“What?! You don’t know how to ride a bike?!” He seemed genuinely incredulous. “What did you do in your childhood?”
“I – er, read books,” I say, thinking of the hours I spent reading during recess, after school and during bedtime with a torch I kept hidden under my pillow.
It was all because of my mother. I loved to read, to escape from the real world. I don’t regret a moment of it even if it meant that I would learn how to ride a bike through some lovely green fields or something of the sort.
Up until I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I was only a reader, a child who loved different worlds. But as I saw Dumbledore setting down baby Harry on the Dursley’s doorsteps it slowly downed on me that writing something so wonderful, so captivating and enthralling must be one of the best things one can do with their life.
I was, from that moment on, stuck in the world of wannabe writers – a group of nervous perfectionists who will likely know the meaning of rejection, misery, scarcity and pain all too well. Just like Jo Rowling did.
Her work was life-changing to me in many ways and it marked defining moments in my existence. My mother tongue is Portuguese and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the first book I read in English. It was a gateway to a whole new world of literature – English literature. I could finally discover all sorts of other worlds, breathe in another culture.
And then there was England. It might sound awfully cliché but Harry was the reason I wanted to visit London in the first place. It sounded so old, so cold, and different, distant. When I was 15 I finally made it to King’s Cross.
I decided I would come back. All the while I read and re-read the books, always finding something new and falling in love more and more with the wonderful characters Jo thought up and gave life to. I marvelled at the depth and felt like they were real people, people I cared about, people I might bump into in the streets of London. That is the power of Rowling’s words.
When I returned from London I was resolute: I would go back to England, get a degree and be a writer. I started working towards that and somewhere in the middle the series ended. I wept because it was – and still is – such a huge part of me. It was like losing a best friend.
Today I am on a saga to become a journalist and a writer. It is difficult and I am sure I will receive a million rejections before I am able to be a little bit successful. But Harry is still with me, filling my Gryffindor heart with courage and motivation.
An excerpt of this was published on Guardian Witness.