Personal Column: Peter Pan Syndrome is Chronic


Courtesy of Pinterest

This story describes my experience with growing up and specifically not wanting to.

Shuffling, my hushed footsteps stifled by the white linen. Glorious sunlight to illuminate my sickly, veiled face. I bobbled towards him, savoring in my last few steps of freedom. 5 more steps. In each step my breath drew sharper, discomfort etched in my contorted smile. 2 more steps. I wondered if anyone saw the way my figure strained the cinches of my dress, fraying the seams into scattered threads. Could they see how nauseous I felt? Were they too blinded by our love, to see how repulsed it made me? 1 more step. My frail fingers were shaking in the pale light, repulsed to see the ring they’d soon bear. I’d finally reached the altar. I approached him then, in his fine tailored suit and firmly gelled hair, looking for comfort in the pillowed teeth of his smile and finding none. 

“I pronounce you husband and wife, to love and to cherish each other forever,” our priest said. 

In the words I thought I’d always wanted to hear, I’d never felt more terrified. I woke up from my dream that day knowing one thing for certain. There was no person, place or thing I was okay with being stuck to Forever.

There was a time in my life where I’d countdown the days until I got married. I’d craft elaborate Pinterest boards of mermaid dresses and listen to the way my first name sounded with someone else’s last name. More than anything though, there was a time in my life where I couldn’t wait to grow up. 

“Blow out your candles, honey,” my mom whispered in the dim lighting.

There were 6 candles pooling wax onto my cookie cake, coagulating into odd bundles with the icing. They looked so lonely there, I couldn’t help thinking. Like fragile daisies in too vast an expanse of grass. 

“Make this wish a good one,” she said.

My 10th birthday party at a rock climbing gym (Jennifer Tran)

I squinched my eyes shut and blew out a steady and warm stream to the fire. I already knew what I wanted because I made the same wish every year. That year, like every year before it, I wished to grow up faster.

I’m 16 now and my biggest regret is seeing my childhood dream come true. Time has moved all too fast. People see me now and are readily armed with questions about what I want to do with my life and the person I want to become, but I always tell them the same thing. I still don’t know. I’ve had 16 years to figure it out, and I still don’t fully know. I think it has something to do with how I’ve always been an indecisive person though. Now that I know, growing up is all about forever has made making big decisions that much harder for me.

My Cousin, Damion, and I at dinner for my Aunt’s birthday. (Jennifer Tran)

It’s all about forever. I’ve read the college pamphlets and all their promises to build “a bigger and brighter forever.” I’ve seen the fake smiles on wedding billboards, as they promise they’ve never been more happy than the forever in each other’s arms. All the empty plots of land that promise on them you can build your best forever home. 

I’ve learned to hate the word forever.

It’s something to do with the way the word implies empty promises and how egotistical it is to think there is no obstacle that forever can’t overcome. I’m a sophomore in high school, I just got my license, and more than anything I know I hate forever because it is something I’m going to have to face. Peter Pan Syndrome is chronic.

I’ll be moving out of the house soon. I’ll have a job. I’ll be applying to college. I’m terrified. But I know now growing up is inevitable. 

Time isn’t in my hands. I’ve come to accept that the future is coming, whether I want it to or not, so instead of resisting it, I’ve learned to adapt. I now seek happiness in what decisions I know I have to make, focusing instead on what they could lead me to. A part of me will still be hesitant in paving fixed pathways for myself, but I think there’s wasted effort in trying to fix what you can’t change. In temporary misery, I know I can find long term joy. 

“Khi con sâu thành bướm”, my Grandma says. 

When the caterpillar becomes a butterfly.