Yer a Wizard, Harry

tumblr_ny787a2lJU1rbfn9no1_500 I remember the first time I was introduced to Harry Potter. On the way down to an amusement park (I believe it was Busch Gardens) my parents played the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. At this point, Sara was super into the books, but I was only just beginning to understand their magic (what are you going to do about that pun? NOTHING.).  I don’t really remember how I felt when I first heard the story, because I was so young, but I do know I had been giving something amazing. When my parents bought me the second book to read, I was happy, but also determined not to read it. The first one was so good, that there was no way that the second could measure up.

Of course I got over that quickly and ended up sneakily reading Chamber of Secrets under my desk at school. So began my epic journey into the magical world of Hogwarts. From that point on, I was Harry Potter trash. My mind was constantly filled with the characters, imagining scenes that were never described in the books or reliving my parts parts. It was a rich world that got deeper and more exciting with each new book. It became a part of my daily routine, as my mother and I read Goblet of Fire together each night. One of my favorite stories took place on the release day of Order of the Phoenix. After waiting impatiently for three years, the newest volume finally arrived on our  doorstep, a smiling mailman knowing exactly what he was delivering. Sara and I called our parents to let them know what had arrived and if we could open the package; once we got their consent I quickly hung up on my dad. We then decided to start reading at the same time on the count of three, and right as we said “three” together, the phone rang again, my dad wondering what all the yelling was about.

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When I think about it, I don’t think I can really pinpoint why I fell in love with Harry Potter or why it remains so important to me. But I think it continues to have such an impact on my life because it was such a big part of my life in a very consistent way. The movies were beginning to come together while the books were still coming out, creating more excitement and a new way to experience the story. It only fueled my already ardent passion for these books. And because the plot and the world is so rich, there was something new to discover with every new read. On the weekends, I would spend hours on the internet, scouring fan websites for new information or reading fan theories. I even read some of the first iterations of Harry Potter fanfiction. I couldn’t get enough, and honestly I still can’t get enough. It doesn’t matter that I have the plots memorized-I will still reread them whenever I have the chance.

Really, I just love everything about it. I love Harry and how sarcastic and witty he is. He is a great, wonderful kid who grows into a great, wonderful man who just wants to destroy evil and live a normal life. Ron and Hermione are my ultimate OTP (one true pairing, for those not averse to TUMBLR), a couple that grew up together and helped each other to be the best people they can be. These characters taught me what it means to be a friend and a hero, what it means to be loyal and focused and dedicated. It was an integral part of my childhood and growing up. These characters were with me every step of the way. As I watched Harry become himself, I started to understand what kind of person I wanted to be.

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I’m so excited and happy that this love I have for the boy wizard has only gotten stronger with age, and not just for me, but for most of the first generation of Harry Potter fans. We’ve found ways to reimagine the story while still staying true to the original message. We’ve expanded the whole world with the help and blessing of our queen and creator Jo Rowling. It’s allowed for so many kids to find connections and love where they hadn’t before and it changed the children’s literature landscape forever.

When Sara came to visit me while I was studying abroad, we went on the Leavesden Studio tour, where they filmed the movies. During the entire time I spent wandering the sets, looking at the costumes and props and story art, I was filled with a nostalgia that broke my heart. Before you start the tour, they bring you into a movie theater where they show you a video about the impact of Harry Potter around the world. As I watched millions of kids chant, “It’s real for us!” I teared up and fell in love with Harry all over again.

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Thanks to tumblr user fiendfyred for the images!

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Away We Go

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halloween, senior year

It was the last week before we all left for college – a manic, dark night, much too hot. I ran into an old friend on my way out of a party.

“When are you leaving?” she asked. In about a week, I told her. I was going to be one of the last ones to leave. I knew it was obvious how nervous I was, so I just came out and admitted it.

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “College is where you were always meant to be. You’re going to do great!”

I thanked her. She went inside, and I went out to my car.

I didn’t believe her for a second. That might have been part of the problem.

Kelly asked me to talk this week about the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m not entirely sure that going away to college actually counts. But of all the things that came to mind, it’s the only one I actually did. The only one where I actually had to stand up and put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve probably told this story a million times so you can skip this paragraph if you you’d like, but my senior year of high school I had about four months of total mind-blowing confidence. And then come the beginning of 2007 it all went to hell, and I got all tangled up in people, and my head, and bad decisions. And I got rejected or waitlisted at every college I applied to aside from UVA and one other.

The morning I left for college, I had my first (and last, so far) panic attack. And then I cried. All. Day. We should all thank our lucky stars that my roommate, Jenny, decided she wanted to be friends with me anyway because I must have looked like a crazy person.

