End of an EraEssays - Issue 28
End of an Era
By Kelsey Purcell
I found Harry Potter when I was five years old, and fourteen years have passed with this core piece of fiction ingraining itself most impressively into my life. This is the story of my journey with Harry Potter.
My relationship, not only with the Harry Potter books, but also with each individual character, is more complex than I really care to admit or than I ever thought it’d be, but that’s the way it is. I’ve been ingrained into Harry Potter as Harry Potter has been ingrained into me. Without Harry Potter, I am absolutely positive I wouldn’t be here today. Every time anything in my life has stressed me out in the least bit, it’s been some Harry Potter book that’s helped me calm down, helped me through it, and kept me sane in some cases.
The characters were a little older than me, but I still related to them. They were young kids going to school. Yeah, it was a little more exciting than my own schooling, and that’s what made it so amazing. I could disappear into that world and have fun with the trio, though the trio became a quartet when I read the books. I couldn’t just attach myself to one character, as I did with characters from other books, because they were all special. Even the worst of characters (Malfoy, anyone?) ensnared me in this sense of making me truly care about what happened to them.
Then, in April 2001, something brought me closer to these books in a way no one ever could have guessed: a janitor at the elementary school sexually molested me. I told my mom, we filed everything that needed to be filed, but I didn’t quite understand everything that was going on. I was confused. Why were the police involved? Millions of questions floated in my head while my world was turned upside-down in the one single evening when I told the only person I could about it.
I had to grow up to deal with the magnitude of something I couldn’t grasp at my young age. My maturity grew well beyond that of a ten-year-old, something that I’ve always been ahead in since. Always more mature than my friends, it’s only something I’ve recently learned to let go of. I have stupid, immature fun in my life now, and that took a lot of getting used to, with help from Harry Potter.
And while my world was being turned upside-down, what did I turn to? I turned to the only thing I could think of turning to – I turned to my books. I immersed myself completely in that world. I wanted it to be my reality; I wanted it to save me from what was going on. My sense of identity had been jeopardized, and so it became my identity. I started living in Harry’s world instead of my own. I did this because, in part, I knew I didn’t want to deal with what was going on, and I wanted to ignore it for as long as I could. When I turned to Harry, that was my first and foremost thought: ignoring the situation. But as I kept reading, and kept going deeper into his world, I realized it helped me through because, as I could relate to these characters, these characters started relating to me. They were there with me, in my head, hearing my innermost and most private thoughts. They understood completely, simply because, as I allowed them to come into my world, to become my world, I also allowed them access to my memories and problems. The attachment I had to every character, no matter how minor they were, became so much stronger because of that. I suffered with the characters, and I laughed with them. They were my escape, my Hogwarts, my home.
In seventh grade, when we had the court date for the incident with the janitor, I delved yet again into my books. They were all I talked about, they were all I read, and they were all I cared about. They eased my nerves; they helped me through another emotionally unstable time. They helped me explain to my teachers why I’d miss a day of school. They were able to do this, because while I was terrified of explaining it to my teachers at that time, I was helped by the fact that I wasn’t in my world, I was in Harry’s, and what I was explaining couldn’t possibly have happened to me in his world. The books gave me a welcome sense of detachment that I needed at the time. They helped more than any person at that point in time ever could have dreamed of doing. This being said, they helped me through this when my mother couldn’t, because these books understood what I had gone through, these books had suffered what I had gone through as well. They understood better than anyone else because when I read them, and when they helped me, they were as much a part of me as anything else about me. That was just something my own mother couldn’t even try to make a grab at. They’d become my best friend, my closest friend.
My first boyfriend (who shall remain nameless for his sake) who forced me to perform oral sex on him in my own bed sent me into another Harry Potter funk. Because I was sexually molested at an age where most children rely on trusting adults, no matter who they were (who else was supposed to watch out for us), I developed very strong trust issues. It always took me a long while to actually let anyone in my personal circle of trust. So after this boyfriend I had had for three months in 2007 had finally gained my trust, he went and destroyed it the first chance he got. This put me in such a funk because, yet again, the people around me were quickly becoming people I couldn’t trust, just as it had happened six years previously. It really brought up all the unresolved issues that I was still carrying with me since 2001. I had to start going to counseling, something that I still do.
