Sunday was my twenty-first birthday. I have hated birthdays since I was a child, and this year was no different. A week before the big day, my father, stepmother, and sister rock up in the car to deliver me a special message. All wearing Harry Potter glasses. The following will be a recap of the day (with photos), and then I’ll actually get onto my thoughts about turning twenty-one eventually, I promise. I’ll put that bit as a subheading, if you want to scroll straight to it!!!
The message was a letter from Hogwarts, inviting me to dress in costume and board the Hogwarts Express at 11.35am the following Sunday, and informing me that four of my friends would be joining me. Those people were:
Frazer. A relatively new friend of mine, Frazer lives with one of my best friends and is part of the LGBT+ committee at Solent. He’s such a fantastic, funny and sassy person, and has introduced me to Drag Race, something I will be eternally grateful for. We also have bonded over films about dogs and that is just friendships goals to be honest.
Charlotte. My crazy, loud, K-Pop loving friend. We bonded over shared heritage and a mutual love of sushi. Charlotte is on the same course as me, and we have been close since the first year of university. I often have to restrain her from picking up pigeons in town.
Taya. Taya and I got close at the end of our first year at university, when we went on a course trip to Paris. We stayed in a room with our friend, Amy, and have been friends since. Taya is now undoubtedly my best friend from my uni career, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. We have weekly dinner dates, and usually lead each other astray when “studying” in the library. Taya totally gets my to-the-point personality and has the most contagious laugh you’ll ever hear. I’d do anything for this girl. She’s been a rock in the past few years and I’m so glad that she’s going to be sticking around Southampton after graduation. She also hates Harry Potter so was a proper trooper for dressing up, and even just coming along. She helped to co-ordinate the entire day and has been behind the scenes for weeks! She also loves mermaids and otters and that’s probably the best summary of Taya anyone could need really.
Jennie. Jennie is one of my longest-standing friends now. We got off to a bit of a rocky start, as I was caught up in some secondary school drama with one of her best friends at the time, but we really became friends in college, as we were studying pretty much all of the same subjects! Jennie is one person who really gets me in all aspects, whether it be life experiences, interests or mental health. Jennie just gets it all, and is always, always there for me no matter what. She is a wonderful human being who deserves a much better hand than she’s been dealt recently, I’d literally bend over backwards for her. Jennie loves literature, Studio Ghibli, and is training to be a nurse (which she is totally going to rock at).
So yes. We all hopped on a train at 11.35am on Sunday, and when we got off at our stop we were met by my little sister Abbie dressed up as Harry Potter with clues for a treasure hunt! So off we went!
We had to follow a trail, with cryptic messages and anagrams throughout, as well as watch out for hidden objects (the golden snitch, Harry’s glasses, a wand and a broomstick). This involved me having to actually go into a shop and ask them to give me a flying lesson. It was wet and cold but everyone was so great and made me enjoy it, despite the unprecedented levels of humiliation I was suffering.
Then, we got to The Navigator. A local pub, and there was a brick wall entrance titled “Platform 9 and 3/4”, where I could see my parents stood in full costume waving at me frantically (unfortunately WordPress won’t allow me to post the stunning video of Taya dancing through the wall).
They took me inside, where all of my family were waiting inside (almost all of them in costume as well)! Being the centre of attention is probably one of my worst nightmares but once I got over the shock and feelings of anxiety, and started noticing who was there, I – relaxing and looking around – realised how much effort had gone into the day.
Not only had Emma specifically hired me a cloak to wear as she knew I didn’t have one, but she’d also meticulously decorated the entire venue, bringing in help from every member of the family, business, you name it! There were Hogwarts banners, table plans and posters. The pens were quills, they had dug out my old Hedwig toy from the loft to put on display, they had individually rewrapped KitKat bars to use as “Dementor Aids” and the bottles had Butterbeer labels on them!
And then probably the best surprise of the day – my best friend, Ben, walks through the door. I haven’t seen Ben since Bonfire Night, which is probably the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other since becoming friends.
Ben is a crazy Pokemon, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Yu-Gi-Oh! fanatic, and somehow managed to hide all of that nerdy stuff from me for two years. He is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met. Ben is thoughtful and kind, whilst still being funny and brutally honest. When I met him, he was an over-confident, annoying Residential Advisor at University of Chichester. Now he’s graduated and working, and has grown so much. He is so thoughtful, and probably knows me better than anyone. He is the one person I can talk to about anything and he will either support me and listen, send me videos of puppies to cheer me up, or tell me to pull myself together. And he always knows which is the right one somehow.
Unfortunately, our friend Sam had also planned to come along, but due to the train strikes was unable to make it. But so many people showed up, and it was so nice seeing everyone again, and seeing all of the effort they had gone to, both in terms of decorating and dressing up! I can’t think of a better way to have spent my 21st birthday.
And then, to top it all off, J.K. Rowling herself liked my tweet about the party!
Now, briefly back to Dad and Emma. These two have had to put up with a lot from me. Especially Emma, who when I met her, had no children of her own and was dating a version of my father who only saw his children at the weekends, and then quickly went to finding out she was pregnant and gaining a very erratic thirteen-year-old full-time. I wasn’t ever one of those teenagers that got in trouble with the police, and I never came home drunk or high (mainly because I never got drunk or high); but I went through a real emotional rollercoaster during my teen years, and they were there, seeing it all and having to try and get me through it. But they did. And I am so grateful to both of them for it, and for all of the hard work and opportunities they have given me every day during and since I moved in with them nearly eight years ago now. They have supported me through every decision, good or bad. And year after year they will do things, small or big (this year in the form of a Harry Potter treasure hunt and party), to remind me just how lucky I am. Thank you, to both of you, I couldn’t ask for two more supportive and thoughtful people to have in my life.
Now, onto the actual point of all of this.
Twenty-one is a funny age. My mother had me at twenty-four, yet I am single, still in full-time education and realistically, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I know that eventually I’d love to teach or work in outreach theatre, but I am not qualified enough to do either of those things yet. I have been stressing a lot about the future over the past few months, as it is quickly drawing closer and I still don’t have any answers. But that’s okay. That is what all of this reminded me. It’s okay not to have the answers. It’s okay to not have plans. Just enjoy the moment, enjoy now, enjoy these memories and the people you’re sharing them with. Hopefully, I’ll take some time out from all of this to go travelling once uni is finished. Then, hopefully, I’ll move in with Taya for a bit and find a job I love, and go from there. I know I want to return to study, but I’m not rushing into any decisions this time. University will always be there, whenever I do pick an MA. I am just going to try my hardest to enjoy these last few months, make some memories, get the grades I’m hoping for, and then take each day as it comes. I wish I had been there three years ago to give nineteen-year-old me this advice. I could have really used it back then. But, as a wise woman once said:
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already”.
-J.K. Rowling, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.