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Harry Potter and the Glass Case of Emotion


How did you spend your first day of 2022? I spent mine as a shrivelled, hungover prune. In fact, I was likely dehydrated, partly from all the bubbles the night before, but mostly from the amount of tears shed during the Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion.

I knew I was in for a good cry. I had just re-watched all the movies over Christmas, and even at moments I've seen countless times, I'd revert to my teenage self and bawl so dramatically that I probably scared my partner and the dogs. But I did not expect just how emotional the reunion would be. It was like nostalgia on crack.

As soon as I saw Emma Watson embrace Tom Felton, that was it. From that moment on, I was a quivering wreck - the amount of champagne from the night before didn't help, but it really did feel like I was watching something very special. Seeing the likes of Robbie Coltrane so much older, hearing anecdotes of Alan Rickman and Richard Harris, watching unexpected friendships between the was all just so meaningful for a fan of the series.

When Emma Watson talked about the books being an escape for those who needed it, how books like these can feel like a home, it made me think of my young teenage self. That girl felt awkward and shy and a bit lost at times, but the books always felt like a warm, cosy place to hang out. Not to mention the joy they brought me; I was that teen who would queue up at midnight for a new release, trying to pretend not to hear the jeers thrown our way by "cooler" young wans. My friend Mary and I would stay up half the night trying to read the new books as quickly as possible, coming into school the next day with bags under our eyes big enough to carry home a weekly food shop. "I got to page 280, what about you?" "330," the more smug of us would reply when we were ahead. We once lied to a group we were hanging out with about why we had to leave, and ended up running to the cinema to see The Order of Phoenix, sobbing to each other about Sirius' fate for the rest of the day. We later visited the studio tour in London with my other pal Mia, which we explored with child-like awe. Years later again, Harry Potter was something that bonded my partner and I on our first date.

So, seeing all the actors from the movies I loved so much now, all these years later, reflecting on their love for the movies and characters too, really hit me with the emotion stick. And it got me thinking about the power of nostalgia. It is a universal feeling, central to the human experience. So many of us are drawn to feelings of nostalgia, whether it's looking back on old photos or visiting a 90s themed bar with Calpol cocktails (planning my visit there ASAP). Nostalgia provides us with a direct link to emotions we are seeking to experience in real time; it soothes us and regulates negative emotions like loneliness or fear. Research has also found that indulging your nostalgic thoughts helps with feelings of social connectedness - during lockdown, for example, surveys found over half of tv customers were rewatching their old favourite shows. It comforts us. We're always told to look to the future, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to look back, sometimes, and crawl back into that safe space a movie, a show, a book, a song, a recipe, even a smell, can create for you. And don't feel like you can't love something because "you're an adult". Being an adult is hard; all the more reason to be enthused for something, anything, that makes your heart full.

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