Why I got a Harry Potter tattoo
Today is the 50th birthday of one of my biggest inspirations in life, JK Rowling, and also the 35th birthday of her most popular creation to date: The Boy Who Lived, aka Harry Potter himself. Happiest of birthdays, JKR and Harry!
Today’s date also means the “Nineteen Years Later” epilogue of the Harry Potter series takes place in just over two years, on Sept. 1, 2017. As a Harry Potter super fan who is traveling to London in September of 2016, I’m torn about this revelation. On the one hand, I’ll probably get to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, as long as tickets don’t sell out within minutes. Fingers crossed. But on the other hand, I’ll miss thousands of other crazy people hanging around King’s Cross station’s Platform 9 ¾, hoping for a glimpse of Harry’s fictional family – or, at the very least, giggling together about how awesome it is that they are in the very place the Potters, Weasleys, and Malfoys would be gathering at this exact time on this exact date.
My fellow Potter-heads know what I’m talking about. These are the same people who lived on MuggleNet.com in the early 2000s – the same ones who lined up for book releases, who dressed up for the midnight movie premieres (I was Hermione for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in late 2005, complete with my very own stuffed Crookshanks), and who cried real tears when their favorite characters died. These are the folks who signed up for early access to Pottermore when it first opened and jumped straight to the Sorting Hat section to find out, once and for all, which Hogwarts house they REALLY belonged in. Some of us were sorted into Slytherin and are still having identity crises.
Every Harry Potter fan has a very personal reason why they connect so deeply with the series. For me, when someone asks why I love Harry Potter as much as I do, the simple answer is that JK Rowling managed to create an entire magical world that could literally be in our backyards, and that what separates Harry Potter from any other fantasy series I’ve ever encountered is it uses its fantasy element as a backdrop and not as a storytelling crutch – and in this way, it is completely relatable to real life. In fact, I’ve learned so much from these stories and hold them so close to my heart that I have a tattoo on my left shoulder that reads, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
These words are spoken by Albus Dumbledore in the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and among his admittedly many hard-hitting quotes it stands out as one of my favorites. I got this tattoo for my 24th birthday because I, to this day, have a very hard time really living the present and tend to plan and think more than I tend to take action – a habit that, at 30, has often made me look back and say, “How did I get here so fast?” I am a goal-setter who is always thinking two (er, actually more like 65) steps ahead, and while that can be helpful at times, it’s also a good way to ensure I completely miss what’s going on around me and set expectations I can never possibly live up to.
My tattoo is a gentle reminder that making a memory for myself is more important than just considering all the ways it could potentially come true, or documenting it for everyone else to see. It reminds me to pause, look around, and smile before continuing on. To me, my tattoo doesn’t discourage dreaming – it just puts dreaming in its proper place, which is to say a dream is only that without deliberate action, hard work, and dedication to its consequential experiences rather than ideas or thoughts or expectations. I find this an ironic yet refreshing message in a story where magical solutions are so easy to come by – yet for some reason, magic still doesn’t solve all our wizard/witch characters’ problems, just as money or shortcuts don’t always solve our Muggle problems. I also love very much that these words were spoken by such a strong, respected character as Dumbledore – someone whom many admire and worship and was written to be seen as somewhat all-powerful, but whom we learn slowly over the course of the series is just a flawed human being like you and me.
Also, JK Rowling could’ve given up, but she had to keep taking tangible action on her dream after a dozen publishers passed on her initial Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone manuscript all while taking care of an infant as a single mother struggling with depression and finances. These challenges she faced make me, as someone who also had to overcome financial obstacles and other curveballs to become something I can be really proud of, look up to her more than I can even begin to describe. And even Harry himself had to decide whether to get on the Hogwarts Express after learning he was a wizard after a lifetime of wishing he had a destiny outside of the cupboard under the stairs. He stepped outside everything he ever knew, and what do you know? He never looked back.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” is a mantra I want to pass on to my future children someday. I want to encourage them to dream, but to also keep in mind that dreaming is only a fraction of the journey. I want them to understand that everything they want out of life is achievable with hard work and their insistence to think outside the box and do. Because doing is the real key.
I think we could all stand to take a leaf out of JK Rowling’s – and, consequently, Dumbledore’s – book in this regard. After all, he was the greatest wizard of his time for a reason.
[Image via author]