5 September 2017

Choosing YOUR Values and Changing House Colours

After 11 long years, she was still waiting for her Hogwarts letter... A little extract from my 2017 autobiography, coming to a Floundering & Blotts near you! If it gets to 2015 and I'm still waiting,  it will officially be 19 years later  and we may have to accept defeat. Until then, I live in hope. That being said, it's been around 19 years since I first opened the pages of Philosophers Stone, boarding the Hogwarts Express with Harry, Ron and co. I definitely know it was before my 6th birthday, as I still lived in my Cupboard above the stairs in Newcastle (Note to parents: this is the best way to up-sell a very very small bedroom). 

With the help of my parents and Steven Fry, it wasn't long before I arrived at the Castle, added a Snowy Owl to my Christmas list and stepped through the doors of the Great Hall. It was then that the Sorting Hat sung. It was then that I declared myself a Gryffindor. By christmas, I even had the Quidditch robes to prove it - the Owl was still a work in progress.

For a woodlice-fearing bookworm, it wasn't an obvious match, yet I used Hermione and Ron as sounding boards. You can be petrified of spiders and love doing homework and still dwell with "the brave at heart". You can even be hopelessly clumsy, because there's a reason the Accio Spell and Remembralls exist! (shame on you spellcheck for red dotting this word.)

On a more serious note, my Gryffindor identity really helped me come to terms with my diabetes diagnosis. In a post several years ago, I talked about the importance of Harry Potter in helping me through my diagnosis, yet I didn't mention the specific importance of house values. From the age of 7, I was giving my own injections multiple times a day; experiencing the daily roller coaster of blood sugars; to a large degree; being exposed to things that strip away the innocent of childhood. I had to be brave... and I could be.
When I started secondary school, however, I faced a bit of an existential crisis. Not only was I sitting in Biology, rather than Herbology; three different online quizzes placed me in Slytherin (is it obvious I wasn't too pleased with the outcome?). What's more,  my dad went onto claim he "always knew"... how was this happening?! I admit that I took the quiz a bit too literally, and proceeded to force my sure peg values into the round eye of the serpent.
1. Cunning: Confession time - I once swiped £500 out of the monopoly bank when I thought no one was looking... well, clearly the sorting was looking. All that time I was wetting about coal from St. Nick, I had MY PRIORITIES ALL WRONG. Where is Ron wisdom when you need it!? I looked at the Slytherin characteristics and tried to fit my square peg into the round eye of the serpent. 
2. Ambitious: I have always been competitive, from egg-and-spoon races to school report Aces.   I admit that, in school, I did compare to those around me and wanted to be among the top grades. I was I am ambitious. Yet, on reflection, much of this is rooted in my perfectionism. While I compare to others, the person I most compare to is myself. It isn't necessarily Sophie who is ambitious, but a part of my head that often compromises my wellbeing.
That's the thing with characteristics; they are not necessarily the same as your values. I've talked about this distinction before - Are We Out of the Shoulds Yet and New-Sky Thinkingas it's been central to my journey through CBT. For so long, I've been preoccupied with doing the 'right' thing, being the 'good girl' and painting by numbers - often literally in terms of diabetes and, later, the rules of anorexia.

At the time I took those Slytherin quizzes, I was wandering ever deeper into the world of the shoulds. The whimsical stories of my childhood were replaced with essays. Hard work wasn't a trait to be celebrated in itself, as the Hufflepuff outlook would do. It was simply a given... as was being brave. The longer I lived with diabetes, the more self-critical I became. As with academia, there was success or failure. No middle road.

It is only in the last couple of years, since taking a break from education and receiving treatment for my mental health, have I realised that this was not Sophie. I may have adopted black-and-white thinking through time and experience, but it was not a reflection of my true values: patience, forgiveness, compassion and imagination, to name just a few. It's not that I believe being a Slytherin makes you a fundamentally bad person; we will always remember Severus Snape. I simply know that the world of "greatness" isn't for me.

