I Was Terrified Of Turning 30 — But Re-Reading Harry Potter Helped Ease My Fears

By Kerri Jarema

If you had asked me just a couple of years ago which Harry Potter characters have been most influential in my life, I would have probably said Harry or Hermione or Luna or Neville — teenagers who were brave and bold and brilliant and who changed their world through resistance. These characters have been a constant presence in my life ever since I first read their story, and are some of my favorite literary protagonists of all-time. But the truth is, I can no longer relate to them as intensely as I once did. Reader, I have a confession to make: in just a few short months, I will be turning 30. Yes, it will soon be time for me to embark on a whole new decade of life. And I would be lying if I said that the imminence of this doesn't have me a little bit shook.

Nineteen years ago, when Harry first made his way into my world, we were both 11-years-old. We both had years of school ahead of us, our first major crushes, our first failing grade, our first brush with political unrest... he and I, in so many ways, experienced all of this, and so much more, together. It's a huge part of what makes Harry Potter so special to my generation — we grew up with Harry and his friends by our side. By the time the final Harry Potter book was published, I was 18-years-old, and getting ready for my sophomore year of college. Like so many others, the series has stayed with me ever since, as a constant source of comfort, fun, and inspiration. But soon, I'll be 30.

It is not at all lost on me that I am now closer to 37, (adult Harry's age in 2016's play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) than I am to that 17-year-old Harry we last saw in Deathly Hallows. I'm far from the first person to ruminate on the significance of turning the big 3-0, so you'll probably be able to guess that this upcoming birthday has me reflecting a whole lot. Sure, pop culture's obsession with 30 might have a lot to do with this, but I also know that there is something really special about this milestone. Some of this reflection has been good, some has been very hard, but none has been weirder than realizing that, without even noticing, my relationship with Harry Potter has changed — and it's actually helped me feel much more excited about my upcoming birthday.

I usually re-read a least one Harry Potter book at least once a year, so I have never been very far removed from the series. But it was upon my most recent re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that it really hit me — the adults in these books are bad ass — and their age only adds to it. Bill Weasley, for instance, undeniably the coolest (and most fashionable) of the Weasley kids is 10 years older than Ron, according to J.K Rowling, which means that throughout the events of Deathly Hallows he is 27-years-old. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are 37 during Order of the Phoenix. Hell, Molly Weasley is 47 and Minerva McGonagall is about 77 when The Battle of Hogwarts is being fought, and do you think they stopped to worry about how old they were while they were kicking Death Eater ass and taking names? No freakin' way. We won't even talk about how Dumbledore was about 115 during Half-Blood Prince.

Had I noticed how cool all of these characters were before I was on the precipice of 30? Of course. But like most people in their teens and early 20s, the lives of "proper" adults still felt so far removed from where I was. At 23, I was still breaking out into a cold sweat every time I had to phone my doctor's office to make an appointment. The experience and talent and self-confidence that the adult characters in Harry Potter possessed seemed so out of reach. Hermione's bookishness, Ron's insecurities, Harry's tempestuous moods? Now that I could understand. And even though I am still so far from having it all figured out, at 29, I'm actually proud to count myself among the adults... and now hitting 30 feels more exciting than dreadful.

More than anything, I'm realizing that this birthday should be all about celebrating how far I've come over the last 10 years. All of my relationships, creative successes, and personal triumphs matter and they are so much more valuable than whether or not I still look young enough to get carded at the bar. And if Bill and Fleur and Molly and Minerva are any indication, I'm only going to keep getting better and bolder and braver with every passing year — which sounds pretty magical to me.