When I saw that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I decided to reread the books and reflect on what this universe J.K Rowling built has meant to me.
Harry Potter came to me at a time when I really needed a friend. My mom, my brother and I had just moved from New Mexico to Florida at the beginning of summer break. I missed my family, I hadn’t had a chance to go to school and make friends yet, and my older brother was in full teenage angst mode and wanted nothing to do with his lame 7-year-old sister. Luckily, my dad and a family friend sent me the first few books for my birthday that July. I was already an avid reader, and I devoured the first three books in less than a month.
In that first reading, I identified with Harry more than any of the other characters. Just like him, I had entered into a strange and unfamiliar landscape and I was experiencing things I never had before. Trees full of lizards, torrential downpours and the ocean were all new and exciting, but like Harry felt about the wizarding world, I was nervous at first. I lived vicariously through him as he met and befriended Ron and Hermione, and daydreamed about the lovely weather he was having in the Scottish countryside. (Those of you who have survived a Florida summer will know what a beautiful daydream that was.) We moved back home to New Mexico shortly after, but being transported away to Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione that summer was a real relief for me.
After that, Harry Potter became a way for me to bond with my family, despite none of them being very big fans themselves. My brother would drive me to the bookstore at midnight on release day each July, stand in a seemingly endless line, and buy me the book for my birthday. It was one of my favorite rituals, and I thought it very fitting when the last book released on my actual birthday. My dad took me to nearly every movie when it came out, and my mom even read the first three books in an attempt to understand what I was so crazy about.
Now, Harry Potter people are my tribe. I have the Deathly Hallows tattooed on my wrist, and strangers are always telling me they like my tattoo, or showing me their matching one, and it is like I am part of a secret club. It is hard to feel alone when you know millions of other people around the world feel the same way you do about something.
I turn to this universe anytime I am anxious or worried, but also when I am happy and simply want to go on a brain vacation. It is my comfort food, and I discover something new to love each time I return. Just like Professor Trelawney, Hogwarts is my home.
Emily lives in Albuquerque with her boyfriend and her brother. She sells glitter for a living and reads just about anything she can get her hands on. She can usually be found crying over pictures of cute animals or watching YouTube videos about Disneyland. You find her on Instagram @emilyjoyereads.