Where would I be now had I not believed that my life could be better?
I didn’t read the first Harry Potter until a year or two after it was first published. I kept hearing about this amazing children’s book and I eventually decided I should read it just to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, I was pregnant with my first child when I finally made the time to read Harry Potter. Those wonderful books provided me with a much needed way to escape. I was young, unmarried, and broke. And very, very scared. That was almost 16 years ago. In fact, tomorrow, August 1st, will mark the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant. I have never been so scared in my life. I was terrified, petrified. I felt humiliated and so, so alone. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never have to come out.
Well, obviously I had to carry on. It was a physical, emotional and financial struggle for many years. J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter helped me get through it. Naturally, Rowling’s personal story was very inspiring to me. I remember how shocked I was when I found out that she had started writing Harry Potter when she was a broke single mother. I mean, I just couldn’t believe that I had something like that in common with an author whose books I was starting to adore- whose books the world was adoring.
It helped me feel less humiliated.
And all through those days of struggle when my son was very young and I was feeling lower than ever, I never let myself forget that J. K. Rowling -the author of Harry Potter, for god’s sake!- had once been where I was. It gave me hope. Her personal story helped me believe in possibilities at a time in my life when the word IMPOSSIBLE was stomping and marching through my mind every minute of everyday. Lack of money, lack of love and affection, a job I hated, no college education, no confidence left in myself- these were my dementors! And J. K. Rowling’s unexpected super-success was my patronus. Her success gave me hope and helped me believe that “astonishing” things can happen.
So I carried on.
Then, of course, there was Harry Potter! Those books are so much fun to read! I had never read anything like it- who had?! The adventure and imagination in those books is incredible. Reading Harry Potter is like literally jumping into another world, it’s the ultimate escape- an escape I truly needed at the time. ‘Books can take us places when we have nowhere else to go’- I read something like that recently. And that’s what it was like when I read Harry Potter. For just a few moments, I left behind my poverty and other single-mother woes and stresses, and went instead to beautiful, mysterious, ancient Hogwarts castle where I got to learn about magic. I got to go to another place, a place that came to feel like home, and it lifted my spirits immensely.
Escaping to a better place is what made me fall in love with reading in the first place. Being scared and pregnant, and then a depressed, stressed-out single mother: these were not the first times in my life that I wished I had a better place to go to. When I was little I used books to escape my life. I used books to escape my homes that were not homes. My childhood was not good- that was one of the main reasons I was so freaked out about having a baby! I couldn’t let happen to him what happened to me and my brothers. Books got me through a lot growing up. Sometimes they were the only thing that comforted me or made me smile.
That’s another reason Harry Potter means so much to me. I immediately related to him and his oppressive, intimidating home situation, especially eleven-year-old me. Eleven was a very rough year for me. Every year until I was sixteen was a rough year (to say the least), but eleven was particularly difficult. So even though I was twenty-one when I read the first Harry Potter, it tapped into that scared eleven-year-old girl that was still stuck inside me. When Harry finds out, on his eleventh birthday, that he’s actually a wizard and that his parents were a witch and wizard too- something happened to me. That eleven-year-old girl inside me got up. I will never forget that moment. I go back to the first book and read that part again and again.
As the story unfolded and became more magical and more exciting with each passing moment, I felt my eleven-year-old self start to brighten and smile. And when Harry finds out that he’s also famous and his parents are heroes and they left him piles of gold- my mind was blown. The scared, timid, poor, nearly friendless little eleven-year-old inside me was thrilled to be reading this story, pretending and imagining that it was her who all of these wonderful things were happening to. And then to see so much of myself in the character Hermione (my favorite)…. that was the icing on the cauldron cake.
And I haven’t been the same since.
My life today is different in every way possible from what it was 16 years ago when I found out I was pregnant and scared out of my mind. That’s why the Harry Potter books and story mean so much to me. There were so many details that made it such a personal experience for me every step of the way. I related to the author and the characters.
J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter inspired me to believe in possibility, to believe that astonishing things can happen even in the least likely of places, to the least likely of people. Even when it seems that the odds are too far against you.
It is because I believed that my life could be better that it actually became better.
The Harry Potter books had a lot to do with that. They changed the way I looked at the world, they changed the way I saw myself.