Oberlin Blogs

Why I'll Never Be Hermione Granger

February 5, 2016

El Wilson ’18

This is a post about finals. Obviously, it's extremely late, but there is a method in the madness. The week I was going to upload it was also the week that the ABUSUA petition was vandalized. I realized that releasing a post about my relatively trivial stresses during a time when black students on campus were struggling was disrespectful. My second plan was to upload it during the first week of Winter Term, but the house I was staying at didn't have WiFi, and I was distracted by puppies and kittens. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy.



The day that the Harry Potter series came to Audible (a service that's sort of a Netflix for audiobooks), my world changed. I had been listening to a few of the books that I had burned onto my computer from library CD copies, but being able to download them instantly was thrilling. I instantly downloaded the fifth one and began to listen.

That was a few weeks ago, and ever since I've had my headphones in at every moment possible. I listen on my way to class, at every meal, and as I lay in bed waiting for my roommate to turn the lights off. As of Saturday, December 12th, I'm about a third of the way through the sixth book. This is the first time I've reread them since my dad finished reading them all to me a few weeks after the 7th book came out, so I remember only a basic outline of the plot. Therefore, they're almost as exciting as they were when I first heard the story.

Although becoming re-addicted to Harry Potter the weeks leading up to finals may seem like an inconvenience, it is actually pulling me through the remainder of the semester. The books are serving two main purposes:

First off, they are a huge distraction from finals. There is absolutely no point in me fretting about my English paper while I'm on my way to dinner. I'm a simple muggle who can't type and wheel my wheelchair at the same time. The problem is that during finals everyone on campus becomes a geyser of stress. Bodies become full of anxiety that bubbles like boiling water beneath the skin until, suddenly, negative vibes burst out from every pore. I swear, it has increased the humidity. It's hard for me not to be freaking out about my English paper or my creative writing portfolio or my astronomy exam or whatever on my way to dinner when the person standing next to me waiting to cross the street looks like they're going to boil over.

Harry Potter solves this problem for me. I can't worry about what Percival Everett's novel says about African American humor if the Weasley twins just set off a Dungbomb. I'm not going to pay attention to the circles under everyone's eyes while Mad Eye Moody's just fell out. And my astronomy exam doesn't seem worth worrying about if Harry's life is on the line. Listening to those books is the ultimate study break. I know there will be a few actual study breaks throughout the next week, but they've never helped me. If I'm hanging out drinking cocoa instead of having my nose in a book, then all I can do is worry about the fact that I'm not studying between every sip. Harry Potter takes up so much of my brain's comprehension and emotional power that there's no room for it to stress out about anything else.

The books' second, and even more valuable, purpose is that they are reminding me just how unimportant finals are. Don't get me wrong. I'm well aware that they have a huge impact on my GPA and that my GPA can determine if I go to grad school or whether I get certain jobs. However, it's really important to remember that one's GPA doesn't determine one's worth as a person. That may seem obvious, but at a school that values intelligence more than just about anything else, it's easy to fall into that trap. Harry Potter has kept me out of the trap this semester.

Hermione Granger is one of the smartest characters in the books. She studies non-stop and can remember something in a book if she only reads it once. She can sit in a room for hours and hours without a break, gives Harry and Ron study schedules, and aces almost every test. She's a perfect student if there ever was one.

I'm not Hermione Granger. I try hard in school, but I'm not nearly organized enough to have made a study schedule, much less follow it. I love to read, but most nonfiction books drive me away from the pages and towards Candy Crush. And, frankly, there are subjects that I'm just flat out bad at. Without my tutor, I wouldn't have survived Research Methods 1 this semester. Even though I've gone to many observing sessions for astronomy, I still can only recognize one constellation. No matter how many great stories I write, I'll never understand (or care about) the nuances of literary theory.

Luckily, Hermione is just one of the superstar characters in the books. There's Neville Longbottom who, despite the fact that the only subject he's good at is Herbology, shows himself to be one of the bravest characters in the series. There's Fred and George who drop out of Hogwarts months before they're supposed to graduate, but end up running a successful joke shop. And then there's Hagrid who is anything but a genius, but whose love for all creatures makes him one of Harry's greatest allies.

Her books suggest that J.K. Rowling sees that there's more than one kind of intelligence. How well you do in school doesn't determine how smart you are. More importantly, it is obvious that she doesn't value intelligence above all else. Time and time again she shows us that it isn't your IQ that makes you a valuable human being but rather your courage and love.

My grades at the end of finals won't determine the rest of my life or who I am as a person. I'll never be great at statistics, but that doesn't make me decidedly less awesome than anyone else. No, I can't spend hours and hours studying without completely losing concentration, but I can spend twice as long thinking about the plot of a story I'm writing until it is as good as it can be. Listening to Harry Potter at the end of this semester has reminded me that Harry didn't need to get a perfect grade on his final astronomy exam to destroy Lord Voldemort, so I probably don't either.

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