What is it exactly that enables us to leave our beds every morning? What is it that motivates us to perform daily tasks such as school, homework, studying, work, chores, etc.? In the midst of a now year-long global pandemic, how are we still able to function? In each of us, there exists a trait called resilience that is the driving force behind our decisions to perform our daily tasks even while the world outside is undergoing a chaotic time. Resilience means that while we may have a million things happening either directly to us or around us, we are able to still carry on with our responsibilities. We do this by prioritizing certain tasks as essential duties meaning that we are so bound and determined to follow through on our decision(s), we will ignore all other things attempting to distract us from our priorities. So why is this important?
The reason why I chose to write this article on resilience is because I strongly feel that we have an issue with recognizing and acknowledging our own resilience, and therefore we do not give ourselves the credit and acknowledgment we deserve. Prioritizing certain tasks and events over others, even while the world may be falling apart around us, is no small feat. I firmly believe that we owe it to ourselves to recognize our resilience in the daily, seemingly insignificant decisions that we make. By choosing to recognize our resilience and give ourselves credit, we are making the decision to show ourselves self-care. We are also feeding our confidence and self-esteem in a healthy way.
How can we recognize and acknowledge our resilience? Personally, I try to be mindful of the fact that every decision I make is important and give myself credit for prioritizing things even if they are small such as getting out of bed, attending class, and opening up my textbook to study for my exam. I recommend that you do the same: Give credit to yourself for every decision you make even if it seems small, getting out of bed when the world is falling to pieces and showing up to your Zoom lecture to take notes and listen are no easy tasks.
This summer I was a leader for the American Language Institute’s brand-new book club. I helped to lead discussions for this pilot program with international students, and the book we chose to read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Like many other college-age individuals, both in America and around the world, Harry Potter was an integral part of my childhood. From the moment I picked up the first of those mysteriously thick volumes, I was entranced. The world of Harry Potter, in the eyes of a child, is often vivacious, all-consuming, and enigmatic-a land of opportunity for the child who sees part of themself in one of the multitude of characters or feels misunderstood.
I think that sometimes those of us who grew up with the Harry Potter series put it on a pedestal, carrying it in a place so deep in our hearts that it is hard to look past it’s many virtues to see some of it’s obvious flaws. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was chosen by the book club for an international audience because of its accessibility to a wide range of audience members, but that accessibility to many different age groups and backgrounds also suggests varying levels of complexity. Returning to the Harry Potter seriesin a discussion-based setting with older eyes revealed some interesting new layers to this book.
Initially, I noticed that triumph in the face of adversitywas a recurring theme throughout the book. What becomes particularly important is the people who are successful in overcoming the obstacles set forth throughout the novel, and how they are categorized. Almost as soon as Harry steps foot onto the train taking him to Hogwarts, he learns of a rigid system which categorizes students into different Houses based on personal qualities or attributes. Despite the fact that Harry knows nothing about the wizarding world, he takes to heart everything that his new friend Ron says to him on the train about the virtues of Gryffindor and the downfalls of Slytherin. This blind assumption is never challenged (at least not for the duration of the first book in the series) but is instead supported by other students and professors. Everyone seems to be looking forward to the day when Slytherin is met with failure, whether that be in personal conflicts, the House Cup, or Quidditch tournaments. In a moment that has been pointed out for it’s ridiculousness multiple times from fans of the series, Headmaster Dumbledore, at the end of year feast, absurdly recalculates the House points once Harry, Ron, and Hermione recover the Sorcerer’s Stone to make it so that Slytherin conveniently loses the House Cup by a measly ten points.
To any child reading this, this may seem like the epitome of justness, wherein the stereotypical group of bullies are met with disapproval and failure at the hands of an all-powerful adult figure. But in actuality, this favoritism continues throughout the series, illustrating a tendency for the wizarding world to look down on a group of people with supposed traits that they perceive as threatening. While it is possible that J.K. Rowling was trying to create a world in which your success is based on personal virtue and strong morals, it is difficult to see how this idea can coexist alongside a system where children are categorized at the earliest point in their education and then judged and questioned for the rest of their lives based on that categorization.
Another aspect worth mentioning about the Harry Potter series is the interpretation of England which J.K. Rowling infuses into the magical world she has created. As an American preteen avidly reading the Harry Potter series, I did not have a particularly detailed idea of what the cultural landscape of the United Kingdom looked like. Returning to the series at nineteen years old with a greater understanding of UK culture, I see some vast differences between my new knowledge and the culture depicted in the Harry Potter world.
When we are first greeted by the presence of Hogwarts as observers of the nervous first years being transported in boats across the lake, we see a medieval-style castle, complete with towers, ghosts, suits of armor, and dungeons where the young wizards and witches take their potions class. The food they eat is old-fashioned: shepherd’s pie, treacle tart, and more. There seem to be few students of color in this world, but when they are mentioned, the reader is immediately tipped off by Rowling’s stereotyped names and descriptions-Dean Thomas being described as a black boy the first time he is mentioned, the only known Asian girl in the series being named Cho Chang, and the twins in Harry’s class of Indian heritage being almost indistinguishably characterized as Padma and Parvati Patil. In light of recent controversies of J.K. Rowling releasing transphobic statements via social media (which were met with outrage by Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, among others), it is hard not to wonder whether those characters were included as a meager attempt to reflect the modern-day diversity of the UK or just a form of thinly shielded tokenism. As a young reader, especially one who is not originally from the UK, it is easy to overlook or misunderstand the Britain which Rowling portrays for us, but looking at the series with fresh eyes it becomes clear that this is a place that idealizes a medieval version of Europe that is disconnected from the thought and culture of the modern world and is predominately white.
Last year, a gripping and horrifying new Netflix film called Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, swept us into a newfound obsession and fanfare (as most Netflix Originals tend to do). Now, on July 21st, a sequel novel to the hit film titled Malorie will be released much to the anticipation of fans and those who are curious to learn more about the series. Personally, I fully intend to read Malorie once it is available for multiple reasons (such as my boredom from quarantine), but one of the main reasons that I will be reading Malorie is because I intend to re-watch the original film with an entirely new perspective and apply that to the book. What perspective and lens will that be? I am here to tell you that it will be one based off of fear, actions, and consequences.
Since Malorie has yet to be released, not much is known about its content or the intricacies of the plot. However, the information I’ve gathered so far is that the story is set twelve years after the events of the original film, and the main character Malorie and her children are still living with blindfolds covering their eyes, as they fear the creatures roaming the earth will harm them if they glance at them. Malorie then receives news that a loved one is possibly still alive. Based off this new information, Malorie will be forced to choose whether to remain safe or risk grave danger by seeking out the loved one.
With the original film and the commentary of the second novel in mind, there seems to be a main, overlapping theme between the two: fear. Fear of danger. Fear of loss. But most importantly, fear of the unknown. The creatures that roam the earth in Bird Box and Malorie are invisible, but those that look upon them are met with a violent fate. Since they are invisible, no one knows for certain what they are, what they look like, etc. It is a fear based solely off of what others have described and experienced as well as a perception of what an unseen enemy is doing to humans on earth.