When you are young, there are so many things that affect how you mold yourself into who you want to be.
Whether you model yourself after who your parents are (or aren't in some cases); characters you saw on television or in movies, or you mold yourself the way I did: through books. When I was younger if you couldn't find me, I was probably holed up with some new book, or an old favorite, imaging the characters and the thick descriptions of settings and places I would never get to visit. But through all of the books I read and every world, I traveled to; one name sticks out in my head. There are very few literary characters that had done for me what Luna Lovegood did when I was a young adult.
To those who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter series, and even for those of you who are familiar, you may be questioning why I would choose a character outside of the triad that remained the focus of the novels: Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
While I loved every moment, I spent reading and learning with those characters, I couldn't identify with any of them. Whether because back then in my mind I was constrained by thoughts about gender and things I couldn't do because I was a girl and not a boy, or because I just wasn't any of those characters, I often dreamed about who I would be in their world. And then I met Luna. The odd duckling, a daughter with a single parent, very independent but not willful. Crazy smart if people would give her a chance to speak, and despite everything - no matter how others treated her - she treated everyone with a kind and open heart. And she proved this time and time again. As a part of Ravenclaw house, she became the gold standard for what the house stood for: brilliant, creativity, individuality and acceptance. She was always the same person, but when it got down to the end, if you pressed her too hard, she would be the last person you would want to meet in a fight - because when you give someone that many chances, don't expect them to be merciful in the end. I also loved her because she was a founding member of Dumbledore's Army and no matter what came up against them, Luna always stood by her friends, no matter the personal risk.
As I got a little older and as I watched the films, I became enamored even more with the character as portrayed by Evanna Lynch.
Especially when I heard about the story of how she got the role. Lynch had been struggling with an eating disorder and found herself in such bad a state that she was in the hospital. Like me, she found solace in the Harry Potter novels and even wrote to write J.K. Rowling, praising and thanking her for creating Luna and listing every reason she would love to audition to play Luna or be in any way a part of the cinematic franchise. This is the only aspect of Lynch that I am jealous of: J.K. Rowling wrote back to say that if Lynch got healthy she was welcome to audition and before long, Lynch became Luna and gave the character I loved so much the love and care she deserved.
Think about it, did you ever have a character that helped you find yourself?
Someone who embodied not just who you were and was unapologetic for being just that. Not pretending to be someone they weren't, and whether they were ridiculed or not; nothing ever stopped them from getting their happy ending. From the little girl who grew up, thank you, J.K. Rowling, for creating characters so memorable and relatable so that every child can find the magic within themselves. Thank you, Evanna for giving me a real-life Luna to dress up as for Halloween and relate to and find solace in when the days get hard. And to Luna, though I haven't read your adventures in a while, or watched you on screen, I feel your presence beside me as I flip through the world, slowly finding my place in it.