High school is a curious time in one’s life. Everyone’s high school experience is unique, to be sure, but it is also an experience that connects us. Whether they were your best four years of life, or your worst, most people among us can at least somewhat relate to those awkward times when you shot from a full-on child, to an actual adult in 48 months. It’s a time when we are desperately grasping for the strings that will eventually make us… us. It is a time of great duality, when we are working to find our individuality, but would do absolutely anything to fit in.
I was no exception to these nonnegotiable, unwritten rules, but I recognize that I was one of the lucky ones. My high school experience was a pleasant one. There were certainly days when I was sure my life would end, but looking back on it now, my feelings are almost exclusively cheerful. This was also before the days of social media, and that is honestly something I am grateful for every single day of my life.
However. Having a happy high school experience did mean that a lot of the time I felt like I had to follow these unspoken restrictions and never let myself truly enjoy the things I really loved most. I didn’t talk about loving books, or writing, or playing Super Nintendo, or hanging out with my little brother, laughing at ’90s cartoons. Being a member of the ‘popular’ group generally meant you didn’t talk about ‘nerdy’ things. You went to Friday night football games, you went to parties, and you sometimes smoked or drank at those parties. Those were the things we did.
When Harry Potter was published 20 years ago, I didn’t pay it any mind. Then it got really popular, and my brother (an unapologetic nerd) read and loved them and tried to get me on board. I shunned them, sure that even touching those books would most definitely break the cool code. When the first movie came out, it wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Several months later, my boyfriend and I were watching TV at my house and saw that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was on HBO. He wanted to watch and since it was just us, I figured it would be fine. That was it. That was the moment I said, “to hell with this”, and immersed myself in J.K. Rowling’s magical world.
I snagged all the books from my brother, and I took my first steps through Platform 9 & 3/4, rode the Hogwarts Express, and floated in a self-propelling boat across a still lake to a sorting ceremony in Hogwarts Castle’s great hall. I found a kindred spirit in Hermione, and reveled in her bravery and self-love.
In the grand scheme of things, my adolescent problems pale in comparison to those of so many others. But this reformed nerd is damn grateful to J.K. Rowling for creating her beautiful masterpiece that has connected me with so many fellow nerds. The friendships I’ve forged over a mutual love of Harry Potter are among my most cherished. The characters feel like family, and I know the layout of Diagon Alley as well as my own actual neighborhood.
These days, I proudly proclaim my nerdery in all of its glory, and its all thanks to a bespectacled young boy with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and his brilliant friends, and the magnificent woman that created them.