An Emotional Tribute to My Favorite Boy

It's the most magical day of the year. No, it's not Christmas and no, it's not the anniversary of the Final Battle at Hogwarts — July 31 marks the joint-birthday of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter himself. The boy wizard turned 34 on Thursday, so cue the nostalgia because it's been a long time since Hagrid uttered the life-changing words for one scarred orphan and fans everywhere, "You're a wizard, Harry," and presented him with a smushed birthday cake on Harry's 11th birthday. So, how do we celebrate? By remembering all of the important lessons we learned from The Boy Who Lived, of course.

Rowling's Harry Potter series, from novel to film to theme park, changed lives and defined a generation. Well, at least it did for me. I grew up with Harry, I learned important (forgiveness is hard, but necessary) and not-so-important lessons (History of Magic is the worst) alongside him, and when I said to goodbye in 2007, no words ever rang truer than Rowling's final dedication. Because I had, in fact, stayed with Harry until the very end.

So, on The Boy Who Lived's 34th birthday, here are 18 lessons Harry Potter taught me in the past 14 years:

When In Doubt, Love

If there's one thing we learned from Harry, Dumbledore, and the Potter series, it was that love is the strongest magic. And that was never more apparent than when Harry forced Voldemort out of possessing his body in Order of the Phoenix.

Don't Buy Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans

Just don't. It's not worth it. You're going to get a vomit-flavored one and it's going to suck.

Make the First Move

Cho Chang didn't know whether or not she was ready to be with Harry. But when he kissed her at the Dumbledore's Army Christmas party, she totally knew.

Trust Your Gut

Remember when Harry knew that Draco was up to something during Half-Blood Prince and no one believed him? Well, he was right. Trust yourself.

Pick Your Friends Wisely

Or pick them Weasley (hehe) — Harry had an opportunity to run with the pure blood Slytherin crew and he wisely chose not to. Because Weasleys. Duh.

Respect Everyone

Harry and readers learned one lesson very quickly, respect is universal and how a man treats other around him, even house elves, is a direct reflection of his character.

It's Okay To Ask For Help

Harry always wanted to go at it alone, fearing that he was ruining the lives of everyone around him. But, starting with the Sorcerer's Stone, he began to realize that Hermione and Ron possessed skills that he did not and it was okay to ask them to carry his burden with him.

You Can Always Forgive

In the end, Harry forgave Snape. If Harry could do it, you can too. He also always forgave Ron for being a huge jerk.

Flowerbeds Are Great Hiding Places

Especially in a heat wave and when you aren't allowed to watch television.

The Rumors Aren't True

Remember that pesky rumor that Sirius Black told Voldemort where Lily and James Potter were hiding? And when Harry overheard it, he was all ready to bring back Sirius' head on a platter. Well, it wasn't true and Sirius ended up being the only substantial family he'd ever known.

You Aren't Too Young For The Truth

The final time Harry and Dumbledore met in Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore admitted to making a big mistake while trying to guide Harry through his saga with Voldemort — he kept dismissing him as too young.

There Is Life After The Death of A Loved One

Harry lost everyone he loved, but nothing hit him quite as hard as when Sirius fell through the veil in the Department of Mysteries or when Dumbledore died right in front of his eyes in the Astronomy tower. And yet, he kept on trucking because "the ones we love never truly leave us."

Only You Can Empower The Thing You Fear

Unlike everyone around him who refused to speak his name, Harry, who perhaps had the most reason to fear He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, always called him Voldemort. Take that, loser.

Friendship Is Everything

Has there ever been a friendship like Harry, Ron, and Hermione? No, no there has not.

We All Start From The Bottom

Every great witch or wizard started as a student — so, you do you.

Sometimes Our Heroes Disappoint Us

When Harry saw Snape's memory of being bullied by his father, he thought everything he knew about his parents was wrong. Our heroes are real people and real people make mistakes.

You Forge Your Own Path

When Harry met Voldemort in Sorcerer's Stone, he asked him to be on his side so that they could bring his parents back. And while we'd seen Harry stare at his parents in the Mirror of Erised and wish for them to be with him, he didn't choose to follow Voldemort. He chose his own path, even when darkness threatened to consume him later in the series.

When Someone Tells You You're A Wizard, Believe It

Yes, yes you are.

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