M. Barrie’s most famous work was based on the story of Peter Pan, a kid who decided not to be an adult. The internet is full of memes on the subject that went trending faster than you can click the like button.
It is funny how most of us post and re-post, wondering what were we thinking as kids, being in such a hurry to grow up and be adults, take on responsibilities and withstand the everyday social pressure of living by some rules we didn’t even agree to. When did we forget that in our child minds, becoming an adult wasn’t about all that?
It was about freedom.
The irony is that we can’t remember when along the way we decided growing up isn’t about gaining that freedom but rather giving it up. When did we decide adulthood is a trap, when was the moment we found ourselves helpless, terrified and desperate to go back but too late to do so?
I remember the college years, when the glimpse of adulthood tempted us through the apparent freedom of choice. We chose to overdose on a reality that later on would prove to be just a glimpse of our imagination, a common one for most millennials. We used to run away from libraries to spend time turning fantasy into reality, and now, as adults, we are running into libraries to escape that reality.
Growing into adulthood became a clear turning point along the way, the same as in Barrie’s book, when Peter decided he doesn’t want to get adopted and live in the real world, with the friends he had made, but rather go back to Neverland where he could stay a kid forever.
For us turning 30 is the new crossroad. You can choose to live as before, growing friendships, dedicating time to growing professionally, reading self help books, meeting new people and setting your target on the next country you want to visit. Or you can decide to have a stable job, receive bills on your name, get a bank loan for that apartment that offers you security, buy a car, raise a kid or get married. Both ways mean placing one foot in front of the other – only in different directions, moving forward without looking backwards, not knowing that the only thing that can make you stop is your own mind.
I know a lot of people who like the concept of being an adult, thinking that means faking maturity behind business suits, having kids because their biological clock is ticking or because it just happened one night, or getting married just to prove they’re happy. Those people never admit they are stuck, wrong, that they hurt, fail, argue, regret, just like the rest of us, because in their minds, they are gown ups. For them, growing up means painting a picture perfect life, just like playing pretend – the only game they’re still best at.
I like to think growing up means looking within yourself and realizing you are not special, or different in any way from the others, that you have the same fears and failures, the same as you have the same things that make you happy or dreams that keep you going. That you can chose to experience life in new ways or that you can experience it the ways you were taught to. Any case, both choices are paved with difficult challenges, from changing diapers every 2 hours to changing countries every 2 years.
Because in the end, adulthood, much like everything else in life, is a matter of perspective. There is no general definition for it, and if change is good then adulthood is good. We change every day, we transform according to our own experiences and we chose every day – from pumpkin spiced lattes to things we like on Facebook. We chose what we take with us and what we leave behind, what we let define us and what we reflect for others.
I know a lot of people who chose to never grow up, because they chose to take with them day after day, the most important thing that defined them as a kid: honesty. They remain true to their choices, and accept life with all it has to bring, the bad and the good, in front of the mirror and in front of others. Because the hard thing about growing up is getting to know and love yourself for who you really are before you move on to loving and giving life to others. And that is what freedom is all about, that is what we dreamed about as kids – that is the ultimate curiosity that made us want to grow up faster.
Peter Pan is ultimately a story about growing up and letting go of childhood, even if you don’t really want to, because growing up is great, with all the headaches, wrinkles, nostalgia or fears it may bring.
I dare you to grow up, and take Neverland with you.
Bonus meme I found on the internet and could not help but re-post: