Oh, Harry Potter. Cue the magical movie music that plays in your head when you think of the books. Oh, is that just us? Harry Potter always has a special place in our hearts. Some of us regularly reread the series as adults, while others outfit their home in HP gear (like this top-notch Luna Lovegood throw pillow). Some hardcore fans even plan magical weddings, complete with potion centerpieces. And Jill Kolongowski’s debut book, Life Lessons Harry Potter Taught Me, is basically a love letter to the HP series. Kolongowski first started reading the magical books when she was 12, and rereads them every summer. Twenty years later, the books still resonate for Kolongowski. She shared seven lessons with us that she learned from the wizarding world, which help her manage her own muggle life.
1. Friendships require openness and vulnerability. The biggest friendships in the Harry Potter series are, of course, between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. From book one to the end of the series, they grow up together and face some big challenges. “While I was working on my book, I paid attention to the many ways the events of the series try to tear the trio apart. Harry could’ve listened to his gut, which many times tells him he’d be better off alone. Ron could have decided feeling second best to Harry was too much, and sought different, less emotionally challenging friendships. Hermione could’ve gotten tired of being the only responsible one,” says Kolongowski. “Harry, specifically, has to learn that deep friendship requires openness and vulnerability. He often wants to go off alone. But his life is enriched every time he lets someone new into it (not only Ron and Hermione, but Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom too). His learning to open himself to others ultimately helps him and his friends save each others’ lives. That openness is a gift they all share.”
2. Forgiveness is a deep form of love. Like all friendships and romances, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine make their fair share of mistakes. But as Kolongowski puts it, they continue to forgive each other and stay friends. “That, to me, is the best lesson: that forgiveness and attention are deep forms of love. By choosing to stay friends, the trio is telling each other that their friendship is worth it. What could be more lovely than that?”
3. Teenage awkwardness is all of us. In her book, Kolongowski writes about how there’s wonderful humor in the HP books that bring lightness to the often dark events in the series. Some of her favorite moments are the totally relatable awkward moments that are #tooreal. “I love when Harry can only describe his first kiss as ‘wet.’ Or the terrible, clueless dancing. Ron’s bad behavior toward Padma at the Yule Ball, or Ron surfacing from a snogging session with Lavender with ‘a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink.’ These awkward moments are such a necessary balm to the very adult things that are happening around them,” says Kolongowski.
4. Our heroes are flawed, regular people. Kolongowski admits that one of her biggest letdowns is realizing that Dumbledore has his faults. “As an adult reading the series, I’ve also had my heart broken by Dumbledore the same way Harry did. Dumbledore was a great wizard and a sometimes great mentor, and he certainly kept Harry alive, but that’s about it. For the entire series, he manipulates Harry as much as he loves him. He’s an extremely flawed hero. But so is Harry. And so are Harry’s parents. The series has taught me that our heroes will let us down. That is a fact. Our parents will disappoint us, because they are regular people. Instead of expecting heroes to be perfection, we can recognize heroes as both fantastic and flawed people,” says Kolongowski.
5. Embrace your inner Hermoine. In her book, Kolongowski dedicates a whole essay to Hermoine Granger and writes she “stands by her values and never stops working hard.” Of her many admirable traits, Kolongowski loves her confidence. “She is constantly told she’s too bossy, she’s a know-it-all, to shut up — all versions of things women have always been told. I’ve often felt that becoming a professional woman adult means making myself less in so many ways. But Hermione stays herself. She trusts herself. She refuses to shut up and quiet down. And Hermione is willing to speak up for others too, who don’t feel safe in speaking up,” says Kolongowski. It looks like Emma Watson continues to channel her character, with a recent $1.4 million donation to the Time’s Up movement in the UK.
6. If we lose one kind of love, there is always another love to be found. Throughout the books, there is a lot of love and loss of love. But Kolongowski is quick to point out that there’s love to be found in the Weasley family, who unofficially adopt Harry as their own. Or the love of community that Harry has when he finally lands at Hogwarts. “To me, the biggest lesson is that even if we lose one kind of love, there is always another love to be found. That’s not to say that the search will be easy, or that the love will be the same, but that love will be present in some form or another — as a meal cooked by someone who cares about you, as a gentle touch on the shoulder, or a friend knowing exactly the thing to say,” says Kolongowski.
7. Look to Luna Lovegood for grace under pressure. While rereading the series to write her debut book, Kolongowski discovered some fun things that she didn’t notice before, particularly, her love for quirky gal Luna Lovegood. “Her sense of humor, her belief in herself, and her delightfully blunt truth bombs make her so swoon-worthy and compelling. She’s admirable for the way she’s able to comfort Harry after Sirius’s death by simply acknowledging how awful it is. Luna is an unsung hero for her calm under pressure too — in the Department of Mysteries, in Malfoy Manor, in the Battle of Hogwarts. May we all have the courage to be so sure of ourselves and so confident and kind in the face of danger as Luna Lovegood,” says Kolongowski.
What important lesson has Harry Potter taught you? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know.
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(Book cover via Ulysses Press; Harry Potter images via Warner Brothers)