For the last month, I’ve written and rewritten “Gryffindor” on my wrist with a Sharpie, testing it out before I get it in permanent ink. When someone asks, the easiest way to explain it is “It’s a Harry Potter thing.” Truth is: if I were going to get a tattoo because of what a book did to me, there are other stories that have affected me more. This is different. It isn’t something the Harry Potter books made me into, just something they gave me a name for. The tattoo is meant to remind me to act like one.
When I first read the books, picking your Hogwarts house was another way of defining yourself, and I spent a lot of time debating which I would have belonged to. Slytherin was the only one I didn’t consider, because I am not cunning by any stretch of the imagination, and my greatest ambition right now is to never have to drive down Billy Graham Parkway again.
Ravenclaw seemed like a possibility. I like to consider myself curious and creative, and I did enjoy school, but I wasn’t one for “knowledge for its own sake.” Then there was Hufflepuff. Loyalty and fairness sounded good to me, but I’m not all that hard-working. (I’m actually not always that fair either, but I didn’t work that out until later.)
Looking back, it’s one of those things in my life where I can’t believe I ever thought there was another way. If you haven’t read the books, this is something you might not know: you aren’t sorted solely on the traits you possess, but also on the traits you value. And the majority of the fictional characters I loved growing up were Gryffindors through and through: people who chose to seek adventure or defend the weak. The two ideals I value above all else are courage and kindness.
In my life, it comes through in my wanderlust and the way I face my anxieties. I see it when I stand up for others. (I’m not so good at standing up for myself, but hey: I’m getting better about that one too.) It’s in my idealism and indignation in the face of injustice. My best writing comes when I do it the Gryffindor way: openly and freely.
It’s also where I get my stubbornness and my inability to quit, even when I ought to for my own or someone else’s good. It’s part of my hot-head and how I’m getting worse (or better, depending on how you view it) at keeping my mouth shut about it. It’s the rash decisions and going with my gut instead of planning ahead. If I had a dollar for half the things I’ve done or said without thinking them all the way through, I could afford the other half. It’s the part of me that likes my high heels and short skirts, not to mention the hard-drinking, fast-driving, fun-loving side.
I’m not saying they’re all good things, but if you ask me if there’s anything I love about myself, those are the ones that would come first.
And there’s something inherently courageous about calling yourself brave because it means you no longer have an excuse not to be. If you openly admit to being a coward, there’s no shame in taking the coward’s way out. The moment you call yourself brave, you are forced to hold yourself to a higher standard: to stick it out when you’re not sure you can, to make the hard choice when someone has to, to stand up and puff out your chest no matter what you’re staring down. It’s a matter of honor.
(Honor’s a big thing for Gryffindors too.)
That’s why I’m getting it tattooed to my wrist. It’s a promise to myself to do the brave thing. It’s a justification for my impetuous behavior. And it’s a sign that, good or bad, I am who I am and I get to own it.
I’m not saying I won’t change and I’m not saying that I shouldn’t aspire to grow, but if I’m going to fuck up, I’d rather err on the side of courage and daring and chivalry.
Basically: life’s short. Lion up.