Here's one of the weird things about being a lifelong Harry Potter fan: I bet if you opened to a random page in any of those seven books and started reading a passage, you could remember almost exactly where you were the first time you read it, or even the second, third, or fourth time. The real magic of Harry Potter isn't necessarily the magic in the books, but the magic of them. I'm rereading the books right now, for instance, and for every scene I read on the subway, I can just as easily picture myself sitting on the side of a pool deck with a bunch of toothy eight-year-olds, or sitting at my parents' kitchen table with my legs swinging, or smuggling the book under my desk during a lesson at school. Nothing else in your life has the power to take you back as instantly or acutely as a Harry Potter book does. It's the closest thing to a time machine we'll ever have.
It pretty much goes without saying that for fans, these books played a huge role in shaping the experience of our childhoods. If you ripped the Harry Potter-related memories out of my brain, it'd be the equivalent of Gilderoy Lockhart's "Obliviate" charm — those memories are so tied into everything else that I probably wouldn't know who I was anymore. Like a huge portion of my generation, I am forever changed by Harry Potter, and am better off for it. Here are all the ways that Harry Potter fans were better prepared for life because of this series:
We Were Inspired To Solve Our Problems Independently From An Early Age
Dumbledore literally dropped infant Harry on a doorstep and #ByeFelicia'd him before he could so much as properly grip a wand, and you'll notice throughout the series how very scarce any kind of adult help is. In fact, if anything, the adults are unwittingly preventing Harry and his crew from getting their sh*t done throughout. So Harry Potter fans didn't wait around for someone else to solve their problems as kids. They rolled up their sleeves, channeled their inner Gryffindors, and Got Stuff Taken Care Of.
We Understood The Unbreakable Loyalties Of Family And Friendship
While other kids were shoving their younger siblings out of their birthday slumber parties and disavowing them when they did embarrassing things at the bus stop, Harry Potter fans were the ones who knew that, when push came to shove, family always came first — even if it meant . Because the truth is, every family has a Percy. Every family has a Neville. Every family has its own quirks and weirdnesses and flaws. But Harry Potter taught us not just to tolerate it, not just to forgive it, but to love them for it just the same.
We Sought Families Outside Of Our Own
There are so many amazingly portrayed, tight communities within the Potter-sphere — beyond the golden trio, there were the Marauders, Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix. Some rose out of friendship, others out of necessity, but all of them demonstrated the importance of finding your people and a place where you belonged. Potterheads were the ones who understood the importance of letting people into your life and fostering that family-like kind of community beyond the people they were bound to by blood.
We Learned That Everyone Is Flawed, Even Our Heroes — And How To Recover From Our Mistakes
Name a single character in Harry Potter who hasn't done something colossally stupid. What made these characters so real to us also made them painful to read about at times, because they were every bit as flawed and prone to mistakes as we were. Harry basically spent the entire fifth book riding the angst train, which only makes sense, because everything that was unraveling around him was the result of other people who had also made big mistakes. But every single one of our heroes in the books redeemed themselves, and showed us that we were not a measure of our mistakes or our pasts, but rather what we made of them.
We Accepted All Of Our Weirdness, And Owned It
We Potterheads made up one of the first generations where it was good to be weird and dorky and different. We are all of us uniquely weird in our own way, but what was great was that no matter who you were, you saw some of your weirdness reflected in a character. I saw my overblown anxiety over my studies in Hermione, my uncertainty in Neville, my offbeat-ness in Luna. Those of us who might have tried to hide those aspects of ourselves instead embraced them and grew into them, because these beloved characters made it OK.
We Felt Significantly Less Alone, Even When We Were
We all had times growing up when we felt like we had no friends. This is the part where I confess that when I moved across the country I regressed so far into my own brain that I kept a diary where I assigned all the new people in my life Hogwarts characters, and chronicled my adventures in seventh grade as if I were at Hogwarts, bless my poor, lonely 12-year-old heart. Loneliness was easier to deal with as a kid when you were a Potterhead — all your friends were between those pages, keeping you cushioned until they inspired you to go out and find real friends of your own. (Potterhead friends, because duh.)
We Learned The Importance Of Standing Up For Ourselves, And Everyone Around Us
Neville and Hermione in particular were huge role models not just in self-advocating, but in helping the people around us. Words like Mudblood and organizations like S.P.E.W. were a thinly-veiled call to arms for our generation not just to notice and acknowledge marginalized voices, but actually do something about it.
You Grew Up Understanding That Love Was The Force That Moved All Things
Kids who grew up with Harry Potter books under their pillows grew into adults who never had to question their priorities, and never doubted the most important thing in their lives: Love. We didn't just see its blatant force in Lily's love protecting Harry, but in the devotion Remus and Sirius had for him, and the unshakeable love of the Weasley family, in the countless love stories that weaved in and out of the narrative focus — but most importantly, in the way the characters all handled the aftermath of the Battle at Hogwarts, coming together and supporting each other after everything they had lost. It was never a question to kids growing up with these novels what they would be willing to sacrifice for love.
We Are, Quite Frankly, Sassy AF
Can we talk about Harry Potter And The Order Of The Sassafrass for a second here? From the moment we are introduced to 11-year-old Harry he spilling tea and dragging his bullies. I'm half-convinced that Daniel Radcliffe's audition for the role was just a series of spectacular eyerolls. Thanks to the wry sass of Harry & Co, we Potterheads also were able to use humor as a coping mechanism (which was honestly a survival skill, considering the majority of us are shameless dorks).
We're Never Caught Dead Without A Halloween Costume
All Potterheads have a threadbare set of robes and a scarf jammed somewhere in the back of their closet, and I shouldn't even have to explain why that makes us better at life, so I won't.
We Strive To Be The Best Versions Of Ourselves That We Saw Reflected In The Characters
We all want to be as driven as Hermione, as loyal as Ron, as bold as Neville, as loving as Mrs. Weasley, as good as Dobby, as clever as Fred and George, as fearless as Ginny, as selfless as Harry — the list goes on and on into infinity. We had countless role models, some we admired from the beginning, and others who seemingly grew up with us and related to our own coming of age.
We Learned That Life Isn't Fair
I think Potterheads get an especially bad rap for wanting to "live in a fairy tale" or what have you, but really, those books are dark as hell. Every single burden that fell on those characters was beyond their control, and yet they not only had to deal with it, but actively sacrifice their own happiness for other people's. We were all mad at J.K. Rowling when bad things happened to good characters, but really, it wasn't her we were mad at — we were mad because it was, for some of us, the first we had to accept that death doesn't discriminate, and bad things happen at random, and most of what makes someone an adult is learning how to navigate that reality. We were somewhat more accepting of unfairness than our non-Harry Potter reading peers, and probably learned to cope with it a bit faster because of it.
We Can Take A Bit Of Home Everywhere We Go
Home is where your Harry Potter books are. It's true that we will never go back to the way things were fifteen years ago, or five years ago, or last week — but when you read a Harry Potter book, you are in all of those places at once.
Images: Warner Bros; Giphy