Daydreaming and feeling overwhelming surges of inspiration is normal for me when I’m separated from the means to write (in other words, my laptop) for any extended period of time. I admit that very few times in my life have been so hugely joyous that a certain urgency to capture it in words lasts past the event. Some people have the gift of being motivational rather than nagging and I fully believe that it is the seven hour car ride next to Sam and my number one baby that I owe this determination to not procrastinate anymore to.
The happiest and saddest experiences are either the easiest or hardest to put into words. In my grief for Max in 2015 I tried desperately to put into words the sudden sense of mortality I felt, being able to remember him as a little pup as if it were yesterday. But unlike my externally forced graduation speech back in 2010, which told as neutrally as possible of my hellish high school years, I couldn’t find the words for my sweet boy. The ever expanding graveyard is since that summer where I find my ultimate peace and maybe that’s all I can ever say about it.
Maybe because I’ve admired and looked up to One Tree Hill actress and my idol Shantel Vansanten for so many years now, but I finally understand why she says “I look for inspiration in everything around me.” There was a time when I used to wait for that surge of urgency to write, but now many writing courses and pep talks later I’ve realized that it takes as much determination and focus as it does genuine inspiration to be productive. Every time I have heart to heart talks with Sam, I come away feeling more talented and capable for it so I owe it to her and myself to capture all the moments that it brings me joy to think about.
After the family vacation through Bruges in Belgium, the French war memorials and last but far from least Watford’s Warner Bros Studios three years ago, I always regretted not pushing through the procrastination to write about how much lasting joy I gained from October 10 2014. Naturally it was my psychologist who helped me make use of that day of bliss at every turn, by using the happiness of the memory to put me back in a good headspace during stressful and less joyous times. Because I’ve figured out the key to making memories long-lasting for me personally, it is and always has been music. The more Indian weddings I attend the more certain I am that any Indian function my possible future wedding may have will be a sangeet only. I have a carefully chosen anti-anxiety playlist of positive musical associations and have to give even my least favorite One Tree Hill character, Peyton Sawyer, credit for one truth:
But I digress, being a huge fan of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars after the film adaptation released in summer 2014, come the sightseeing in Belgium that October it was the soundtrack’s peppy track Boom Clap I tuned into as we walked the quaint streets of Bruge. The film’s love story took place in Amsterdam before terminal cancer turned it tragic and hearing that song on a tourist boat ride in Belgium felt close enough to the movie magic to be a joy to recall.
Seeing the war memorials on the next part of the trip it was my Dad’s excitement and the sheer scale of historical melancholy that made it unforgettable, being there to witness the 100th anniversary of WW1 was obviously an immense and sobering experience. But all that took place before one of the happiest days of my life, the one I’m sure I would think back on if J.K Rowling’s Patronus Charm existed in real life. In a way I understand how she made the joy-sucking Dementors a metaphor for her own depression because that single day has had the strength to carry me through hard times ever since.
Harry Potter was what turned me into what I define myself as today: a fangirl. The fascinating Marauder era still holds a very special place in a heart no longer seventeen but probably happier than nearly a decade ago. It makes me feel old to think that the first Potter film adaptation came out sixteen years ago, 2001 was incidentally the same year to give the world Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, which initiated my ten-year obsession with SRK.
Coming back to the Watford experience, I can safely say it was life-changing: Between Tom Felton’s humorous tour guide recorded narration, the animatronic Buckbeak that actually bowed and blinked and my first taste of Butterbeer, I was floored long before the most exhilarating and then emotional parts of the day. The simulated broom ride which thanks to the souvenir videos and photograph reminds me more than anything else how happy that day was, is still something I just have to watch to feel intense surrealism to this day. But my favorite photograph that day is of me posing behind the Privet Drive sign. It’s hilarious to think that on the set the awful Dursley’s home exterior is right next to the ruin of Lily and James Potter’s house.
Already soaring on a wave of bliss that had begun with the HP film scores blasting all the way to the parking lot, standing in front of that scorched wall is where I got really emotional because somehow the couple who are dead before the series even begin have always meant the most to me. Yes walking through Diagon Alley’s set with the incredible detail on all sides I genuinely felt like Harry in wishing I had about a hundred eyes at once. But somehow it was still that ruined Potter cottage that I remember responding to now; the fictional sacrifice for their baby’s life as stirring and inspiring as anything else that trip.
When I was sixteen I once had a crush on a boy just because he resembled the fifteen year old James Potter from the Order Of The Phoenix film adaptation, incidentally my last non-celebrity / fictional crush to date.
Needless to say that went nowhere and Harry Potter has stayed an important happy place for me longer than anyone in school ever did. There might still be times when the high school years negatively affect how I feel about myself but those days are few and far between.
Luckily for me, it’s a fact that time heals all wounds and someday only those powerful happy memories will remain. As Albus Dumbledore so wisely said after all…
Even as a writer, with a craft as creative and yet honed by habit as many others, the end result of a piece like this isn’t always in sight from the beginning. There’s always the fine line of discussing a work in progress with my cheerleading family and figuring out on my own what feels right. I’ve had all sorts of advice; to combine experiences or don’t, or to be honest and heartfelt but draw the line somewhere. But at the end of the day, I know that the only way to get the words out is find my own flow and go with it. All the song lyrics and Disney mottos about following your heart have got to come from a place of some kind of experience I suppose, so that’s what I decide to do with every word.
The theme of this article is holding on to joy and describing some hugely happy moments in my recent past would not be complete without the last week’s trip to Kottayam in Kerala. Some say this past week, with a royal Indian wedding and such a fabulous vacation with old friends deserves its own article and maybe someday it will get it. After all it took three years to pay tribute to the Potter joy as this article does.
But stand-alone tribute or not, the vacation in the south after the fancy wedding deserves a very heartfelt mention for inspiring me to write again in the first place with the love from old friends and simply breath-taking experiences. In a way it does tie in to the whole filmy Potter experience because Chacko Uncle shared his jaw-dropping world so modestly with us. How often does the average person get to sneak onto an active TV set and witness a girl prance onto the stage to an iconic SRK song?
For almost a decade my love of Bollywood became a way to connect with my roots from abroad and now it is always being in India that finds some way or other to remind me how much I will always admire King Khan. Granted there’s a huge nostalgia factor now but that song choice and moment in a little corner of that studio, trying to sneak a peek without tripping over the wires or squealing out loud was something I won’t forget in a hurry.
Over the next two days, the thrills just kept on coming, whether it was the epic serenades of our very own crooner Charles (the man stole my heart with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and kept it awed with a freaking Swiss German number) or getting to feel like a film star speeding along the backwaters, it was definitely like the Warner Studios tour in that I wanted to drink in all the sights and hold on to how I felt in the moment.
I’m not normally particularly keen on selfies, but with the enforced dressing up for the wedding before the Kottayam vacation, maybe the habit of sharing spilled over to that part of the holiday. Cruising along the backwaters I felt able to define wind-swept hair quite literally and even the slight motion sickness became easy to ignore with the sun kissing my exposed skin and finally getting to put my prescription sunglasses to good use. The picturesque backdrops helped me to feel beautiful and for that I am more thankful than anything. Here’s hoping ten years don’t go by until the next reunion, visits to the south are as much a fascinating window into Mom and Dad’s past as anything else.
As my former obsession show used to say “by its very definition, glee is about opening yourself up to joy” and with experiences like these under my belt I might yet learn to do just that more often. Despite the way it crashed and burned, Glee did teach me to never stop believing and I like to think I’m one step closer to that faith with the power of all these good experiences to guide me.
One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn made the idea of “someday” a trademark of many couples he wrote and I think my someday of just feeling good might be a lot closer these days. To end on one final OTH quote because it has words for everything…
I’ve come to realize I don’t have to dismiss the bad things in my past in order to find happiness, but I feel like my perspective on the years of teenage suffering has changed and that, for now, is good enough.