Generation X, Generation Y, the Baby Boomers: some generations get their own nicknames. I never identified with any of those categories, and never heard tell if I belonged to a defining era. What do those born in the years around me have in common with myself? (Here we’re talking late 80’s early 90’s). If I could choose one thing that was with me through childhood into today it would be…drumroll please…the books, the movies, the characters of Harry Potter.
Like the three little wizards growing older and fighting obstacles at school and beyond, so I saw myself, just struggling to survive college and make my way in the world. As a young kid, I first shunned the emerging books as trashy young adult fiction, unworthy of the grandiose vocabulary I was seeking to develop by reading only the greats. Little did I know that the lightning bolted Boy Who Lived would be a timeline tracing my own journey through Hogwarts, aiding my friendships as a common thread, and becoming a sort of closure to a time I was reluctant to relinquish.
Growing up as I did, the idea of a far off boarding type school was foreign to me, but fun to imagine nonetheless. Then all of a sudden it became relevant as I left for college (only three hours away by a magical train called Amtrak), and Harry Potter’s crazy adventures with his school friends gave me solace as I coped with the sudden change in my life, that of living away from home. Since most around me loved the books as much as I had grown to, watching the accompanying movies all together became a must-do, often at midnight the day of the launch. I had found my own Hogwarts-y friends, and each book release or movie debut was a milestone through the years as I grew. As my personal struggles would change and evolve, the way I read the books would change, how I related to the characters would change, and their dramas were a backdrop to my life. It is incredibly cheesy, and I hesitate to give the impression that I was a fanatic about the saga, I was not. It was simply just a constant thing to look forward to, a minute way to escape when I had to, a topic of conversation always acceptable when the table topics petered out. When in school, the young years of all our lives could draw parallels to Harry Potter, and he was my version of teenage angst. When I had a huge a midterm coming up, it was like I was taking my O.W.L.S., trying to earn entrance into the next year. When I felt overwhelmed with something or other I thought, well at least I don’t have to fight dragons or face a cruel nose-less man bent on killing me. Yes, Harry Potter was my generation, and I can see myself growing up when I watch him growing older from movie to movie.
Now, years later, it’s easy to lose touch with those college buddies, but Harry Potter helped us reunite, and now for the last time we met to watch the last movie. It was like all the sadness of leaving my beloved college years was finally given closure. So far I had been in denial, always thinking my life was in some sort of limbo, and at the end I would see and live near everyone I loved all the time as in the old days. Identifying with a teenage wizard was never my intention, and the odd personal closure I felt from the resolution of his journey made me think seriously about mine. What does my love of Harry Potter really say about my life so far?
Pathetic? Maybe. Telling? Probably. We are the techno kids, addicted to iPods and TV and movies, no longer internet novices. While we remember days without cell phones, we have now grown them as extensions of our arms. When moments once defined generations, now it’s which gadgets or digital media. We have the iPod, the cell phone, and the laptop, where our parents had record players, land lines, and floppy drives (no offense, those things are now vintage-cool of course). With all that change in so short a time, why shouldn’t a set of books turned mega-movie saga define the metamorphosis of my childhood? Even the reluctance of JK Rowling to transition the books from literal page turners to digital media says just a little bit about my generation…
The journey of Harry Potter is like the journey we all face in life: the question of whether we are born with an identity that shapes our future, or whether we define ourselves as our choices become experiences. We all want to find meaning in our past while writing our own futures, and it is the balance between the two that truly defines us. But let us not forget that it is the people in our lives that give us hope and strength, so it’s not a bad thing to lean on them once in a while. Could Harry have done it all on his own? Or maybe the lesson is really, How to Write a Hit Book and Make Tons of Money…naw that one isn’t as poetic. Instead I think I’ll just make one of those little bracelets: WWHD?