Until recently, I never identified with any particular Hogwarts House.
Gryffindor was far too blindly moral for me. Hufflepuff just too blasé. I didn’t consider myself enough of a perfectionist to fit into Ravenclaw, and though the Pottermore quiz consistently sorted me into Slytherin, that didn’t feel like the right alignment either.
I took the debacle to Twitter a few weeks ago, asking my followers which house they believed I belonged in. I got responses suggesting each house (Except for Gryffindor. I guess red and gold just aren’t my colors), but ultimately the argument came down to a standstill between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.
Unable to decipher which of my traits were most prevalent – my idealistic hippy nature or my undying love for understanding (and intellectually categorizing) the human condition, a lone follower came out of the woodwork to ask me:
‘If you went back in time to your own sorting, which house would you have wanted to be in, Heidi?’
And that answer was simple. Preteen Heidi, and her raving intellectual superiority complex (which has very much died down in adulthood, I assure you) would have chosen Ravenclaw in a heartbeat.
And so Ravenclaw it was.
JK Rowling pulled a cute little stunt when she let us know that the sorting hat takes your preferences into account. It was a delightful method of validating the part of us that vehemently believes in free will. But she also touched on something profound.
At the end of the day, we all belong exactly where we decide we belong.
Fast-forward fourteen years after my imaginary ‘sorting’ ritual.
I’m twenty-five years old and making plans to leave New York City – the place I grew up dreaming I would move to.
The decision to leave New York has been a head, rather than a heart-driven one. Opportunities are looking better elsewhere. I can’t justify any decision to stay.
And yet it’s heartbreaking, picking the clothing off the floor of my converted-warehouse loft apartment in Brooklyn and considering whether I should pack them into a suitcase, or wear them one more time before leaving. Because New York City was the first place I ever arrived at where I felt like I just belonged
Like it was home here, from day one. Like the city was constructed specifically for people like me – for those who wanted to move and shake and rearrange the way we thought about the world. Like it was a city built for drifters and transplants and oddballs, who never belonged anywhere else.
But driven oddballs. Future-focused oddballs. Oddballs who were odd because they couldn’t slow down enough to bother to adhere to the rules and regulations.
New York was the city I wanted to be in. It still is. It always has been.
But what struck me as I dragged my dirty leggings to the Laundromat this past Saturday afternoon was that there was a simple, unequivocal reason why New York felt like my city – because I’d decided on it.
Around the same time that most people were hoping their Hogwarts letters would arrive, I was setting my sights on the Empire State.
Through the gruelling years of high school, I fantasized about escaping my lacklustre hometown and taking up residence in an apartment with a Manhattan skyline view.
I chose New York, years before I ever visited it for the first time. And so when my plane touched down at LaGurdia airport in my twenty-third year, you bet your ass I arrived ready to give this city my all.
When life threw the proverbial sorting hat onto my head early in my twenties, I screeched ‘New York!’ And in that instant, I chose the place where I belonged.
I chose the place that I was willing to work for. I chose the place that I would make myself love, come hell or high water. Because that’s what you do when you decide on something – you do whatever it takes to make yourself belong there.
The truth is that none of us inherently belong anywhere.
Not in Hufflepuff or Slytherin or Ravenclaw. Not in New York or Chicago or Albuquerque. Not in a certain relationship or a certain job or even a certain field of work.
We just choose who we want to grow into. We choose what we’re willing to work for. And as a consequence, we carve out a space where we belong.
I belonged in New York because I fought to make myself belong here. Because I went to the same weight training class three times a week until they knew my name and chest injury. Because I hung around the same comedy venue until the performers all recognized my face. Because I worked hard to host events and throw myself into activities and foster acquaintanceships until they grew into meaningful friendships.
Because I decided that I would belong here, and so I did. And so I made that become the truth.
The thing about any city – or any career or any relationship or any decision – is that they’re all just Rorschach ink blots.
When we’re confident in a decision, we work at its consequences. We overcome its challenges. We accept its outcomes, come hell or high water.
Our realities conform to our mindsets – not the other way around.
If you want to be a Gryffindor, you make yourself brave.
If you want to be a Ravenclaw, you make yourself clever.
If you want to be a Hufflepuff, you make yourself kind, and if you want to love a city (or a person or a decision), you make yourself open to it.
You tell yourself ‘I am going to make this work out,’ until it does.
You tell yourself ‘this is where I belong’ until it is.
Until you’ve proven yourself right. Until you’ve fulfilled the prophecy of your self-sorting.
And if you chose a city once, you can choose a different one again. If you’ve chosen a person in the past, you can make up your mind on someone else in the future.
In the real world, our sorting ceremony doesn’t happen once but over and over again.
We will spend the rest of our lives sorting and re-sorting ourselves – into jobs, into relationships, into situations that we want in or out of.
And too many of us will forget, each and every time we find ourselves sitting with the metaphorical sorting hat on our heads, hoping things turn out for the best, is that we still have a choice in that matter. We always have a choice in the matter.
Because at the end of the day, no sorting will ever be the wrong sorting entirely – so long as it’s the sorting we want.
So long as we’re choosing what matters to us. So long as we’re at peace with our decision to choose Ravenclaw or NYC or Gryffindor or Hufflepuff or Toronto.
Because the house that you sort yourself into is going to be the house where you belong.
Because it’s going to be the house that you decide to give your all to.
And that kind of sorting is always, always right.