I know last Friday we celebrated my birthday, but this is an even bigger event to behold: it’s Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthday! And this year, Harry’s celebrating a milestone by turning 35. Considering that our birthdays are a week apart, I got to thinking about all of the amazing stuff that Harry did by the time he was 35; then I thought about what I did by the time I was 17. Or 18. Or 23. Combined. Damn, am I behind.
But today is not about bitterness, it’s about celebrating a wonderful character from the defining book series of my generation. It would be a huge understatement if I said that Harry Potter changed my life, because it did so much more than that. Harry Potter was the book series that allowed me to be myself; it was the first book series I had read in its entirety; it was my first fandom. I could fill a book stating how much the Harry Potter series has meant to me over the years. Any one of us could, because Harry Potter isn’t just about what House we belong to, it’s about “friendship…and bravery.”
When I studied abroad in England, my first trip into London included a visit to Platform 9¾ with a flatmate of mine who was Australian. I told her that I had wanted to go, and being a good sport, she humored me by joining. My flatmate was not acquainted with the Harry Potter series, so while we were waiting in line to take a picture with the trolley, I explained the significance of the site. In the midst of a synopsis of “The Boy Who Lived” through to “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters,” I started tearing up. I’m not entirely sure what came over me, but whatever it was, it hit me like a Night Bus. Maybe it was the setting, or the story, or a combination of both–but explaining it to my flatmate brought all the sensation back into the series. I had been around die-hard fans for so long that I never had to think about the story; explaining it to someone who wasn’t acquainted with the series made it much more important to me. That night, after returning from London, I began re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Later on, towards my college graduation, Harry Potter cropped up once again. At this time, I realized that elements from the story–its teachings, themes & motifs, and magic–will pop up at times when you need them most (much like Fawkes). It was around this time, when I was on the cusp of graduating, that I was presented with a quote I had never paid any attention to before:
“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.”
Suddenly, and in the most cliché way possible, everything seemed so clear to me. I wasn’t afraid of graduating anymore, and I wasn’t afraid of my soon-to-be post-grad life. Sure, I had some apprehension, but so has Harry. We’ve all had fears, and we’ve all been nervous, and we’ve all experienced joy. So has Harry. Meaning that, today is not just about Mr. Potter and Ms. Rowling’s special day–it’s also about all of us. Because of what it’s meant, because of what it’s done for the community, and because of what it will do for future generations. And I believe that this is possibly the greatest gift that the two of them could ever ask for. After all, they need an awesome gift after giving us that awesome series.
So Happy Birthday Harry and J.K.! Hope you have an amazing day! You’ve both given me incredible days, so you deserve it.