Neverland, Nevermore and Never Quite There

So many people talk about having “Peter Pan Complexes.” You know, they want to stay children forever. In today’s youth obsessed culture, that’s hardly surprising. There’s a nostalgia that comes with remembering one’s childhood. Even childhoods that weren’t particularly ideal or fantastic or even happy still remind us of a time when our futures were blank, undecided, full of potential. As we grow older and our world grows darker, there is massive appeal in retreating back to the days when there was always time to write our own stories, change our fate; before the world’s problems were our own. I guess somewhere deep down we’re all probably just newborn infants, still shocked by the coldness of the world and really annoying, bright, artifical light. Maybe we’ve all just realized we’ve made a huge mistake, being born, and are trying desperately to crawl back into our mother’s wombs where it is warm and dark and safe and isolated, if a bit damp. If we can’t do that, I guess most people would settle to return to Neverland.

Neverland is that place from your  childhood memories where you felt safe. That time, whether for two minutes or two years or two decades, you felt invincible, like you could do no wrong, and if you did do wrong, there was always time to fix it later. Some people never grow out of this phase. Some people realize they’ve left Neverland and fearing what they’ll find in the real world, seek desperately to return. Those are the Peter Pans. The ones who cannot and will not accept responsibility; The ones who live in the here and now, for whom the future is non-existent, irrelevant and not applicable.

On the other side of the psychologically screwed-up spectrum are those of us who spent our childhoods waiting to grow up. Our Neverland was the place where we imagined the future and planned out our lives. We found safety in the promise of a better future. I remember being shocked to discover that the majority of my classmates in kindergarten had not decided what they were going to be when they grew up. I became even more dismayed when I realized that the small minority of those who had decided planned on being fairy princesses, ponies and garbage collectors. I mean, we were almost six years old for crying out loud. It was time to make some choices.

I learned to read when my sister learned to read (she was six, I was two-almost-three), I left public school because it was moving too slowly, did two grades in one year, opened a Roth IRA (which is a type of retirment fund for you young’uns) at the age of sixteen and moved out on my own at seventeen. Now I’m stuck. I’m independent but not completely financially independent. I’m living far away from home, my family unit has mostly disbanded and my living situation is that of a post-college, single adult. But I’m still in college. I don’t have a career and have to rely at least in part on my parents to help me pay tuition and my bills. I have to act independent but I can’t completely be independent. I never wanted a normal college experience. I chose to move out on my own instead of live in residence housing during the school year and return home on holiday. I wanted to get my life started.  I don’t regret the choices I’ve made at all, but I’m forced to think about the things I’m missing.

My mom always assured me that people in college were more mature; that I’d find a group here. I found my group, but it’s the Harry Potter Fandom. We can’t see each other very often and are scattered all over the globe. The majority of college students seem even more immature than anyone I knew in high school. I’m in school to learn, get a degree and get out, but because I abandoned the opportunity to live a college lifestyle, I’m living in a space and time where I have no “peers.” I feel ready for the next stage of life, but I’m bound by these collegiate restrictions and by the fact that my physical age doesn’t match my mental and emotional age.

Western society glamorizes the young adult years. We value a four-year college education, after which we’re expected to take entry level jobs, work our way up the corporate ladder and somewhere along the line, get married, get a house in the suburbs, buy a couple cart and raise a few more kids to send to college so they can repeat the process all over again. There’s nothing wrong with that. But those of us who want more than academic success, who want something different and slightly less tangible, are forced to remain outsiders. College kids are the proverbial child-in-an-adult-body. We’re supposed to enjoy partying and carefree activities, rely on our parents but somehow be prepared to face some sort of world when we graduate.

When we’re ready to face the world while still in college, we’re left alone. We’re left to wonder what we’re doing and where we’re going. We have to lead ourselves.

I’m not saying all college kids should learn to grow up and I’m not particularly nostalgic for childhood. I’m just wondering why I had to grow up so fast. What’s wrong with me? What happens now?

Okay so maybe part of me does want to be four years old and just cry about everything, punch a pillow, sip on a juice box and have Mr. Rodgers tell me that he loves me just the way I am. That was kinda nice, right?


3 responses to “Neverland, Nevermore and Never Quite There

  1. I relate to a lot of that. While I wasn’t in a rush to grow up at all, by the time I got to uni I found myself a little isolated from the lifestyle there. A lot of people were immature, and then I didn’t even get to know the people who weren’t because I was living at home. While this may seem kinda alien from your philosophy of reaching for independence, I was actually being grown up in my own way. Why did I stay at home? Because I was scared to leave? Not really. Although I do think I would have struggled a bit at 18, I would have done it happily and adapted. Because I loved my family? Well, I was relatively comfortable here, but it’s not worth it for the sake of losing an experience that might be more fulfilling.

    Nope, I stayed at home because it was finanacially the most sensible thing. The best level of school I could get into was within reach of home, so there was no logical reason to throw away thousands of pounds. But then I later felt like I’d really missed out on something, that maybe by being so sensible I’d missed a part of my life. And likewise, the Potter fandom has filled that void to an extent.

    I think the thing to remember is that whatever paths society tries to carve out for us, we are still individuals. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing, what matters is how happy you are with things yourself. If you spend your time comparing your life and experiences to others, you probably won’t be very happy.

    But in general, do you like where you are? Are there things you’d like to be better? Decide what you want and go for it. =)

    Now if only I could take my own advice :p

    On a side topic, I wish I’d had the chance to skip ahead like that! It doesn’t really happen over here, but I could also read at a very young age. Then I got to school and slowly everyone catched up because I wasn’t stretched quite the same. You might feel that it’s just another way that isolates you, but in that I’d say you’re lucky.

  2. catched? haha omg. This is why I usually read things back before posting.

  3. It’s strange how I navigated here. It started with a walk in a dead town and a lack of concentration. There are some nights that I just can’t pay attention to the words that my fiance is rattling off; mostly because I need a reality check now and again.

    I’m twenty three, and like you mentioned, I spent my entire childhood waiting to grow up. I guess I have. I feel old – like really old. Older than my friends years ahead of me in school who are already married.

    In two years (after undergrad), I have lived in three cities, gone through 5 or 6 jobs, moved across the country (twice) and gotten engaged. I can’t even keep track of all this stuff, not to mention the emotional baggage that goes along with it.

    I guess what I’m getting at, is that I’m just as confused as you seem to be. We work so hard to get to this place that we have always admired, but then still don’t know where we are. I still wish everyday was 5 years from now, but then again, maybe it’s the opposite of the Peter Pan syndrome.

    So not to spoil your imaginations, but I was disappointed by what the “real world” gave me. I hope that you won’t be.

    best wishes.

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