Harry Potter has recently celebrated 20 years since it first made our lives more magical. I wasn’t born then, but that’s even better for me, because the world was already in love with “The Boy Who Lived” by the time I came about, a year later. And boy, has my life been better because of him. Here’s 20 things that I have learnt from these life-changing books.
1.It’s important to say things properly.
Ron might have thought Hermione was being an insufferable know-it-all when she corrected him in Potions, but then again, he never ended up like Harry, who arrived in Knockturn Alley rather than Diagon Alley because he failed to say it properly when using Floo powder. So, Hermione was right all along (but then, she does have a tendency to be, doesn’t she?). Pronouncing/Saying things properly doesn’t only matter in academic situations, though. Not only can it stop you from making a fool of yourself (“your vs you’re” piss anyone else off?) but it can actually help you make some friends – people appreciate it when you pronounce (and write) their name correctly (trust me, I would know).
2. Never judge a book by its cover.
No, I won’t use Snape for this example. While he did have a redeeming moment towards the end of the series, his behaviour towards his students was always atrocious, therefore the “cruel teacher” impression that he gives off from the start is correct. I will, however, use Hagrid. My first impression of him didn’t last long, but I was pretty terrified of his character the first time I encountered him in the books. Having a giant knock down your door is pretty scary. However, Hagrid soon turned into one of my favourite characters. He has such a big, loving heart, and a soft soul – how could you not love him? I have been proven wrong about first impression numerous times in my life, similarly to the way I was proven wrong about Hagrid. There’s more to a person than meets the eye, we always have to give them a chance to show us who they really are before we judge them.
3. There are many shades of courage.
I had a big crisis when as I progressed through the first book. I loved the trio so much, but the bravery that gets you into Gryffindor just wasn’t something that I could identify with. It made me really sad, and for a while it felt inadequate for me to share the brave adventures of these characters. But as I read on through the series, I was shown that bravery was not just fighting Voldemort. Neville standing up to his friends (who does, coincidentally, end up fighting Voldemort, too) was the first glimpse of that. However, the most significant form of bravery for me was Ron joining Harry in following the spiders.
I have a phobia when it comes to insects, so Ron’s reluctance was very relatable. However, the fact that he still went with Harry, despite his discomfort, was what impressed me and then stuck with me. And even Hermione, whom I loved right from the moment she asked about Neville’s toad on the train, showed her bravery in a similar. We all know this famous scene:
Hermione never went against the rules in the beginning, yet by the end of Philosopher’s Stone, she did just that, to help her friends. There’s a quote that I love, which always reminds me of the different ways people can be brave: “When you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave”.
4. We make our own choices.
Neil Gaiman’s quote brings me nicely to this “lesson”. Dumbledore’s wise words about choices defining who we are baffled me for a long time (I was young, guys, the only choices I had to make at that time were if I should read one more chapter or go to bed). As I’ve grown older however, I have realised (and also seen) how the decisions you make in life are what defines your character, rather than your talents or your mere words. It’s your actions that speak for you, not what you say. So, like the idea behind Gaiman’s quote, that choosing to be brave is what makes you brave, rather than saying you are brave/ being in Gryffindor, it’s what you do that builds your character. (I can only call myself a blogger as long as I blog – I used to call myself one a few years ago when I had given up on my previous blog, but even I knew it wasn’t true). And your actions can only be decided by you (which is why they build character; you get me). Therefore, we always have a choice in life (and oh boy, life is filled with choices, from pretty insignificant to life changing).
5. There is always hope.
I was really close to getting Dumbledore’s famous quote painted on my wall (time to gasp at the originality). I used to be really optimistic as a child, and never thought things could go too badly, whatever the situation. As I’ve grown older, that optimism has started to fade, but more often than not, a bad situation will have a positive outcome and a glimmer of that lost optimism would come back. It’s pretty easy to get so worked up and overwhelmed by the negative things that are going on in our lives, that we forget things have a way of working out. Even when everyone though all was lost after Harry “died”, that wasn’t really the case. An even better example is Harry’s unwavering belief in Dumbledore and his own purpose in Deathly Hallows. I now want that quote on my wall more than ever before, for all the times it has perfectly applied to my life. Thanks Dumbledore.
