March 16, 2011

Finding Hogwarts

As per my facebook status yesterday (and, as everyone knows, if it’s on facebook it’s official), I have found my new Hogwarts.

Though this term has become a common metaphor in my life, I realize that I may be unique in that.  So, in case my vernacular doesn’t match the universe’s, I decided to take a moment to explain. 

By this point in the history of popular culture, if you haven’t read (or seen) enough Harry Potter to understand what Hogwarts is, you may want to check your pulse.  Seriously, how can you live in modern America (or any English-speaking country for that matter)?  Let’s take a moment, however, to dissect the particulars of the Harry Potter allegory in reference to how it can be applied to one’s everyday life.

For the first eleven years of his life (or at least for as many of them as he is conscious), Harry Potter lives in a world where he constantly feels like he just doesn’t fit in.  There is something about him that people around him can’t explain, he knows that he is different, but he can’t put his finger on why.  Those around him treat him differently because of this difference and, we come to find later, that they are mostly afraid of him because of this difference.

One day, Harry receives a letter which changes everything (well, actually, a series of letters – but we’ll try to keep this as simple as possible).  The letter is his passport to a place away from life as he knew it as an outcast weirdo, a place where people understand him, a place where powerful and intelligent mentors are supportive of him, and a place where he forges relationships which change him forever.  This letter opens a door to the rest of Harry’s life.

I believe that everyone has the potential to have several Hogwarts in their lives.  As we grow, we change and places that guide and mark these changes stand like touchstones on our personal timelines; monoliths to the people we were and the people we become.  Not everywhere we stop will be a Hogwarts, some will just be inns and taverns along the way.  To truly qualify for Hogwarts status, a resting point must: have left a significant (usually positive) impact on your life; have people who remain in your life (even in thought) for a good long time after you’d left it; have mentors who have significantly shaped who you became; and be a place where you felt like you were understood and unconditionally accepted.

Usually a Hogwarts will come to you after you have been through a particularly rough patch.  If you, like Harry, feel that nobody around you truly understands you (hush, we all have an allotment for acceptable emo moments), you are likely to reach out to a place where people do.  Sometimes (especially if you work hard enough), you’ll find it.  Sometimes it will find you.

The Hogwarts will always be a place where you are surrounded by “your people”.  A place where you are in tune with the culture and feel comfortable without trying too horribly much. 

The Hogwarts is a place that you know like the back of your hand.  A place you can call home, if for a brief time.  It gets extra points for having “magical” nooks, but they’re not necessary.  Any place can be magical if you have a large enough imagination.  Trust me, I live in Newark.

I have had the distinct pleasure and luck to have attended three Hogwarts in my life and I’m about to move on to a fourth.  The first was the Professional Performing Arts High School in Manhattan.  The second was Shakespeare & Company (the first time around… the second time was a bit… complicated).  The third was here at Rutgers.

And the fourth, it looks like, will be Tufts.  Hold onto your hats, folks – we’re all in for five to seven years of academic anecdotes and miscellaneous literary fripperies. 

Danielle Rosvally: The Quest for the PhD has officially begun.

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