He can be hard to handle and hard to deal with, he can be stubborn and in some cases petulant. And it seemed the angrier I got at Harry, the more I saw him. He was still fighting for good, fighting to defeat Voldemort, and generally fighting for his life and the lives of the one's he loves. He made mistakes, he said and did hurtful things, and sometimes he deliberately hurt people. And it was nice as a child, and as an adult, having Harry as a reminder that heroes are flawed, imperfect human beings. And that that is completely okay.
- Hermione taught me not to hide my spark just because there are those who disagree with my very flame.
Hermione's muggle-born status, and the great deal of backlash and genuine danger associated with her muggle-born status, never stopped her from becoming the brightest witch of her age. As a child, that gave me the bravery to not let my sexuality, despite the great deal of backlash and genuine danger I faced, stop me from becoming everything I have ever wanted to be.
- But mostly, the years I spent with Harry taught me the value a beautiful story can bring to the lives of those who need it.
It is because of the Harry Potter series that I learned the value of an incredible story. The healing power of the written word, and the significance of both losing yourself and simultaneously finding yourself in literature. Harry Potter led me to writing, which has become my most treasured and adored passion. It led me to the hobby that I will carry, that has saved me many times.
I have no idea where my life would be today if it weren't for the harrowing story of the little orphan boy who saved the world and found a family along the way.One thing is for certain, though. It definitely wouldn't have been nearly as magical.