Even in the sessions, I talked about Harry Potter. I explained to my therapist that when I read these books, my problems disappeared for a short time. I also told her how they helped me, because of my bond with every character in the books. I explained that these characters knew me better than anyone else, because they had been with me through everything that had happened with the janitor. While the case of my ex-boyfriend wasn’t so tragic as the case with the janitor, a lot of the same problems in people became apparent to me. Why did I love the Harry Potter characters so much? Because while they weren’t all necessarily good, they never seemed to want to mentally damage another person for the rest of their life, which is what people in reality were constantly doing to me. I respected these characters, and they respected me. Again they were my best friends, their world was my home.
I don’t regret it at all. Again, I grew through the books, they were my escape when, once again, my identity was up in the air and when I had to question the people around me, save for my parents and my books.
One of my best friends, Daniel, I met when I took a trip to China with a group of forty other teenagers through People to People. On the first night of the trip, he snuck out of his room and bought and drank two bottles of Firewater (the highest amount of concentrated alcohol is in that drink). He nearly died because of alcohol poisoning, and had to be next to one of the leaders for almost the entire trip. I bonded with him, because the friends I had made on the plane were friends with him. When the seventh book came out, almost everyone on the trip bought it and read it nearly nonstop, including Daniel, so naturally, we bonded over that shared interest.
When we got back home from the trip, we all dispersed. He lived two hours away from where I did, so we rarely ever saw each other or talked, since he didn’t have any way of reaching me. We saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a few weeks after getting back to the states, but then we lost contact. He didn’t have internet or a cell phone, so to him I was unreachable, and likewise I couldn’t contact him as well. He did do a good job in calling me once a month from his job, but after three months, that abruptly stopped. I couldn’t call his work, because he had told me not to do so. Because he had been into hard drugs and liquor before, I assumed the worst and feared he had died.
Since we both had hard and troubled pasts, we created a very strong bond in China and the short time following the trip. I was very put out by what I assumed, and so I yet again went to Harry. Specifically the fifth book and movie and the seventh book. When I read or watched the fifth one, I had nothing but memories of Daniel being happy and joyous and with me, safe. The same thing with the seventh book. He was alive and we read some of that book together. So in those pages, and in those scenes, I had memories of Daniel being well. Because I had put him, in memory, into those words, he was alive when I read them.
One day I received a call from an unknown number, and it was Daniel. I was beyond happy to hear from him, but at the same time, he hadn’t really been missing because Harry had helped me keep the memory of Daniel alive. When I heard from him again, it was almost as if he had come out of my books and back into my real life. It was amazing, and Harry was there to make it happen.
So as this final movie is preparing to come out, while most people are excited and can’t wait for it, I’ve been denying it. I haven’t watched any clips or seen any previews. Part of this is because I want the movie to be completely new to me when I see it for the first time. I’ve muted the TV and closed my eyes. I’m refusing to believe that this is the end, because if I acknowledge that this is the end, after this final movie there is nothing more, I’m losing a part of myself. I’m losing my best friend.
My logical side knows the books will always be there, as will the movies, but my emotional side – the side of me that knows these characters and relates to their heartache – that side of me is mourning, exactly like someone has died. That’s because, to me, someone is dying. There is a part of me, literally, that will die as this last movie will soak into my eyes this Thursday night/Friday morning. I have my ticket, but will I commit and sit through this movie? I might not make it through that opening scene before the title flashes in the clouds. And you know what? I deserve the right to walk out of the theater.
I can choose to ignore this for as long as I want to. Or I can fully accept it, mourn for the deep personal loss that’s happening, and open a new chapter in my life. A chapter of an adult who still depends on Harry Potter for harsh happenings in her life, but an adult who can also deal with things without the help of her reading companions. I don’t know which one I want to do yet, and no one is rushing me to that decision. It’s wonderful, that feeling, but I don’t want to let Harry down. I don’t want any of my friends in this vast universe to be let down by either decision. I wish I could turn to them for help in this situation, but I can’t. Why not? That loss is still too near. I have to make this decision without the help of something that’s always been there to help me. It’s the hardest decision of my life.
My final thoughts? I don’t care what happens this week. If I see the movie, it will be heartbreaking. It will be hard. It will most likely be unbearable to sit through, but I’ll have done it, and it will only add to the list of memories I already have. It will only strengthen my relationship and ties to the series. If I walk out because I can’t handle it? The midnight premiere won’t be my last chance. I can go to a different showing later on when I’m ready, or I can buy the DVD and watch it at my own leisure. Either way I’ll have lost something, and I’m just finally realizing that no matter how I lose it, it’ll be lost. It’ll be hard, but I’ll be stronger because of it either way. I’ve accepted that Harry Potter is a big part of me, and I’m proud of it. It’s who I am, and nothing in this world is going to change that. Come what will, I’ll only be stronger.
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