6. Things have a way of working out.
I feel like the whole series is an example of this, from things like Harry burning Professor Quill’s face with his hands, to him being able to save Fleur’s sister in the Triwizard tournament, to the trio’s escape on the back of a dragon from Gringotts. And honestly, if even being dead worked out for Harry in the end, surely whatever we’re stressing about is bound to end up better than we’re fearing.
7. We can get over fear.
And there’s a bigger catch to this – sometimes we must get over it. Fear only holds us back – it keeps us from saying yes to things that would ultimately help us grow as individuals. Or simply enjoy ourselves more (if you, like me, get irrationally afraid of social situations with a potential for awkwardness). It’s hard, but stepping out of our comfort zone is really important. It was Harry Potter that motivated me, a few years ago, to try and get over my fear of heights by going to an adventure park and spending three hours constantly having to look down at the great gap between my feet and the ground (it did not get rid og my fear of heights, I just now know that I won’t vomit from it, or die).
8. Being weird is great – being yourself is amazing.
Isn’t Luna the best? She is so comfortable in her own skin, and genuinely does not care what others think of her. As I kept learning more about her throughout the series, I felt so angry anyone would ever dare to call her Loony Lovegood. She was always true to herself, and that’s what I loved about her. I first read these books during a period of my life when I was trying really hard to fit in (befriend the popular girls, copy what they do, try to seem cool – the whole package). Luna made me realise that being called “weird” or “nerd” at school was actually a compliment, and besides, being myself was less stressful than trying so hard to fit in.
9. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
On the other side of the spectrum from Luna, we have the (personally) very irritating Gilderoy Lockhart.
Now, I have nothing against tooting your own horn from time to time, we all need a bit of validation from others. However, in case you haven’t been told before, it’s never nice to pass off other people’s work as your own (Universities call it plagiarism and they take it very seriously). I was astonished Hermione liked this guy when he was first introduced in Chamber of Secrets, so his confession at the end of the book was not that surprising to me – there had been always something off about him. However, the important lesson to take from his unfortunate ending is that being a Lockhart will usually backfire (ha!) and go terribly wrong – it’s hard to force yourself to be something you’re not. I myself aimed for the things Lockhart wanted, such as popularity, but it was really tiring trying to fit in with the popular kids, so in the end I turned back to my “bookworm” status and was much happier.
10. The importance of friendship
Let’s take a moment and think of all the things Harry would not have been able to achieve without his friends – he wouldn’t even have made it past Philosopher’s Stone. And it’s not only the trio’s friendship that is inspiring. My favourite friendship is between Harry and Luna. She has a lot of wise words for Harry, and moments like him bringing her to the Slug Club Christmas party, or her shouting at him when he was going about finding Ravenclaw’s diadem all wrong, really stood out to me. I also somehow never saw it coming. It’s these unexpected friendships that I cherish a lot in my life as well. I am also continuously grateful for my own trio/squad of ride-or-die friends that have become family as the years have gone by.
11. You can choose your own family.
“Friends that become family” is something this series made me appreciate. Specifically, Harry and Hermione during Deathly Hallows. It was the simplicity of having the two of them spend time alone together, yet remaining best friends, and then later having Harry confirm that Hermione is like a sister to him, that impressed me beyond measure. It was the first time this type of female-male friendship was presented to me, and I loved it.
There are a lot of adults in the series that become Harry’s family, the Weasleys being the most significant. They truly make Harry feel like he belongs among them. From the Christmas jumper that Molly knits him in Philosopher’s Stone, to the money that Harry leaves Fred and George so they can open their joke shop, Harry truly becomes a Weasely. I’ve been welcomed into the families of some of my closest friends, which I appreciate immensely, even more so thanks to being aware of the love the Weasleys have for Harry.
12. Love is everything.
We all know that Harry was saved by a mother’s love several times in the series, but it’s not the only kind of love that saves him – the love of his friends, as well as the love of his family (yes, I am including the Weasleys, too) and of all those who believed in him is just as significant. And the magical protection that love offers Harry (we can say that it was the intensity of Lily’s love for Harry that burned Professor Quill’s face) is a certain example of the importance of love. So if you don’t believe it will save the world, trust that it will save your world.
