This year, I graduated from Hogwarts.

Despite my relative maturity as a person, it’s always been a struggle for me to find the balance between stories and reality. As a child, I could be safe most of the time, hiding behind the shield of a young and innocent imagination. But outer pressure made everything a lot harder as I grew up. People couldn’t understand why I still enjoyed fantastical children’s stories as a teenager and I couldn’t understand why I shouldn’t. After all, as Dumbledore said, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it’s not real?” (DH). The characters and adventures in Narnia and Hogwarts felt so much more real to me than many people of flesh and blood in my life. The lessons I learned from stories shaped me into the person I am today, and I feel no shame in being a remix. As the adults around me urged me to grow up, I felt such a great sense of confusion and betrayal in leaving behind the portions of my life that I valued most. Why couldn’t I belt out Disney songs and cry over YA novels?

I longed for so much for my own adventure in a magical land.Image

And I tried so hard to hold onto that true belief of magic that only children really feel. I wasn’t unaware of reality, but I often tried to not feel its gray dreariness. No fairies or castles or talking animals? How could I let it all go when it had always been the best part of my life?

But Dumbledore also said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” (PS). I always struggled to line this quotation up with the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I read this Tumblr post about Susan Pevensie that an epiphany hit. Susan is the older sister of the four Pevensie children who go through the wardrobe and become the Narnian Kings and Queens of the Golden Age. Susan was always my favourite character and it absolutely broke my heart when she stopped believing in Narnia and never went back with the rest of the characters. I felt a little betrayed by her actions, but when I read the post, a whole new perspective came to light. She hadn’t necessarily betrayed Narnia; instead of lamenting its loss like her siblings, she carried on with her life and brought Narnia’s magic into our world instead.

As part of a fandom, it’s not about letting anything go as we grow up. It’s about harnessing the light and beauty and lessons, and bringing that magic into the other parts of our lives, to make us stronger and better people. I may not score nearly as high on Harry Potter trivia quizzes anymore but I will still re-read the series every few years and appreciate everything it has brought me. I will always love all the characters I’ve grown up with and always sing Disney music at the top of my lungs. Some things you can never outgrow. But I also long for deeper knowledge about other things now as well, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that these stories don’t completely define me anymore.

Looking at my list of reads this year, there is quite a broad selection. I enjoyed almost everything I read, and that ranged from David Levithan and Lauren Oliver’s teen romances, to the magical lands in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, to Malcolm Gladwell and Susan Cain’s cultural research, to Khaled Hosseini’s breathtaking painting of Afghan politics. There is no better or worse; comparing books is like comparing people. We are all different, and we all bring something different to the world. Growing up successfully means embracing it all and using every bit to grow better.

Just because I’ve graduated from Hogwarts or left Narnia doesn’t mean the experiences are gone. Yes, I will miss all the fauns and open landscapes, and the secret passageways and moving stairwells, but both stories have made it clear they will always be there for me. “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” (J.K.R.). In growing up, those best memories are the ones we save and treasure, using the knowledge to create our own adventure with what we have. After all, magic is something we make.