How Growing Into My Slytherin Identity Helped Me Navigate My Young Adulthood
I am the Neville Longbottom of Slytherin house. Let me explain: when the Sorting Hat quiz returned to Pottermore, I, like everyone else, took the test to find out where in the wizarding world I belonged. I was sorted into Slytherin, the most misunderstood of the Hogwarts houses. At first I was surprised. I had been sorted into Gryffindor when I first took the official quiz, but that was years ago, and I’ve changed a lot since then. I’ve graduated college and started a career. I’ve moved out of my hometown and rented apartments. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve cut some toxic people out of my life.
After my initial surprise at realizing I was a Slytherin, I found myself feeling somewhat lost — not because I didn’t want to be a Slytherin, but because I was intimidated by the values dictated by that house. Just the thought of growing into a Slytherin is an ambitious undertaking. In setting out to live up to the values and legacy of such a powerful house, it takes some planning to carve out a path for the future.
It took me some time to grow into my house, and that transformation reminded me of one of the characters from the series: Neville Longbottom.
For years, Neville questioned whether or not he belonged in Gryffindor. He’d make mistakes in class and feel embarrassed. He'd fall during flying classes. He probably spent plenty of nights wondering why he’d been sorted into a house for the bold and the brave. But in the first book, we get a glimpse of that famous Gryffindor courage when he tries to stop Harry, Hermione, and Ron from leaving the common room and getting into trouble. He was always a Gryffindor; it just took some time for him to evolve into the Nagini-decaptitating-Neville of the final book.
That's why I call myself a Slytherin Neville. Above all else, Slytherins are cunning, resourceful, and ambitious — all traits I value. But when I was first sorted into Slytherin, I worried I wasn’t quite cunning enough, resourceful enough, or ambitious enough. I was afraid that maybe I had the core of what it took to be a Slytherin, but I was too shy or insecure to really dictate my own future. Because of Neville, I was inspired to live up to my Slytherin house. The values of Slytherin ended up being invaluable in helping me navigate my young adulthood. Here's how:
1. Being a Slytherin means keeping up appearances.
Working in an office means knowing a lot a faces, not quite as many names, and even fewer personalities. As I pass people in the hallway, they often exchange hellos with me, and I know they view me as the cheerful, helpful young editor zipping around getting work done. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being positive or useful at work, but my friends flat-out laugh at the thought that my co-workers think I’m a cheery ball of sunshine.
That’s just the automatic persona I put on at work. It costs nothing for me to be agreeable and efficient, and it only leads to more opportunities and more people looking to connect with me. Slytherins know how to work situations to their advantage — and that's not a bad thing. In fact, in this case, it's a good thing. It means I put my best foot forward in the situations that demand it — like in the workplace.
2. Being a Slytherin means accepting that toxic people have no place in my life.
In the years between college and the “real world,” I wasted a lot of time on people who were never going to change. It may seem harsh to drop a friend (or gradually phase them out, if that’s what happens naturally), but when it comes down to me growing as a person or being held back by someone who brings out the worst in me with Dementor-levels of negativity, I have to choose myself.
3. Being a Slytherin means accepting that my perception of myself will never quite match the way others see me.
I’ve always felt this way, for as long as I can remember. It’s the sense that the me that I know isn’t necessarily the me that I present to the world. At first, this made me feel incredibly lonely. Even with people around, it felt like I could never be fully understood. But the more I look at my everyday life with a clinical eye, the more it makes sense.
Of course my boss and co-workers don’t know the whole me, because it’s important to maintain a professional air at work. That’s not just Slytherin logic; it’s common sense. We all wear masks in different circumstances, and sometimes that’s OK. When you come home at the end of the day, you’ve kept some parts of you to yourself, which makes them that much more special and personal.
Being a Slytherin has made me more comfortable with how people see me (or often, don’t see me). Besides, isn’t the best Slytherin the one whose motives aren’t always visible? Look at Snape. He kept his true motivations close to his heart for years. They kept him motivated, even when situations were grim.
Of course, I know the Houses of Hogwarts are fictional. But Harry Potter shaped my childhood in countless ways. And now, it's shaping my young adulthood. I wonder where my Slytherin identity will take me next.