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"My life is better because of you"
by: Irvin Khaytman
I couldn't even begin to count the ways that the Harry Potter books have impacted my life. I started reading them back at the end of 2001, and they helped me through several family deaths in the coming years. it was thanks to Harry that I realized I wanted to be a writer. When I finished Half-Blood Prince, I was so impatient to find out what happened next that I wrote my own novel-length version of Book 7, and I realized I absolutely loved writing.
But most of all, the Harry Potter books saved me from a near-depression during high school. I absolutely hated high school. All my friends had gone to different high schools, and many of us drifted apart. I didn't really make any friends in my high school. I'd never felt so lonely and outcast.
But then, in December 2006, I discovered the online HP forums - the Chamber of Secrets and Leaky. Soon, I started spending all my free time on them. I made a lot of friends online, and I was blown away by what an incredible community it was. And just like that, I got over any depression - I would now rush home to go online and chat with my friends, I started spending more time writing fan-fiction and editorials and so forth.
Two years later, I discovered something even better: a real-life fandom community. At a live PotterCast, I met the NYC HP Meetup Group (TGTSNBN). When they invited me out to dinner afterward and I accepted, my life was forever changed. I had one of the best evenings of my life just hanging out with them, talking about HP and a million other things. For the first time in my life, among this crowd of weirdos and geeks, I truly felt that I belonged.
What struck me most of all was the diversity among the group. I was a sixteen-year old boy, and I was chatting with a sixty-three-year old woman about our favorite ships as if we were childhood friends. No one cared about your race or religion or sexuality or age or anything, as long as you were friendly and loved Harry Potter.
That night saw the beginning of my social life, but it wasn't that of a typical teenager. I went to meetups with TGTSNBN to discuss the books and play games and do skits, and then slowly my fan activities expanded. They took me to my first wizard rock show, and nine months later, I started my own wizard dance troupe, the Dancing Death Eaters. I joined them for Quidditch games, despite never having played a team sport before. A year later, I was a Beater on the NY Badassilisks, the fourteenth-ranked team in the world. I started cosplaying, I went to cons, and I loved every minute. Best of all, within the group I've made lifelong friends.
So all I can say is, thank you Harry and thank you Ms. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart.
Read the other Finalists here: Finalist 1 | Finalist 2 | Finalist 3 | Finalist 4
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