For Millennials like myself, Harry Potter wasn’t just a book series; it was everything. When Harry Potter enrolled as a first year student at Hogwarts, many of us were starting school for the first time too. The end of the book/movie series even finished around our high school or college graduation. We grew up with Harry Potter, and his story developed with ours.
So it comes as no surprise that there are several life lessons the majority of our generation learned from the series along the way. After all, Harry Potter wasn’t exactly the “chosen one” when it came to being a model student. Here are 20 life lessons we learned from Harry Potter over the course of the series and our adolescent lives.
1. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future
Despite the inconsistencies that Hermione’s time turner created for the novel’s plot (because why save only Buckbeak when they could save Lily and James Potter too, am I right?), the above still rings true. Our past shapes us as people, but it doesn’t have to shape the course of our lives. While it can be said that all the series’ characters are prime examples of this, the most obvious of all is Harry, who lost his parents as a baby and as a result had to live with his retched uncle, aunt, and cousin afterward. And yet, this all changed his life for the better by him choosing to attend Hogwarts. The rest is magical history.
2. Sometimes we have to face our fears to get what we want
As much as we’d all like to stay in the comfort of our bubble, sometimes life requires us to pop it for our own good. In Ron’s case, “following the spiders” meant finding the answer to rescuing Hermione from her stunned state in the second novel, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. In Harry’s case, learning to use his patronus meant protecting himself and others from the soul-sucking power of the Dementor’s kiss. In our case…well, we just have to get through an average day to make it to bed by the end.
3. Money can’t buy happiness
You know what people say – money isn’t everything. And it’s not, but it’s hard when you’re a young kid unlocking a vault full of galleons to not think it is. And let’s be real, seeing Harry practically rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck probably sparked the inner gold-digger in all of us. That is, of course, until we realized the Mirror of Erised didn’t show him a landmine of coins, but rather the reason for his inherited wealth – his deceased parents. Still, think that trolley full of pumpkin pasties were a fair trade for a family? Yeah, didn’t think so.
4. We are never truly alone
All of us are subject to the feeling of loneliness, but are we ever truly alone? While seemingly on his own most of the time, Harry Potter always had the support of his friends and guardians, showing us that there’s no such thing as ever being truly alone. The best example of this in the series for me was when Harry wasn’t receiving any letters from his friends all summer, feeling neglected and rejected by them, only to find out Dobby had been hiding them from him the entire time. The next scene that followed, with Ron and the Weasley twins rescuing him in their flying car, was just the cherry on top of the surrounded-by-support sundae.
5. Friends will get you out of trouble, but best friends will get in trouble with you
Sure, a friend will help you out of a predicament (like Lupin did when Snape caught Harry with the Marauder’s Map), but a true best friend will be right there in the thick of it. Any time Harry found himself in a troubling situation, Ron and Hermione faced it with him. I mean, think about it. Can you imagine facing a whomping willow, three-headed dog, and life-size lethal chess set without your best friends? My guess is no.
6. Sometimes we have to face our own battles alone
As much as it helped to have his friends through every obstacle, Harry always ended up confronting his challenger alone and for good reason. We can’t rely on our friends or family to somehow save us from our own problems every time. We have to learn to fight our own battles at some point, whether it’s dealing with the petty jealousy of a friend when you’re unknowingly entered in a contest, or defeating a massive basilisk in the demented water park of your school’s basement. No one said it’d be easy, but Harry Potter proved it’d be worth it.
7. Animals are sometimes (and often) better company
I don’t think any of us needed the Harry Potter series to learn this life truth, but somehow seeing Harry happily flying over the Hogwart’s lake with Buckbeak and stroking Hedwig’s head after a hard day made this lesson 10 times more relatable.
8. Confidence is not the same thing as bravery
While Gryffindor was known for producing the bravest of the Hogwart’s bunch, Ravenclaw was known for producing an imitation hero, and his name was Professor Lockhart. More than anyone in the novels, Gildroy Lockhart proved to us that bravery comes from within and cannot be confused with its egotistical cousin, confidence. And look where all that “bravery” got him – a faulty memory, a worthless book deal, and the boot from Hogwarts.
9. You should never let anyone get the best of you
We may not have realized it as children, but Malfoy’s slandering of Muggles, especially Hermione, was an evident example of the prominence of racially-charged bullying. Hermione’s “non-magical blood” made her an enemy in the eyes of the “pure-blood” Slytherins (tell me that’s not a reference to racism). However, Hermione showed us how we shouldn’t be defined by what we are, but rather who we are. And she certainly succeeded in doing so when she punched Malfoy in the third novel. You go, Hermione.
