When a Gryffindor becomes a Hufflepuff

"Hufflepuff? Hell no."

That was my first reaction during #HarryPotter20 when I took two Hogwarts House quizzes in quick succession to find that both returned ... the badger. Buzzfeed quizzes are easy to dismiss, but scientific personality quizzes? Much less so. Even when they're tied to a fictional wizarding school.

Since the minute I began the Harry Potter series in my teens, I have identified with Gryffindor. Students there were brave, they took action, they won the Hogwarts House cup practically every year -- they were the leaders and strivers I'd always pictured myself to be, the noble ruling class of a high school environment where bullying paled in comparison to the threats of the Dark Lord.

Hufflepuffs, on the other hand, struck me as bland background helpers, acquiescent hangers-on who trailed the more charismatic Gryffindors and helped fill plot holes where necessary. I never considered them the heroes, not even of their own stories.

You can imagine then how the quiz results sent me into a minor tailspin. First I was dismayed. Then I was dismayed I was dismayed. After all, what's not to like about the values of "hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play?" I believe in these qualities; I seek out others who espouse them. So when would identifying with these traits be a bad thing?

When you want to be something else. That's when.

The dirty truth is, I always want to be the hero. I want to display courage and exhibit bravery. I want to be the first responder in a battle, the one who inspires confidence and unity by stepping forward when everyone else is quaking. I want to be carried forth on shoulders and have songs written and sung about me. You know. A hero.

But what I want and who I am are two different things. I am not as courageous as I imagine myself to be. I often hang back and let others go first. I take cautious risks. Glory does not come easily or instantly (if it comes at all) and besides, true leadership is not about glory to begin with. Plus, when I do summon the nerve to step forward, I sometimes trample on others' toes.

This much I knew for sure: I needed a third quiz. So at long last I took the "official" Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz -- a vague interactive widget that's tough to game -- and it returned ... Gryffindor.

Vindication! was my first thought. Close on its heels, though, was Huh. After a mere thirty minutes of considering myself a Hufflepuff, here I was already mourning its loss. Was it really so awful to learn I have goodness in me -- and in almost the same breath also learn I could stand to practice more of that set's humility? Besides, the world desperately needs kindness right now, to the point where practicing warmth and inclusivity is becoming its own courageous, defiant act. So maybe that's the nexus where I am being Sorted -- to become a Gryffinpuff or Huffledor, someone who does not let one trait define her but rather embraces all she might offer.

As I review the Hogwarts Houses with the eyes of a thirty-something, I now recognize the nuance I blew past in my exuberant, know-it-all immaturity. Each House's positive qualities have an equal and opposite end of the spectrum where members land when they push their dominant characteristics too far. In this respect, the Houses (and the magical Sorting Hat that puts them there) becomes a cautionary tale: to know your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and never assume you have only one way.

The beauty of the Sorting Hat is that it takes both capabilities and intent into account. We are who we are, and we also have power to become who we want to be. What can be more full of promise, more packed with magic, than that?

Prayer #313: Of What Sort Are You?

I am the sort of Muggle who ignores you, God of sorting. I strain and pull to keep your brim from circling my brow, and even when you're firmly placed, I wiggle out of all you're guiding me to do and be.

But now my name has (yet again) been called, and I come up (yet again) before my peers -- friends and enemies alike -- to answer your consistent call. Stick me to the stool this time, God of purest magic. Bid me listen; bid me learn.