With a new publication being announced and the opening of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" in California this year, the magical wizard and his crew are back in full force.
I’ll be the first to admit I had no interest in reading the books when they were first published years ago. In fact, I only stumbled upon them by accident.
I was stuck in my cousin’s apartment with no WiFi, no car and no means of communicating with the outside world. Out of boredom, I sifted through her bookshelf and picked up "The Sorcerer’s Stone," in an attempt to make the time fly by.
After reading the first few chapters, I was instantly hooked. I ended up finishing the whole series in a month, and I will forever hold on to the lessons of hope and friendship JK Rowling instilled in so many of us.
I was 25 at the time. But six years later, Hogwarts continues to have a huge impact on my life:
1. It helped me deal with my reverse homesickness.
When I first started the series, I was back in the US, fresh from a two-year stint in London. I was completely homesick for my friends, my old flat and British culture in general.
One of the reasons I even decided to pick up the book in the first place was because it was based in the UK. As silly as this sounds, I found great comfort in the friendship among Harry, Ron and Hermione. The trio reminded me a lot of the friends I had made while studying abroad.
As I was far away from home and dealing with life-altering situations such as a death of a loved one, a difficult breakup and the stresses of writing a master's dissertation, the friends I made while I was in London quickly became my family. Although we hadn’t known each other for that long, the circumstances we dealt with together gave us a bond that lasted the test of time and distance.
It’s been six years since my time abroad, and I still consider the friends I made there some of the closest people in my life. Just like the case with Harry, Ron and Hermione, it can easily be said that friends do become the family you create for yourself.
2. It became a light during episodes of depression.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and I had to deal with serious episodes for the majority of my young adult life. One of my main issues was letting my depression identify who I was and allowing it to control every aspect of my life.
It’s no secret that JK Rowling has suffered from depression herself, and she has based the infamous Dementors on her experience with the debilitating illness. Rowling has also been known to offer advice to fans via Twitter about ways of coping with it.
Dementors are described as “creatures who feed upon human happiness. They can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victim in a permanent vegetative state. They are known to leave a person as an empty-shell.”
There have been many moments where I’ve lost all hope and been so close to jumping off that ledge. During times like those, I tend to gravitate toward rereading these books to not just escape reality, but to also find that hope and light that gets so lost during times of immense darkness.
I’m reminded that although it's difficult, we all have the ability to produce a Patronus Charm in order to defeat those demons that haunt us. No matter how painful things get, we have a guardian protecting us from the all-consuming darkness.
It’s up to us to find that light. In the famous words of Dumbledore,
Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.
3. It made me understand everyone has a backstory.
It can be so easy to put others in a box, either good or bad. In life, we have the tendency to label people who have hurt us in the latter category, without trying to understand their actions or character.
To the casual "Harry Potter" fan, Voldemort is seen as purely bad, with no reason other than pure evilness. What the movies fail to provide is the complete backstory regarding why Voldemort is the way he is.
Due to his birth in a broken and poverty-stricken family and being raised in an orphanage, we’re able to understand what influenced him to become the Dark Lord. The same can also be said for the character Severus Snape. Although he comes off as broody, dark and mean, we later learn of his ulterior motives and the love he had for Harry’s mom.
The lesson we learn here is to always be wary of judging others right off the bat. There is always a reason why people are the way they are.
4. It helped me realize the importance of second chances.
Everyone makes mistakes. How life-altering those mistakes are, however, vary. If someone has wronged you, it’s so easy to dismiss him or her without a chance for redemption.
The power of love and forgiveness can easily be seen in the portrayal of Snape. As he is a former Death Eater, the fact that Dumbledore gave Snape a second chance to right his wrongs speaks volumes, and it helped defeat the Dark Lord.
Snape’s transition from Death Eater to anti-hero is influenced by his love for Lily Potter. This only emphasizes how soft the hardest of hearts can eventually become.
After dealing with fallouts of friendships and relationships throughout the years, I had a bad tendency to automatically shut people out of my life. After months of letting anger and resentment consume me, I came to learn that life is too short to harbor pain from the past, especially pain that's been imposed upon me by others.
I’ve also learned that no matter how awful someone can be, everyone has the ability to change. Through terrible situations and bad choices, lessons are always learned.
Everyone should be allowed to learn from those mistakes and be given a second chance. After people have learned from those mistakes, they deserve some kind of forgiveness, even if the sole reason for forgiving them is your own peace of mind.
5. It allowed me to be a part of the best fandom.
I remember traveling to Europe alone a few years ago and staying at a hostel by myself. I was in a room with three other girls who came from different countries, and I felt extremely nervous sharing a room with strangers.
I took my shoes off, and one of the girls looked excited and asked if I was a "Harry Potter" fan. I immediately said, "Yes," and I asked how she knew.
I looked down at my feet. I hadn't realized I had been wearing a pair of Slytherin socks. My nervousness quickly went away, and she and I have been friends ever since.
The book series has also served as the main bond I have with my family. We’ve always been close, but after entering the wizarding world — thanks to my cousin — we have a special connection that not many can understand.
I’ve met some of the best people I know through this book series. We all felt the same pain and shed the same tears when we learned of Alan Rickman’s passing, and we share the same anticipation for the upcoming months: the opening of the new "Harry Potter" theme park, the release of the new publication, “The Cursed Child” and the latest film opening in November, “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.”
Although the original books and films were released more than five years ago, the magic of this series still continues to live on. One is never too old for Harry Potter.
No matter how hard times get or how far you want to escape from reality, “help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” Always.