10. There’s always some mysterious force working in our favor (or to our disadvantage)
This kind of goes along the same lines as the “you’re never alone” lesson, but speaks to the surprise element of our sly support system. While Harry didn’t know it throughout the course of the series, Snape was always on the side of Dumbledore in protecting Harry from Voldemort, despite Harry’s continuous distrust in him. On the flip side, Harry trusted Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth novel and ended up in a graveyard with the reinvented Voldemort to be nearly killed. So if you think about it, the Harry Potter series destroyed our trust in everyone.
11. You should never go anywhere alone without telling or bringing someone
This life lesson was beaten into our brains when we were kids, but still applies to us adults. If we learned anything from Hermione discovering a psychotic troll in the girl’s bathroom while alone, it’s that we should always tell someone where we’re going or bring a buddy with us. Girls, this is a warning – never let your friends go to the bathroom in a bar alone. You never know what other kind of troll is going to be lurking nearby.
12. There’s more to others than meet the eye
Often times we unintentionally judge others based on their appearance, but sometimes our assessments aren’t accurate. A great example of this in the Harry Potter series was the character of Sirius Black. For the majority of the third novel, all of us, including Harry, thought he was some crazy, traitorous murderer with a bone to pick with the Potter boy. Then J.K. Rowling did a 180 and turned him into the caring, cool godfather trying to avenge Harry’s parents. Talk about a plot twist.
13. Adolescent dances are terrible
Do I need to say more? After watching Ron pine after Hermione, Hermione cry over Ron, and Harry sit alone like every uninterested young boy after his date angrily left him to go dance, I think we could all say the movie scene brought back a lot of bad memories. Those dances should just be banned all together, right Umbridge?
14. Being invisible isn’t as great as we think it’d be
As great as the superpower may seem for every introvert and grumpy cat-like person, invisibility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it’s pretty awesome that Harry gets to move around unnoticed and avoid unwanted attention, but the costs sometimes come more than the rewards. Take for instance when Harry’s roaming around Hogsmeade in his invisibility cloak. He’s all happy, licking a lollipop, and then all of a sudden – boom. He overhears the rumor that Sirius betrayed his his parents. In the next moment, Harry’s crying in the snow and shouting, “He was their friend!” Yeah, I think I’d rather have the gift of cooking delicious Harry Potter meals instead.
15. Ultimate power must be used with caution
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Harry Potter, it’s that power is a great and terrible thing. When it’s used for good, power has the ability to change the world for the better. When it’s used for evil though, power has the ability to destroy it. Aside from Voldemort, the best example the novels give us of the detrimental nature of ultimate power is the creation of the elder wand. Wizards have to kill its master to own it, friends kill each other to own it…it’s just all around a machine of destruction. However, I will say the elder wand would make a fantastic travel companion. Accio best vacation ever? I think so.
16. With age comes wisdom
Of all the quotes I’ve accumulated in Word documents, notebooks, and Pinterest over the years, the majority of them come from the Harry Potter series – and most of those were spoken by none other than Dumbledore himself. Whenever Harry found himself in a tough situation, we could always rely on Dumbledore to give brilliant advice or offer a wise suggestion. After all, the man had lived for over a century. It’s not too far-fetched to say he’d learned a couple things or two in his lifetime.
17. With age comes attractiveness (or unattractiveness)
I’m not the first to say it, but I think I speak for us all when I say Neville pleasantly surprised everyone by the end of the movie series. Talk about a transformation! It just goes to show us that attractiveness can develop over time, and the same goes for unattractiveness. Not to name names, but a certain Gryffindor cutie didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped he would.
18. The power of love is stronger than the power of hatred
The phrase “kill them with kindness” applies here. We can’t possibly win over everyone, but Harry Potter showed us that we can triumph in our relationships with loved ones. Even with Voldemort’s constant death threats, Harry Potter always had a support system of family and friends to help him along the way. And in the end, that made all the difference.
19. Sometimes our enemies turn out to be our friends in disguise
Have you ever known someone you couldn’t stand, only to find out they were actually a pretty decent, bearable person? The question’s rhetorical, but it’s true – our original assumptions of others are often not as spot on as we think. In Harry Potter’s life, this seemed to be especially relevant. From Snape to Sirius, to even Dobby, Harry was proven wrong time and time again by his initial judgments. Then again, when you’ve got an entire band of evil misfits against you, it’s safe to say you’d be a little weary of people too.
20. Magic exists, even for us Muggles
It’s cheesy, I know, but there’s a certain magic we all experience at some point or another in our lives. While it might not be in the form of witchcraft, the magic we come across can be found in the people, places, and things around us. There’s magic in travelling, writing, reading, music, friendship, love, you name it; and it’s often found where it’s sought.
So for those of us who began and ended our childhood with Harry Potter, fear not. The magic lives on, just in a different way.
Featured photo credit: Never enough time to read…/Kayleigh Nelson via flic.kr