Too much buzzing and not enough being, thank-you very much. At least, that's what I've come to realise in the past two years. So when Pottermore relaunched and brought the most official sorting of all, I was curious as to what it would say. In choosing health over education, I temporarily put aside "Bleed Green" of Exeter University, but would my socks still be green? There's the question Hamlet really meant to ask... having put health before academia, would I still bear the green of Slytherin house?
After all this time, it turns out I'm meant to be singing the blues in my converse shoes, along with my kindred spirit and fellow Ravenclaw Luna. If "your House is like your Family", as McGonagall says, we're officially sisters now and the world makes sense again! This was actually one of my biggest issues with being a Slytherin, aside from the obvious drawbacks of Dark Lords and Dungeon living. I think I'd rather sit on a table with Regina George than Pansy Parkinson... at least I could wear pink on Wednesdays (Did you hear that Dolores? only Wednesdays!)
On a more general note, it is rather flattering to be told you have "wit beyond measure" - the sorting hat must have acknowledged my dedication to the pun community. I have to admit, Ravenclaw is a nice little throwback to my childhood days spent buried in a book! Even today, I get this rush of adrenaline when I start an essay and - as of now - my dissertation. This is the part of academia I savour the most; the research process, where I want to drink in everything that I possibly can. Dumbledore was right when he said that "words are our most inexhaustible source of magic", especially when we've chosen to listen.
Choices. That's it, in the end. Technically, we can do or be anything. I could wake up tomorrow and decide to be a "hat" person (you know those people who can wear any style of hat, yet always look effortlessly fabulous?)  The fact is, I could. So when I found this quote by Evanna Lynch - whom I've made no secret of adoring - it was immediately typed out and printed for my new room. Luna is your quintessential eccentric , yet is so often dismissed as "loony" throughout the books... and in our own World (Some Muggles on Twitter are RIDDIKULUS).

Luna is judged by her cover, but she doesn't judge herself for it. In doing this, she shows the true wisdom of a Ravenclaw.. Her outlook is the one I am learning through treatment; how to plot my vales onto the page, overriding the narrative that do not write Sophie. Luna's ability to rise above judgement is the "greatest treasure" of all. She is absolutely brave enough to be a Gryffindor and, as her similarity to Newt Scamander shows, she would feel right at home with the bumbling Badger. The cover is never as important as the story behind it . For this reason, I'd like to think that present-day Sophie would accept any house - even Slytherin - because we all have a part of them in us. Like Luna, I am a Ravenclaw, a Hufflepuff, a Gryffindor and a Slytherin. Yes, really! 

I am hard-working and loyal like the Badger. I have the Eagle's love of learning and a fondness for puns. Since the age of seven, I have had to be brave in my attitude to diabetes - both physically and mentally - while recovery from mental illness requires  round-the-clock-courage. So that leaves the Serpent... the house with a reputation worse than Taylor Swift. It's tempting to leave a blank space on this section, but I will not tell lies. Fact: one of my favourite traits is resourcefulness. and it belongs to Slytherin. Around 90% of my craft projects would be non-existent without my ability to adapt. Short of yarn? Pack your trunk and turn that elephant into a mouse! When I misplaced my camera strap, the day before my holiday to New England, I decided to DIY an old belt and had no need for a Remembrall #MuggleManaged.
Multi-house life really is what it's all about... and if you needed me to make this official, look no further than Pottermore! Earlier this year, I took the Illvermorny house quiz I was sorted into Pukwudgie - the house for healers. Not only is it a welcome reminder of my recovery journey, but the description for Pukwudgie is most similar to Hufflepuff. I guess that makes me a flying badger? There could be worse things. In the past week, I've decided to make it official and embrace the Ravenwudgie life, complete with my own sigil. This may be winding its way to my etsy store, along with a Wampuff or two... 

I'm also starting to think that Dobby was onto something with the multi-coloured socks. Alas, Dumbledore was right again. You can never have enough socks, especially when it comes to magical YOU. There's only one of those in the world and that, in itself, puts you in a magical house of your own. Embrace your traits, love your values and live by them. Don't be afraid to watch bake-off at University, or wear the fedora hat into town. Wear it to a club if it's what makes you happy! Wear it, say it, dream it and be it - as long as it makes you you. 

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