Bereavement, loneliness, lofty social expectation, and bullying; through my own fractured childhood, I became aware that the fabric of life is riddled with moth holes. JK Rowling taught me that not only is inadequacy nothing to be ashamed of but that it’s necessary to vault our dreams.
Twenty years ago, Joanne Rowling was a single mother living on welfare, sacrificing meals so that her daughter could eat. “Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is something on which to pride yourself. But poverty itself is romanticized only by fools,” she says.
The reality is that struggle and vulnerability are necessary for honest creativity, but they are experiences that only look pretty from a distance.
This is why JK Rowling has the words of E.B. White painted on her wall at home. “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
If there is one thing vital to a profound life, it is imagination. If there is one thing vital to an elastic imagination, it is empathy. If we do not make conscious attempts to see outside our own perspective, we will only experience the world through the tint of our own limited experience. In doing so, we will squander the time we have here on earth to do something truly worthwhile. We should not confuse comfort with spiritual contentment.
“Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy,” says Rowling in the video below.
In 2008, at Harvard University, JK Rowling reminded students that failure is not a sticker of shame. Rather, we should view failure as an opportunity.
“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. Failure means stripping away the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me . Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might have never found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.”