When I was growing up, my family was poor. My parents’ divorce meant we didn’t have a lot of money for luxuries like books. As a self-defined bookworm, my library card became my best friend and every birthday and Christmas I begged for new reading material.
For my eighth birthday, my uncle gave me the first Harry Potter book. I politely thanked him, then placed it on my shelf, content never to open a “boy’s book.” But desperation soon grew as I was read through most of the books in our small library. The Harry Potter book started becoming more appealing. Around this time, the movie version was also being filmed, and the fan base was steadily growing.
One night, I took the book off the shelf and cracked open the magical world of Harry and his wizarding friends. From that minute on, I could not put it down. My mother had to pry it from my hands every night so I could get some sleep.
I dreamed of the day my letter from Hogwarts would arrive in the mail, and how I would get a cat to be my pet instead of an owl. I had visions of banquets and duels and adventures, certain that this was a world I would fit into more than the one I was living in.
Not only did the Harry Potter series keep me entertained for hours as a child, but it gave me an escape from the reality of my situation. I would pretend that I was a long lost Weasley cousin, and someday they would come to get me in their flying car.
Harry Potter also became a tradition in our family. My mother would save money to take me and my brothers to see every film. My father bought me my own copies of the books so I could stop borrowing them from the library. Even my stepmom came through with an advanced copy of the fifth book that I had to hide from my school friends.
I already loved to read, but for so many of my friends, Harry Potter instilled the thrill of getting a new book and cracking it open. Kids were reading these books that discussed themes we needed to learn for adulthood, such as respecting and understanding diversity, unity and loyalty, being a good friend, and not ripping your soul into seven pieces in the hopes of remaining immortal.
I still go back and read passages that I need to be reminded of from time to time.
Whenever I feel like I can’t handle reality, I read the passage about the Mirror of Erised and remember: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Suddenly, I remember I am so lucky to be alive and able to keep pressing on.
When I need a reminder I am not too small to fight on, I think of Dumbledore’s Army and how a group of kids like me can change the face of the world forever. I think of those who rise up and fight injustice and how good will always triumph over evil in the end.
When I struggle with some of the thoughts in my head, and wonder if my mental health is alright, I remember the words of Professor Dumbledore: “Of course this is happening inside your head, Harry, but why should that mean that it is not real.” This helps me take a moment to center myself and practice self-care.
Whenever I need to be reminded that people are good and “happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” I read all of the happy parts of the books. I read about King’s Cross Station, and Harry meeting Sirius, and Hogsmeade, and book Ginny (the character Ginny from the books, as opposed to from the movies).
I am 24 years old, and I know that I may be too old for children’s stories, but this series—this world—that J.K. Rowling created, has existed for most of my life. Harry and I grew up together, we fought side by side in the Battle of Hogwarts, and even though my Hogwarts acceptance letter never came, I got something even better, a short escape from this sometimes-too-loud-and-crazy-planet on which we all live.
And in these times I remember what our dear author promised us: Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.