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Our kind of magic

BaumgardnerThroughout the history of pop culture, countless movies and TV shows have confidently assured us that high school isn’t kind to geeks. We all know the hapless, socially awkward character that serves as comic relief, perhaps while helping the main character with a science project.

These shows tell us we should feel sorry for the overly passionate and extremely intelligent. Those who know what they love and let it define them will never be “cool enough” to survive high school. I am here to tell you that they’re wrong.

Sure, high school can be a jungle sometimes. And we navigate it surrounded by people, yet feeling somehow alone. We face similar obstacles, but we face them separately, all stuck wondering: “Do people like me?” “Why can’t I be as cool as (insert name here)?” and, the worst, “Is everyone hanging out without me?” Whether or not you identify as a nonconformist, everybody feels the pressure to conform in order to answer these questions. Acceptance becomes something we all strive to obtain, so when I achieved it this summer simply by opening my mouth, I was shocked.

This past June, a few of my friends and I attended the fourth-annual Harry Potter convention, held this year in Portland. Dubbed “LeakyCon” after a wizard tavern in the series, the convention is an impressive event that this year drew some 4,000 fans to the Oregon Convention Center to celebrate J.K. Rowling’s popular series.

From wizard rock concerts to Quidditch matches, it was Potter-head paradise. I had never seen anything quite like it. And the best part? A love of Harry Potter served as only one common denominator among attendees of the conference. You were bound to run into a fellow fan of BBC Sherlock, Doctor Who or the Avengers (to name a few) while waiting in line for the next “geek celebrity” signing or grabbing a bite at Burgerville. Complete strangers were singing together, shrieking together and exchanging Tumblr urls. The automatic love and acceptance between attendees felt like an inside joke, and we couldn’t help but laugh to think that we knew a secret the rest of the world couldn’t understand.

This magical atmosphere seemed to lend itself to the formation of groups like the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), an organization that fights evil around the world in the form of inequality, child slavery, bullying and many other pressing issues. As their representative said at the closing ceremony of LeakyCon, the weapon we have is love. Right then, surrounded by kindred spirits, I could start to believe in our power as an army of geeks, wielding love like a warm and fuzzy battle axe.

Even months after the convention, I’m still wondering exactly what made it so magical. I feel as though we were onto something, something much bigger than a fantasy book series. Maybe even something that I could find in the halls of West Linn High. The more people I know, the more I think that wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t geeky. It’s a good idea. If honesty inspires bravery, we could all be superheroes.

I know we can do better than survive high school. We can own it.

Claire Baumgardner is a junior at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the West Linn Tidings this school year.



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