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Day 31 - Expecto Patronum

Level 10

"Mysterious thing, time. Powerful, and when meddled with, dangerous." —Albus Dumbledore

As Leon’s December Writing Challenge co-editor, I’ve enjoyed reading all of this year’s submissions, a rich mixture of wishes not to disturb the lessons life teaches, a careful sprinkling of re-dos, a few winning lottery numbers, and a healthy set of Back to the Future references. But as much as Marty and the Professor may have beckoned so many to consider the potential benefits and risks of time travel, I felt they more than received their due respects. Instead, as my family re-watches the Harry Potter films each Yuletide, I think of Harry, and of Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner.

Not to debate the technicalities of the original Time-Turner’s five-hour travel limitation, nor the potential added benefits of “True” Time-Turners or anything involving the Malfoys, my basic takeaway from the story was this: if’n you could travel through time, you’d end up with exactly the same result when you returned. Whether you credit Niven or Novikov, you can’t do anything to the past that hasn’t already happened.

I’m not sure a spoiler warning is necessary for a 14-year-old movie, but when Harry realizes that his father isn’t coming to cast a Patronus – and that in fact, he’s his only [and best] hope – he’s able to be exactly who he’s always been, and who he would always be.


Image 1: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry’s charm wards off an army of Dementors, and saves his godfather and himself. He was who he needed to be – he didn’t need anyone more than himself in that critical moment. And when the moment came, he rose to the occasion. Every single time I watch that scene, I cry for the beauty of it.

Time travel wasn’t the solution to Harry’s problem – he was. It only gave him the perspective to realize what he needed to do. It didn’t change it, because he’d already done it.

In many ways, the travel we each do through time – the travel that brings us to the present – offers us all the same perspective. We are who we are because of the lives we’ve led, the things we’ve done, and the things we’ve left undone.

So, knowing I couldn’t change the past in putting a Time-Turner around my neck to visit my past self, what might I tell her? Nothing I’d say would cheapen the gifts of my hard-won lessons. I couldn’t undo great mistakes and rob myself of the wisdom they brought, nor make minor changes that would rewrite entire chapters of my life.

If anything, I’d want to give her a hug, and tell her that everything is turning out precisely as it should – complete with imperfections, disappointments, and tragedy, yes, but also with deep happiness, joy, and hope. I’d want to encourage her that even when all seemed lost, when every choice she thought would lead towards the life she desperately wanted [or thought she did] only led to more pain, frustration, and shame, that a better future was still out there. I’d tell her that even when everything seemed lost, and help didn’t seem to be coming, to hang on, and just keep going.

I think of Harry and Hermione waiting in the forest, Harry absolutely certain that his father would save Sirius and himself, growing more agitated and panicked that help wasn’t coming, that hope was fading. I’d like to think Current Me would be like Hermione to Past Me’s Harry, and reminding him that he’s enough – that I am enough. That I can take care of myself, that I can get through the darkest night, that I’m stronger than I think I am.

In all the stories our writers shared with this year’s challenge, I was impressed with the number of us who focused on this very lesson. No, we can’t undo the past, and in spite of perhaps even some very dark days, we really wouldn’t want to do so. We recognize the role our challenges play in bringing us to where we are in life. We benefit from the well-timed reminder that life will get better, and from those around us who believe in us as much as we should believe in ourselves.

And as we have traveled through time to meet ourselves today, I like to think our past selves would be pretty impressed by how we’ve all turned out. By how we’ve met obstacles both big and small, celebrated wins, learned from losses, and how we cherish our families, friends, and the good things in life, however we see them. And as we head into a new year – into the very future itself – I hope we all choose to encourage ourselves to be strong, to believe in ourselves, and to remember that we are enough.


A great post, which for those that have read more than a dozen of the articles this month (go back and read them all if you haven't btw), it has been interesting to see that common thread of not taking this opportunity to tell there younger self to do much or anything differently. Everyone can recount times of pain, loss and missed opportunities, but that those life experiences and challenges have brought them to the place, physically and emotionally they are happy and proud to be.

Thanks to Leon, Jenny and everyone else involved in this series of posts, it has been enlightening, reaffirming and hopefully shown that life comes with imperfection, but that life is there for living.

Say BOO to fear, worry less, live for the moment and take the positives from failure. May I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2019!

It is interesting to think about what could have been, but the truth is we will and can never know.   We are who we are, where we are, and the how's and why's matter little.   all we can do is strive to be better moving forward.  the future is not written but the past as you referenced is set in stone.  

Level 11

I think to often we concentrate on "What might've been", rather than what is.  We can all relate where we wish a certain situation had gone differently, or an outcome had been different.  It's all too easy to blame things on past discrepancies that have brought you to where you are today.  In truth without those happenings, you wouldn't be where you are, nor the person you are today.  Everyday is a school day, it's your choice if you learn or not.

Happy new year to one and all, let us all be more prosperous than the last

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one. - from The Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot

jennebarbour​ your write up reminded me of some of the more philosophical discussions I've heard with Professor Brian Cox around life in the universe.Which lead me back to the T.S. Eliot quote above. We are able to contemplate our existence and that of the universe because it is what it is. The universal constants we observe have their values because if they didn't we won't exist as we are to even think about them. This is not a commitment to determinism or destiny but suggesting that even in the earliest moments of this universe the way things happened set in motion the possibilities of this moment here and now. The past is what it is and will always be because without it now is not possible. But applying that looking forward seems to suggest that free will does not exist because we must do what we are destined to do so the future us can be what we will be? Is the future already determined? Or is it simply the narrowing of possibilities and our free will in any moment begins to reduce the probabilities of some futures?

Level 15

my family also watches the HP series every holiday season!

A lot of the posts over the month have reminded me of this as well:

"Hasn't your experience with the Time-Turner taught you anything, Harry? The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed"

- Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Level 9

You are the summary of your experiences.  What you have learned and the mistakes you have made have made you the person you are today.  Nothing you can do can change that.  Look to the future, improve yourself daily, and be positive.

Level 20

I can't help but think some of the same things are going on today in the country that were going on with Harry .  I won't get too political but I'm thankful everyday for a lot of things.  2018 has been a pretty good year for me.  I think 2019 can be even better and I plan to make it that way.  Our ideas put into action is what 2019 is going to be.  Honesty and ethics in what we do is where it's at and will be for me.  I plan to make the network more secure and improve its performance this year (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability) despite all the new things added by Cisco that are confusing.

“Shh! Listen! Someone’s coming! I think — I think it might be us!”

Only you, and you alone, can be you. You were, you are, and you will continue to be YOU.

Level 14

Be who you want to be. That requires making mistakes along the way and learning from them. I always tell my kids to learn from their mistakes but more importantly, learn from other people's mistakes as well. This has been a great experience reading these articles and sharing my own thoughts. Thanks for contributing!

Level 9

A wonderfully written wrap-up to the writing challenge. 

"If anything, I’d want to give her a hug, and tell her that everything is turning out precisely as it should"

I am catching up on the posts from the weekend so I read Allison's Day 30 post just before this.  In my response to that post I said that my wife struggles with anxiety. I wonder how much it would help if she could go back in time and do this.

We're each our best and only hope.  I like that sentiment.  It goes with so many other tried & true bits of advice. 

  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong.
  • Efficient people think for themselves.
  • First rely upon your own energies; do not wait for or depend upon others.
  • The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.
  • If it IS to be, it's up TO ME!
  • The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.
  • If you think you can do it, or you think you can't do it, You are right.
  • As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
  • Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.

So eloquently written. What an excellent way to cap off this year's introspective. I will add this small tidbit..

We are now tomorrow's yesterday. We are living the moment in which we can tell ourselves how to make tomorrow more brilliant. What is our context you might ask? Well, we don't know what our future olds, that's for sure. But after 31 days of laboring on our pasts the message is clear. Act! Be! Do! Live! Learn! Love! Move! Experience! Laugh! Forgive...

Happy New Year everyone. In a few hours for most of us it will be a new day, new month, and a new year. Be all those things you wished you could tell your former self. Go forward...

Thanks for the final challenge this year and the good feeling that you leave us with. It is a great start into the new year. Everyone be the best version of yourself in 2019.

have a great start.

Level 10

It has been a lot of learning, fun reading through the various write-ups in the writing challenge.

I wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous year ahead.


It's interesting to see how people are curious about changing past events but don't want to in case they affect who they are today. From past experiences, minor things can have a big impact on your life so if you change those events it could change more than you think.


Something I really love about this community is that it really is a community. We share thoughts and opinions, but the focus is on the betterment of the community and our members. This has been a good December challenge.

Level 13

So true.  The one I always think of in this context is the Stockdale Paradox (from Good To Great). 

You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

The weird thing is that some of the most trying times can be turned into something of a triumph if you just don't back down.  That doesn't mean they don't hurt or you would have ever chosen the path, but you come out better for it and in many ways it becomes a defining moment you look back on with pride.

Level 14

I have enough trouble travelling through time forward (never mind trying to travel backwards).