Why Ambition Isn’t Evil, and Neither Is Slytherin

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I am a pretty big fan of Harry Potter – world, series, characters, all of it. And, probably like many readers, I empathised with Harry, and also Hermione, and fancied myself a bit of a Gryffindor. So when Pottermore came out and I could finally get that One Definitive Answer about what house I was supposed to be in* (because we all know fan-made ones are only as right or as wrong as they confirm your own initial bias :D), I was SUPER excited.

* Yes, yes, I know the sorting hat takes your choices into consideration ๐Ÿ˜›

And then I was in Slytherin.

I was a little crushed initially, but when I told my family and friends (my sisters are both Potter fans too), without exception they were all, Yeah, of course you are, duh!!

o.O

It took me a while to really learn to love my house, but all the fan-created paraphernalia that supports the house, and the explanations – they helped a lot. To the point that when the new Pottermore was released and I had to set up a new account and retake the sorting test and OH MY GOSH IT PUT ME IN RAVENCLAW, I was Not Okay with this.**

** Like my original sorting, however, I have learned to live with this one, and I think it’s actually extremely accurate to call me a Slytherclaw.

Because, you see, Slytherins aren’t all evil. In fact, we’re actually quite adorably loveable, and I stand firmly by my twitter motto of ‘nicest Slytherin you’ll ever meet’ ๐Ÿ˜€ (And then I discovered this Tumblr, and oh my gosh, YES, like 98% of those observations-about-Slytherins are MEEEEEE.)

Yes, Slytherins are driven by ambition, but ambition in and of itself isn’t evil. It’s what you’re ambitious for that makes the difference.

Derek Murphy, YA author and professional cover designer, sent out a newsletter recently that said this: “Ambition is seeing something you want to change in the world and making it a reality through the strength of your own will … changing what is into what can be.” (original emphasis).

Heck yes, I am ambitious. Always have been. My grades at school reflect that, as does the fact that I currently work full time, am making significant in-roads into being a professional writing, am running my own mini-publishing company, have a burgeoning cake business, and run a baby-things small business with my husband. Oh yeah, and I parent occasionally in there too O:)

But I was never that kid who cried when I didn’t get an A. I never felt good when I beat my equally-high achieving friends. I was, dare I say it, really relieved when I didn’t get the highest university entrance score in our friendship group. Because I’ve never wanted to beat other people. I’ve never wanted to use others as a stepping stone to make myself feel better. I just want to be the best human being I can possibly be – and that includes being a decent, moral human being, too, and it comes tied with a sense of duty to make the world as good as it can possibly be.

Ambition, yo. If no one had it, we’d still be living in the dark ages.

So here’s to all my fellow Slythies: Be proud of your house affiliation, and let that ambition drive you onwards to great and wonderful things.

Here’s to Slytherin.

Here’s to ambition.

Here’s to making the world great.

In Which A Stranger Makes Me Cry

Sometimes, you just really needed to hear it.

My kids are 5 and 2 right now, and they are both clever little beans, and super active. My son particularly is a little perpetual motion machine, and always has been.* So for the last two years, they’ve been doing swimming lessons as yet-another-way-to-try-to-expend-their-energy-and-keep-them-sufficiently-occupied. Y’all know my schedule tends to be packed so tight I can a) barely breathe and b) never afford catastrophes because they throw MY CAREFUL BALANCE OUT…

…but this is not, actually, a story of something that went wrong. The schedule comment is merely to contextualise, and to note that by the time I hit 6pm on the weekday whereon they have their lesson, I’m frequently a little frazzed. The actual lesson itself is fine (once I get over the almost-requisite being-5-minute-late part), but since I get in the water with the 2-yr-old, it means three swimmer-clad bodies to deal with at 6:30pm when we are all tired, in a crowded public change room where we often have to queue for the kids to use the open showers (though at least this means they don’t need a bath at home, and serves as their weekly hair-wash if I don’t get to it at any other point in the week ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ #MultiTaskingFTW), and then, because my kids are slooooooooooooooooow and everything is a biiiiiiiiig deeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaal when you are 5 and smart and tired, we usually have to queue for a cubicle so I can also strip off and change while they change, and look, it’s not aย problem because we’ve been doing it for 2 years and have our routine down to a fine art (requisite tears x 2 + 2 x optional bonus rounds of tears included**), and it works, and I wouldn’tย not do it because they both LOVE swimming (baby especially, who’s been swimming since 14 weeks*** o.O) and they need to learn to swim (this is such a compulsory Australian skill that most primary schools include a course of swimming in their sports curriculum each year), but it’s… a juggle. You know. I don’t mind it, it’s definitely not horrible, but it’s not the most relaxing 25 minutes of my weekly life.

So this week, I was going through all these motions as usual, had queued for a cubicle, and was just ducking in, and another mother came up to me.

I’ll admit, my heart sank a little, because the last time this happened it was a mother very politely and with much embarrassment on her part informing me that my son had been pushing her son into the pool >.<

But this lovely woman, looking – let’s admit – not a whole lot less frazzled than I, leans in close, and goes:

I just wanted to say, I think you do an amazing job.

I blinked, stunned, managed to beam and thank her appropriately, locked myself in my cubicle, put the baby on the fold-down table and instructed my son to set up under it, as usual, and promptly burst into tears.

I hadn’t been feelingย especiallyย frazzled this week, not compared to some weeks. And I hadn’t had a bad day at work, and I wasn’t feeling like I was teetering on the edge of sanity like I sometimes am. But Iย had managed to accidentally hurt Mr 5’s arm as I directed him out of the showering area, and the general frustrations of trying to wash, dry and dress two baby octopuses with Strong Opinions and Independences of their own in a crowded space on a tight schedule is always… well. You know. It is what it is.

And so even though I hadn’t been going, ‘Man, I could really use some encouragement right now’, apparently I still needed it, and it really hit home, and I am so, so grateful to this woman.

The take-home point is this: Modern Western consumer culture particularly sets us up to be in competition with each other – as men, as women, as non-binaries, as teens, as adults, in the workplace, in comparing homes, in our hobbies, in our social media. People who are united, gracious and forgiving of each other, always striving to encourage and lift each other up – these are not the kind of people who are susceptible to advertising, propaganda, consumerist values that drive corporate business. It’s not in the best interest of the people who currently run our society for us to encourage each other.

But we need it. Oh, how we need it. For the sake of our self esteem, our sanity – and, simply, our humanity.

So do something rebellious with your life: Become an encourager.

I bet you’ll be amazing at it <3 <3 <3

 

 

* Like, always. He nearly cracked one of my ribs in utero o.O

** One from Mr 5 at some point because he wasn’t listening to what he was supposed to be doing and got hurt (slipped on the wet floor, bumped his head, got soap in his eyes, take your pick), one from the baby when I wash her hair, and optionally up to another one round each while actually in the change cubicle because Tired and Wet and Getting Changed Is Hard).

*** Initially as a) something to do while Mr then-3 began lessons and b) as a bonding activity with my sister, who was also on maternity leave at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