When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a raging case of what is called “Peter Pan Syndrome.” I did NOT, under any circumstance, like the idea of growing up. Sure, I wanted adult-y things, like money and an awesome sitcom-esque apartment where all of my friends would congregate, but the idea of actually maturing into an adult human was pretty off-putting.
I dug my heels in hard where growing up was concerned. My mom, who I was living with at the time, was not thrilled with my attitude. I refused to look for jobs in my field of study (which I love). I sought and took jobs that seemed “silly” because they delayed the inevitable: growing up and moving on to my career. I did this because I decided that once I got to THAT place where I had THAT job, I’d automatically become this boring, dried-up version of me. Every day, “adult” me got up, slicked her hair back in a tight, sleek bun, donned a gray turtleneck, black pencil skirt, black stockings, and black heels, like one of those girls from a Robert Palmer video. Adult me carried a black briefcase and walked into work every day with her face drawn and her old, fun life tucked inside that precious briefcase. I was convinced I would be stuck in this ritual until retirement and that adulthood meant I’d have to set childish things aside and I’d never have any fun again.
Were these expectations a bit unrealistic? Yes, definitely. But the fear of growing up after college was very real, and it ate at me like a plague.
Fast forward roughly ten years, and I’m finding more and more that I think my “Peter Pan Syndrome” was a fear of failing, rather than a resistance to growing up.
I am (technically) an adult. And (shocker!) I still know how to, and participate in, having fun, on a regular basis. I may “fail” at adult things from time to time. For example, I may eat a giant cookie for dinner when I know damn well that it’s a bad choice and I should choke down a protein, starch, and a vegetable. Or, perhaps, I may avoid the post card my dentist sent me about my yearly cleaning because I just don’t have time for his shit right now.
I’m an imperfect adult, but we’re all imperfect adults, aren’t we? I’m not the adult I thought I’d become when I was lamenting over it at twenty, and that continues to impress me nearly every day.
My adult friends are amazing. Every single one of my friends is still who they were pre-adulthood, but with a (slightly) larger bankroll and more responsibility. We’re still essentially us even though we have jobs, houses or apartments, sometimes relationships, and bills to juggle. We’re still feeling young (most days) and we still get to experience a lot of fun.
Life doesn’t suddenly end when you pass a certain age – today’s world isn’t a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, young-adult novel. If you keep chasing your dinosaur, you can let your inner Peter Pan go and enjoy the life you have.
I’m failing at adulthood from time to time. But the upside is that I’m not afraid anymore. Every day isn’t great, but many are, and I’m so happy for that. I’m learning from my mistakes and failures. I’m growing as an adult and it’s not at all what younger me thought it would be.
Full disclosure: the black pencil skirt is very real. I do own one of those.