032805_18Why was I so miserable? I’m still not entirely sure. I didn’t want to go to UVA. I wanted to strike out on my own, and instead went to college with 20 people from my graduating class. I thought I was pretty smart and special, and it turned out that those were not my most recognizable features. My bad decisions followed me to Charlottesville. I had a marvelous life with my family, and UVA didn’t feel worth leaving it for. I desperately did not want to go, and I didn’t know that I could do anything else.

And still, I went. I didn’t eat or sleep much my first semester of college, and then in the spring, I went to the dining hall more and I got a job. Jenny and I became friends and she introduced me to her friends. My third year, I studied abroad in Edinburgh. My fourth year, I decided to shoehorn in a minor in English literature. I never felt like I fit in, like I was doing college well, but in the end I fell in love with parts of it.

I’m still a little too tentative about figuring out what I can do in life. I don’t want my plans to become too big because I’m afraid of the fall. I think I turned away from my International Relations degree too quickly, as much as I love books and the past three years. But I also learned to trust myself. I learned that I can be happy anywhere, that I can pick myself up and brush myself off and figure out how to be a person. I learned that the story is not always worth the consequences.

It’s taken me until about yesterday, but I’ve also learned a lot about showing up. It’s safe in your head, in your apartment, in your routine, but nothing ever changes if you don’t leave.

A Brighton, England State of Mind

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Growing up I knew I was going to college. It was said to me enough by my parents, my friends, society; after high school the next step was college. It was just a fact. The same can be said for studying abroad for a year. I pretty much always knew I was going to college and that my junior year would be devoted to studying abroad. I even went to the study abroad fair my freshman year of college to scout out potential programs. It was something I couldn’t wait to do.

When it came time to apply, I settled on a program in Brighton, England at the University of Sussex. It was a bit different, a little off the beaten path of other programs; just what a quirky girl like me wanted. At the end of my sophomore year at GW, I said good-bye to the campus and immediately started preparing for a new adventure.

This particular adventure was unlike any other I’ve been on, and I’m not sure any other one will come close. It was like going to college as a freshman again; I was so excited to look for new clubs and sports to join, to find new friends and explore the city for new favorite spots and hangout joints. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I adored my classes and I loved traveling all around Europe. I don’t think I will ever have the chance to be the jet-setter I was that year. I skipped whole weeks of classes to go to Rome and Istanbul and any other city I could reach. And every time I returned, Brighton welcomed me back with open arms.

 

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But it was also very slow sometimes and very isolating. I spent very long stretches alone that year. There were weeks I didn’t really speak to anyone for more than an hour or two while at class; the rest of the time I would either be taking walks around campus or the city, or I would be watching TV in my room. Maybe it was my time to be the best introvert I could be; there were some days I didn’t speak to anyone at all.

This might sound crazy to some. I don’t think I would necessarily like to live my life that way now, but at the time, it was kind of necessary. That year, I really got to know myself and the kind of person I was/am. By spending so much time in my head I began asking myself certain questions about my behavior, why I thought this, why I did that. It was enlightening and frustrating. I realized that I had some pretty sexist beliefs on women’s issues and that I didn’t even begin to understand race relations within the US, let alone around the world. It was, frankly, an eye-opening experience and I learned so much more about myself and how I operate as a person.

And for all these reasons, Brighton is my favorite place. And not because it’s beautiful (it is) or that it was a home away from home (it was) but because of how I felt while I was there. I loved feeling like I was growing into a better person, that I was learning more and more about the world, not just though books but through actual human experiences. Because there were times I hated Brighton. The campus was actually in Falmer, a little town a bus ride away. The isolation got to me a lot. I felt lost at times. I cried a fair bit. But taking that time to be away, to be fully independent (at least mostly…) was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. It prepared me for making this move to New York. It continues to help me when I have to ask myself the big questions.

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I hope when I go back to visit I will feel as proud of myself as I did when I left. Though I will never have another Brighton – there’s nothing like the first time – I hope someday I will find that connection to a place, or a state of mind, again.

But No, My Mother Wanted an Alpaca

A new month, and a new challenge. In February, we’re going to assign each other topics instead, and see what we get out of it. This week, Kelly wanted me to write about my top three favorite TV shows and what they have taught me about the world and myself. Two out of the three of these are going to be pretty obvious to anyone who has known me for any significant length of time. The third one, well, I haven’t even figured that one out yet so I think its going to surprise all of us.

tumblr_nxkypiRty91tf41sio1_500The West Wing: I like to think that I was a pretty good kid – there wasn’t a lot I was bratty about. But I did tell Kelly she wasn’t allowed to watch the West Wing with my dad and me. It was our thing and I didn’t want her anywhere near it, especially when I was taking guitar lessons on Wednesday nights and we had to race home to catch the next episode. I could tell you about how the West Wing taught me about optimism, the ability to pick up and keep fighting even at the end of a really bad day. I could also tell you about how the West Wing taught me to value my intelligence, not to hide it, even when people were weird about it, because smart people are going to save the world. I could also tell you a bit about how the West Wing inspired my civic mindedness, my belief in government, but you can just read about that in this Vanity Fair article. All of that stuff is true, and all of it has stuck with me but I think the most important thing the West Wing taught me was this – complexity is not a vice. The world is complex place, and its questions have complex answers, when they have answers at all. Don’t be afraid of it.

“Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in a country that’s way too big for ten words.”

Veronica Mars:
My first year in college was rough. I wasn’t happy where I was, I wasn’t happy to leave home, and I did all the things one usually does when one is unhappy. I didn’t eat much; I id in my room and did a terrible job making friends aside from my wonderful roommate, who was forced to put up with me because she had mono (Hi Jenny!). So I was in the right place in my life for deep, immediate, and irrevocable attachment to a fictional narrative.

519-4346-1-PBI started watching Veronica Mars at my friend’s house over Christmas break (hi Megan!) and by the end of it I had probably spent more time at her house than wit my family. We drove out at 10 pm to go buy the second and third season from Target. And then I spent most of my second semester of college unable to sleep because I was so fixated on the cliffhanger they’d left us with. Over the next few years I’d introduce the series to new friends and old friends, write fanfiction, and then finally donate $100 to the KickStarter campaign that would bring the series back to life for me. When I found out they would be making a movie, I cried a little.

So what did I learn from Veronica Mars? It’s all twisted up with my first year of college – but I learned that you can get through the things that seem unbearable. That time keeps passing. That sometimes letting yourself be loved can be the hardest thing in the world, but that it’s almost always worth it.

Gilmore Girls: Okay, I decided. So Gilmore Girls is a fantasy – and a fairly white, privileged one at that. As I am a fairly white, privileged person, it’s easy for me to identify with. I don’t have a good story about this one, or a plethora of lessons. I can’t even tell you about the hard times that Gilmore Girls has gotten me through, because its been almost every minor crisis since I started college. There’s something about a character on television who was known for being smart and quiet, for reading too often and too much that warmed my heart. There’s also something to the fact that Rory ends the series about to start a great job, with no boyfriend in sight. People who live their lives in stories can also have their own.

Okay, so maybe there was a life lesson in there too. I think there’s something to be said about he fact that all of these shows celebrate strong, smart women, and that I watched all of them when I was at that age where being a strong, smart women was pretty hard. I was pretty lucky growing up. There were real people in my life that celebrated strong, smart women. But I’m really glad I got to see it on TV too.

(But also Supernatural, guys. This is SO HARD)

(image source)

Dear Time

Dear Sara,

I’m starting to think we have a time management issue. At least I know I do. Time is hard because it’s pretty linear when we are operating day to day, but it’s also a very abstract, man-made concept. Time isn’t just a fact, it can feel fast or slow. And then there’s always the question of what the correct amount of time is, for anything.

For instance I have been at my new job close to five months now. When I think about that, my head explodes. Five months is kind of a long time for anything. But I don’t feel like I’ve been here for five months. A month and a half, maybe. But five seems excessive, especially since the longest I’ve worked full time at any place is maybe three months.

It just serves as a reminder about how super weird time is. But we know this. We watch Doctor Who. It’s timey-wimey and somehow that makes sense.

When our nature is to overthink everything, time can become a problem. It stretches or it shrinks depending on how panicked we are. It never really does what we want it to do. And everyone feels this; it’s why 10 minutes waiting for a train or for food is the worst 10 minutes of most of our lives. Being aware of your seconds ticking away is both a blessing and a curse.

Though my time management issue is profound, I think it comes more from my anxiety about what I want the rest of my life to look like. I have a general idea about what I want, in that I know roughly where I want to live and how much money I want to make. But beyond that, I’m not really sure. And I think that makes time management hard, because if you don’t know what you want to do, how do you know how much time it will take you to get there?

It’s really hard being in this position. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t want to be idle. I want my time to mean something. But I get stuck between the wanting and the doing. There’s a vision in my head but when it’s executed, it looks nothing like the picture. Is it because I am not taking enough time or too little? Am I not paying attention to the right things? And in the end, does it really matter? John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.”

I think if you squint really hard you’ll see what he’s really saying is, go spend a month in Australia with your parents. Why? Because you can and you’ve earned it.

Love, Kelly

P.S. It’s been a month of writing letters!!! I think it’s time to make like HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL.