Confessions: “Harry Potter” Got Me Through High School
I’m going to be incredibly vulnerable for a moment.
When I was in high school, I felt like a complete and utter outcast. Is this you too? I bet if you’re reading this, you might have had similar feelings growing up. There’s a reason why you’re here on this site, why you keep coming back to Harry Potter again and again.
Only after I became an adult did I realize that many kids feel this way – films like Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You illustrate that the bullying that was happening in my high school is ubiquitous across the country and the globe. There are many students being bullied and shunted by their classmates for no particular reason at all. In fact, when Mean Girls came out when I was 14, I remember feeling worse about myself after watching the film; the pressure to “fit in” was even stronger. Even Cady got her happy ending: Where was mine? I often made a joke with my friends that we “survived our teenage years,” but there is something to be said in all of this. These integral years are in no way easy for anyone.
Harry Potter was an escape for me. I spent my lunch hours in the library reading and sneaking my stale peanut butter sandwich from my purse under the table (the cranky, old Madam Pince-esque librarian wouldn’t let us eat in there). It was better than the bathroom stall, which I admit served as a makeshift cafeteria more than once to get away from some of the nasty kids at my school. It wasn’t always the things they said or the rumors they spread; it was sometimes just their presence that would make me feel insecure and insignificant. I spent my study hall hours writing Harry Potter and Narnia fan fiction. I didn’t understand why my sister had hundreds of friends and I only had one or two. I thought something was wrong with me. I enjoyed reading and writing and spending time with my parents over venturing out to parties. My parents deemed me an “old soul.” My peers often didn’t see it that way.
I spent many rainy afternoons at home looking out of the window and writing, first fan fiction and then my own stories. Writing and reading – that’s what got me through. It was rough, let me tell you, feeling like an outcast. But I kept telling myself: These three friends – Harry, Ron, and Hermione – love each other no matter what they look like, where they come from, or what their interests are.
I didn’t need the cool new outfit from Hollister, the popular football player, or a certain shade of lipstick to feel worthwhile when I stepped into the magical and accepting world of Harry Potter.
I dreamed of traveling to England, falling in love with a Fred or George Weasley lookalike, and exploring the English countryside (I married a Swiss man and spent my postgraduate years looking at the Swiss Alps, so close enough).
Harry Potter instilled in me something that many kids in similar situations lose: hope. It gave me hope for a better future. Sometimes it was hard to listen to my parents telling me that high school was only a small part of my life and would soon be over. To me, living it eight hours every day, it was my very immediate and painful life. Harry Potter made me laugh, cry, and dream. Without Harry Potter, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Yes, those emotional scars still burn, but the upside is that they serve as excellent writing fodder for future YA novels.
For those of you still in the high school trenches feeling like teenage Lila did, have heart and be yourself. It is a very transient part of your life and it will get better. Have hope and always remember to “turn on the light.” And when those Facebook friend requests come in years later from said bullies (believe me, they will), simply hit delete.
So now I ask you: How has Harry Potter affected your life?