Earlier this year I started university classes back up for the first time in almost seven years. It’s been a bit of a rocky transition, but I think I might finally be getting a handle on my classes and everything that goes with college life. This is my second “go” at a university-type setting, and it is definitely different than my first. I’m ten years older, ten years more married and have ten years of life experience behind me. Part of these new experiences in school are applying for scholarships, one of which is below. I’ve really enjoyed being able to express myself in essays for scholarships and classes and my love of Harry Potter came through on this one.
- Your topic is to select one fictional or non-fictional character whom you have read in the past, who has had a strong and positive impact to help shape who you are today. This character may be chosen from a contemporary fictional work, a modern creative work (ie. poetry), or may span past historical classics or plays (ie. Shakespeare). You must be sure to describe, in depth, some of the characteristics this individual exhibits and how they relate to who you are and how they have impacted you. For example, were these traits something you closely related to? It’s imperative that you give very specific examples on how you were affected. You may elect to use some selected text from the readings for support, however, the majority of your essay should be your own personal analysis and reflection. In other words, this essay should not be a book report.
I realized that when I started this essay that my choice of literature might seem childish or common, but the Harry Potter series has changed my life as it has so many other young people in my generation and age. We grew up on these books and movies that have changed our life.
While some people may choose Harry, Hermione or Ron as their character to pull from, I pull from a more minor character, but one that is still so important to the story — Neville Longbottom. Neville enters the story as a bumbling young wizard who is chubby, awkward and unliked. In other-words, me as a child, sans being a wizard.
I was awkward and bumbling and was teased mercilessly. I never seemed to fit in and I couldn’t relate to my classmates without being labeled a ‘weirdo’. This was a phase that I thought would never end and like Neville, I immersed myself in my favorite subjects, hobbies and ideas. Even though I wasn’t an only children, I was a lonely child because of the teasing of my peers. Looking back, I relate myself to Neville, through his triumphs and his sorrows.
At the end of the first book, Professor Dumbledore told Neville that, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” After reading the first book, this is something that has stuck with me. While it may be hard to stand up to our enemies, our friends are people that are close to us in so many ways and it can be harder to stand-up to them than our enemies, or people we hardly know.
My experience in standing up to friends (and family) comes only a few short years ago for me. As a bit of a backstory, I grew up in a restrictive religious household and never questioned what I was taught or told. I went along with everything because that was what was expected of me.
Four years ago, I started to read and explore ideas outside of the confines of my born faith and came up across these same sort of friendship obstacles that Neville did. When I began to question, my friends and family both told me to set those concerns aside and focus on my religion. I realized that I could I either sacrifice my integrity and self to others or stand-up against something I didn’t believe was right — I chose the latter.
Every since that day, I have followed Neville Longbottom’s path on being loyal to my friends who care and love for me as well as fighting for what is right like Neville does with Dumbledore’s Army. I have involved myself in several social justice causes in my community in order to make the place I live better for those around me and those to come. I have worked on environmental, food rights, GBLTQA and other issues that are dear to my heart and would love to work closely with the Harry Potter Alliance an actual non-profit that works on social justice issues with a flair of magic.
You may recall that near the 5th book, it becomes more clear that Neville Longbottom is more than just a minor character, that if Lord Voldemort would have chosen Neville, he might be the one with the scar on his head instead of Harry. When I read this, I realized how important each one of us really are. It doesn’t matter if I am famous or have a lightning-bolt scar on my head because of the Dark Lord — I matter. I have had friends show that to me in my life. What I do matters and I can change the world, little by little.
Even though I have parts of Harry, Ron and Hermione in my personality, I associate closest with Neville. He is who I see myself becoming and who I have always been in the back of my mind. I am not a hero to all, but I can be a hero to just one.
With this knowledge, I plan to continue my education to benefit those in my community and world around me. I want to use my knowledge that I gain in the next few years to help not only myself, but those that I touch so that I can help change the world, one person by one person.
Whether or not I receive this scholarship, I am grateful for the opportunity for a bit of geeky self-reflection to talk about one of my favorite book series and how the characters and stories within have changed my life.
*Written January 2014