Someone once asked me a few years ago what my life would be like if I’d never found Harry Potter. And I think they expected a real answer, like maybe I’d be in a different state or I would have gone to college somewhere else. But the truth is, I literally have no idea where I’d be without it. Since I was 15, fandom has been the motivating factor behind the majority of decisions I’ve made, both big and small.Those formative teenage years and ups and downs of the early 20s—everything I did, everywhere I went, these were all motivated in some way by my relationship with Harry Potter. Fandom has played a pivotal role in shaping my identity, in realizing who I am and who I want to be.
Fandom matters. It is through these stories we love and connections we make that we find a greater sense of self, learn to accept each other, and make real change in the world. It wasn’t until Pottermore sorted me into Hufflepuff for the 12th time that I realized that I am actually the most loyal person on the earth. We come to terms with who we are after countless “What House in Westeros Do You Belong To?” or “Which Character on LOST Would You Be?” quizzes, even if we cheat to get the answers we want. Identifying with our favorite fictional people and places help us to see ourselves in those we admire. We’re so quick to forgive the characters that we emulate, maybe we can learn to forgive each other and ourselves along the way.
My introverted self always comes home from conventions or meetups feeling motivated, refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world with a renewed passion for life and the things that I love. It’s contagious, being surrounded by people who are equally as obsessive and excited. I walk away from these days inspired to be more like my fandom friends; to write better, to think critically, and to stop taking myself so seriously. It’s OK to be a geek, or a nerd, or whatever you want to call yourself. And if you aren’t surrounded by people who think that’s really cool, ditch ‘em.
Through fandom, a lot of us have the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves. Don’t let anyone (in or out of fandom) try and tell you that you should keep your head down and your passions hidden between likes on Tumblr. The people we know and the characters we love should give us the courage to be ourselves all the time, to hum songs about books we love or quote our favorite TV episodes whenever we feel like it. Your opinions on shipping and secret fan fiction drafts are what make you YOU, and that shouldn’t be something you are embarrassed of. Realize that you matter because of who you are, and not because you fit into any certain mold. Do not let anyone tell you that what you like is childish or boring or not real—because it is. Fandom? That’s real. These friendships you’ve made and that I can’t-sit-still-I-need-to-scream feeling you get when your OTP becomes canon, that’s real too. This is your life and it is your chance to enjoy it any way you’d like to. When we are removed from situations where we’re surrounded by what inspires or excites us, it’s especially important to be proactive in continuing to cultivate that kind of environment for yourself. If you want to be a wizard, be a wizard.
Fandom has given me a support system, a bed to sleep in, motivation to be better, inspiration to see myself in a better light both mentally and physically, shoulders to cry on and a community that I have been able to rely on. It is important that we continue to perpetuate this discussion of positive fandom, that we use these networks for good. Let’s keep talking, let’s keep getting excited, let’s keep bringing the magic of the stories we love into our every day lives.