The Peter Pan Effect: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
“All children, except one, grow up.”
We all know this famous quote kicking off J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It’s wiggled its way into our collective memory. Why? Because on some level, we all relate. Because growing up is tough.
As kids, we live in a bubble, unaware of the heartbreak ahead. Eventually, it dawns on us that our parents are real people facing real problems. In addition to dealing with all the crap life throws at them, they also expend an unequalled amount of energy trying to shield us doe-eyed, bushy-tailed tots from this real-life, dream-busting shit. Saints that they are.
But, unlike True Detective would have us believe, time is not a flat circle. Eventually, we grow up, we leave the house, go to college, get our first job, pay our own bills, deal with our very own disappointments. We’re also forced to realise that the protective armors our parents painstakingly forged for us no longer repel the real-life stuff we’re now confronted with. The daily grind becomes inevitable, we’re on the proverbial treadmill called adulthood. Our kryptonite, if you will. (Alright already, I’ll stop with the superhero analogies).
Some of us thrive in this kind of environment, finding solace in the repetition. Kryptonite has nothing on them (last one, promise!). Others question the purpose of it. If the journey is the reward, but the journey doesn’t challenge us, doesn’t open our minds, doesn’t help us grow, they argue, then our bounty starts to look and feel a lot like fool’s gold.
My own life has always been marked by change. Having never spent more than a few consecutive years in the same place, starting from scratch is second nature to me. It doesn’t scare me. On the contrary, it’s probably the most comforting feeling I know (followed closely by Netflix and pizza in bed). When I was 20, no one batted an eyelash. “You’re off? Cool. Send a postcard.”
“But what about settling down? Don’t you want that?”
Now, a decade later, my friends and a few family members (sorry, grandpa) are starting to shift uncomfortably in their seats, unsuccessfully masking their disapproval at my mercuriality. “But what about settling down? Don’t you want that?”
The truth is, I don’t know if I want that. Sure, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like my safety net – we’re all creatures of habit, after all – but there’s still so much to explore. Maybe I’ve fallen prey to the Paradox of Choice, or maybe I’m just a big kid suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome. Maybe it’s delusional to think that I can be a nomad my whole life, and that I’ll keep all my friends, and that my bank account won’t suffer, and that I’ll live happily ever after.
The answer, it’s slowly starting to dawn on me, is sacrifice. Are you willing to sacrifice certainty, routine, and stability? Would you be OK with living less comfortably than you are now? Are you ready let go of that picture in your head of how your life as an adult is supposed to look like? If the answer to all of these questions is YES!, well then, my friend… happy trails!
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” – Peter Pan