13. Death is nothing to fear.
Death is a very important theme throughout the series. Despite the numerous deaths that happen in Harry Potter, there are a lot of positive messages to take away from the books in regards to this topic. Those who die never really leave us, as Harry’s experiences prove over and over again – his mother’s love remained with him as magical protection, Dumbledore still came to his aid in Deathly Hallows, as did his parents. Being aware of this makes moving on from loss possible, which, I believe, is what everyone hopes for after they lose someone dear to them. Harry’s life is struck by death from the very beginning, and although it takes him a while, he eventually grows as a result of it. Death terrifies me. It’s one of my greatest fears – not just dying myself, but having to go through the deaths of those I love most. Harry Potter didn’t cure me of this fear, but it helped me understand what I already knew – that it’s inevitable, and that you can grow from it. Dumbledore says in Half Blood Prince, “”It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” This is a very valuable lesson.
14. Books CAN save your life.
You know how Harry and Ron wouldn’t have survived through Philosopher’s Stone without Hermione’s smarts? Or how Harry wouldn’t have been able to save Ginny without the book page in Hermione’s hand in Chamber of Secrets? (I could go on, but you get the idea) And how did Hermione become such an indispensable friend and the brightest witch of her age? By going to the library, of course. Hermione made me proud of being a bookworm, and I realised that all the seemingly random knowledge that I have gathered over the years will surely come in handy at some point in my life (such as, at a Harry Potter trivia game).
15. We are more than our illness.
When you think of Remus Lupin, you think of the amazing Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that he was, or what a kind mentor he was to Harry, or how great Tonks and him were, and maybe only after do you remember he was a werewolf. He didn’t let his lycanthropy define him. Nor does illness define you. It makes you different, which is always a good thing (even if you have to really think about it in order to realise it), and it should not get in the way of what you love. Focus your energy on being kind, and friendly, and passionate, and people will remember you for these qualities.
16. It’s important to stand up for yourself and your beliefs.
I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t love it when Hermione stood up to Draco Malfoy, be it this:
Or even better, this:
It’s important to stand up for yourself. I was constantly told as a child that if I left the bullies alone, they would stop – but if they don’t, then you have to do something to stop it. It’s never a good idea to let people walk all over you. I am a pacifist, so while I don’t encourage fights as a way to “end this once and for all”, there are other peaceful ways to do it.
17. Be accepting of others.
We get to meet so many different types of characters throughout the books, and I, for one, love this. (You can’t tell me a magical world exists that is only inhabited by human witches and wizards. There has to be more than that.) However, as is the case with our ordinary muggle world, even in J.K. Rowling’s world, judgement exists. People are made fun of based on their appearance (to the point where they permanently alter how they look, such as Hermione making her teeth smaller), their social class and their birth (Snape and Draco never really quit it with making fun of Harry’s “fame”). It’s not cool. There is so much we can learn from each other – we should celebrate our differences, not bring others down.
18. We are all human.
We’re not perfect. We can’t always be correct, or won’t always do the right thing, or keep our cool in a stressful situation. Harry struggled to come to terms with the idea that he had the potential for a dark path. And while speaking parsletongue isn’t something that I ever worry will lead me to become evil, Harry Potter made me understand that while you can’t be great all the time, it doesn’t take away your greatness.
19. Money isn’t everything.
It might not be able to buy you a whole trolley of sweets on the Hogwarts Express, but it does not mean that “money buys you happiness”. The Weasleys are my favourite magical family – I fell in love with The Borrow just as much as Harry did, and the bond between them? Priceless. Just compare them with the Malfoys, who seem to have all the riches you could want, yet seem to do a lot worse that the Weasleys they so enjoy looking down upon. The love that they offer Harry, and that he returns, is something far more worthy than money.
20. There is magic everywhere.
While we will never be able to fly on a broom or cast spells, our muggle world is still full of magic. It might be more simple than the one Harry finds in his textbooks, but it’s just as lovely. My favourite form of magic? Sunsets. And it doesn’t just stop at the wonders of nature. Being transported into another world by books/movies/TV shows? Magic. Having such a great time with friends you forget about time? Magic. The mere existence of pets, who love you more than you love yourself? Magic. It’s everywhere, we just have to pay attention sometimes.