Okay, okay, okay.
You’ve probably predicted that Harry Potter would show up somewhere on this retrospective series if you read this blog, follow me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, take my classes, have talked to me in the past four months — or seen me at the gym or run into me in the grocery store or, basically, had even the shortest few seconds of interaction with me.
I’ve already written about my experience with young Mr. Potter and friends here and here, so I’ll try not to repeat my thoughts about how Harry Potter is pretty much the most awesome thing that has ever happened anywhere EVER. Besides, this is a post about my photo of the day series, which means it’s a post about an image of something significant to my life this year — and Harry Potter absolutely, undeniably, luckily and thankfully was.
I think the thing that shocked me most when I first entered academia was this: though it’s your job to teach others how to better read and write, you have very little time to read, at least when you’re first starting out. This was the case for me over the past few years — frighteningly and, honestly, embarrassingly so. Especially embarrassingly. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s break down the information presented in Figure A: there are 8 books listed on my Goodreads profile for the spring semester of this year. Had I read eight books in my free time over that time period, I’d be saying this to myself: right on, Emma. Nice work with the reading, yo. However, a closer examination of Figure A offers the following information: two of the eight books were for classes I was teaching at the time, and though I started reading two other books around that time, I didn’t finish them until August. Therefore, I deserve no right on. No nice work with the reading. No yo.
Use it or lose it was one of my grandfather’s favorite expressions, one which he believed absolutely to be true. He was an incredibly talented artist, but he was a soldier, then a father to four girls, and he never had time to practice his talents. He always wondered what would have happened to his gifts had he been able to spend more time drawing. How would his skills have developed and changed? What would his drawings have looked like?
I think my grandfather was absolutely right — you use it, or you lose it. Now, though, I wonder if what you lose is your love of the thing. I wonder if this love is what’s most important, if that’s the thing that gives you the strength to risk and render, to hone your skills and develop your talents. Every loving relationship requires work, requires practice — my relationship with words was no different. When I stopped reading, I lost it — or rather, my memory of it: my love for reading, for the way it transformed and transported me, for the wonder and wisdom and beauty and terror held between two covers.
Harry Potter helped me to remember. Through Hogwarts, I was transported and transformed. I loved those books and in loving those books I remembered how much I love reading, and always have. I remembered why I started reading and writing and why I worked each day to teach others how to better read and write — and I started to realize that really, the most important thing I could ever teach my students is to love the written word, and never to forget how to love it.
I’m proud to say that my Goodreads list looks much different now: since moving to Statesboro, I’ve finished 29 (well, currently 29 and three-quarters) books. My relationship with reading is steadier than ever, and I think, this time, we’re in it for the long run.