J.K. Rowling has been a large part of my life, and by all indicators this will continue. When I was four years old, I had my first encounter with the Harry Potter series, and the year after that I was reading the first one on my own.
It’s funny though, she has been there almost every step of the way, with her books and her words coming at the most appropriate times. The final Harry Potter novel was released the summer before I began high school, launching me from childhood to adolescence. But the movies continued to provide a link through those years, only ending when I graduated and entered the often terrifying world of being an adult. Then, JK Rowling started writing books for adults with The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and The Silkworm—carrying me through those first years.
A few days ago, she published a book version of her Harvard commencement address (proceeds to benefit the charity Lumos, and financial aid at Harvard). This has come at the best possible time, as I am days away from writing my last university exam and being a graduate.
Very Good Lives is a beautiful book (and great speech), illustrated perfectly to match her words. In the book, she discusses two major things that she wants to impart on graduates: the benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination.
J.K. Rowling, went through what she termed as a period in which she was the biggest failure she knew. Her marriage had imploded, she was unemployed, a single parent, and in her words “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless”.
But she worked. She worked as hard as she possibly could and I can only be proud of her and privileged to read her words today. J.K. Rowling used her imagination extensively and weaved a series of amazing novels, propelling her from poverty to theoretically never having to worry about money again (although, as anyone who has had severe issues with money, you always worry after that).
I hope that I never have to experience the same level of struggle, I’m not sure that anyone truly would, but all the same this kind of story is important to have out there. If she was able to pull herself out of it, if it happened to me there is absolutely no reason that I would not be able to do the same if it happened to me. Now, I may not get the same ending as her, in what she mentions the “press has since represented as a kind of fairy-tale resolution”, but I would be capable of being okay.
That is a comfort. This book is a comfort. I highly recommend that everyone read it, especially those on the verge of graduation.
And I, like J.K. Rowling, wish you all very good lives.