Peter Pan was my childhood hero. He had every quality a kid could want.
He could fly, hang out with fairies and fight pirates in Never Never Land. Besides wearing the tights, I could really see myself doing all of those things and tried to emulate him in many ways.
Now that I am an adult, I know we must beware of Peter Pan Syndrome. This is a disease which causes us to believe we can remain in childhood forever, like Peter Pan. It preys upon college kids who believe their lives parallel the life of this hero of children’s literature. Those afflicted with this syndrome believe Never Never Land exists and it is called college. Peter Pan Syndrome is the pandemic of our generation.
Manifestations of Peter Pan Syndrome include a refusal to grow up. It is fear of the next stage in life. Symptoms include a refusal to go on dates, spending hours upon end playing video games and eating pizza every meal of the day. In short, it is a refusal to take responsibility for life.
Undiagnosed and untreated, Peter Pan Syndrome will result in years wasted in the pursuit of things which do not matter.
There is a cure, but it requires more than just a pill or a workout regimen. First, we have to recognize the problem and then we have to make that next step. Change can be scary.
It is ironic we as a nation voted on the platform of change in 2008, but yet fear change in our own lives. However, we must make that next step.
Life occurs in phases, and we do not need to fear the next phase in life. Perhaps it is time to devote yourself more to your schooling, get married to your long-time boyfriend or girlfriend or get a job.
The message is simple. We need to grow up. Things which are most important in life should not suffer from those things which are not. We need to put the pursuit of fun and entertainment below family, responsibility and personal development.
Those who join onto this ship of responsibility must beware of going overboard. We need to remember what happens in Disney’s sequel “Hook.” It is important to keep outside responsibilities in moderation. In the film, Peter Pan grows up and in a trip back to Never Never Land realizes he has become a jerk.
He placed himself and his pursuits ahead of his family. This is yet another manifestation of Peter Pan Syndrome: selfishness. It is still a prioritization problem.
In college students, this is manifested by being fulfilled in what they do, instead of who they are. For example, some actually believe they will be fulfilled through their vocation.
While we should do things we enjoy, work is not the purpose of life. We need to understand that happiness stems from our identity, not our accomplishments. The shadow of our accomplishments should never overpower the reality of our own selves.
So, my advice is simple: Re-prioritize. To those of you who spend the bulk of your time pursuing your own happiness, look to others.
You will find deeper fulfillment in relationships with others, in personal development (which is distinct from the pursuit of fun) and in devoting yourself to your studies (which is one of the purposes of your time in college).
To those who always seem “too busy” for these things, I advise you to simplify your life.
Close the books, clock-out of work and reconnect with those who matter. Whether we relate more with Peter Pan as a young boy or as a man, it is time to grow up, to remember Never Never Land does not exist, and to keep fun and responsibility in moderation with those things that matter most.