How Harry Potter started, then solved, my quarter-life crisis

Late one night, I was halfway through my standard before-bed Facebook scroll when I came across a link innocently posted by a friend. The article it led to contained the potentially life-changing news that The Cursed Child, the upcoming stage play written in collaboration with JK Rowling herself, was a full blown sequel. As in, picks up where the last Harry Potter book left off, tagline is “the eighth story” and the title character is Harry Potter’s son. I responded by screaming both internally and externally, and tweeting about it in all caps.

My feelings, as summed up in the frantic texts I sent to my boyfriend, whose shared love of the series is at least 80% responsible for our relationship, were “conflicted.” On the one hand, this was what I’d been waiting for since the last book came out. Even better than a prequel or a brand new franchise in the same universe, this would be a new chapter of the same story I knew and loved so dearly. Except that was kind of the problem. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if the magic wasn’t there? What if it just wasn’t the same? Coincidentally, or not, this mini crisis coincided almost exactly with my twentieth birthday.

Depending on the friend or family member you ask I could be described as anything from “not too big on change” to “generally incapable of rationally dealing with change” and I approached my birthday accordingly, with a mix of squirmish apprehension and straight out panicky dread. Turning twenty lacks the significance of its neighbors 18 (legal adult!) and 21 (legal adult who can buy alcohol!) but to me it was no less terrifying because of its relative unimportance.

I was no longer a teenager, which was the last oasis of childishness before adulthood took hold. I didn’t feel any different than I had a year ago or two years ago, except now I had some sort of responsibility to be at the very least well on my way to being a real person. And instead I was up late procrastinating on the Internet, same as I was at 16.

I’m hardly the first person to fear the future, or feel nostalgia for childhood relics. But the prospect of the upcoming sequel struck a particular chord with me. What did it mean that I was now older than the characters that I grew up with? After all, Harry was only 17 when he defeated Voldemort, and there I was with three extra years on him and no heroic deeds to show for it. It felt like a window had closed. It’s too cliché to say I had always been hoping for my Hogwarts letter to show up, but its also kind of true, and at 20 I had to admit to myself that it really was never gonna happen.

I’ve always been able to count on Harry Potter and other staples of my childhood to bring the same sense of wonder and magic they did when I first experienced them, and this has been a huge comfort when that sense of magic seems to be slipping away. So it’s scary to imagine how that might change with the advent of new material.

There was the possibility that, considering I was now a jaded and sophisticated quasi-adult, whatever revelations come from the adventures of Harry and his son will somehow dilute my original relationship with the series. The excitement was still there of course, but it was tempered with a healthy measure of unease, pretty similar to how I felt about turning another year older.

But in the end, excitement wins out. After all, I was still being given the chance to see my favorite characters brought to life again, (assuming I somehow finagle a ticket to London to see the show or find a pirated version online) after I thought they were gone for good. Existential ponderings aside, it was a pretty stellar birthday present. My 20s are going to be pretty OK, after all.

[Image via Universal Pictures]

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