Why 20-Somethings All Suffer From The Peter Pan Complex

Do you ever wish you could prolong your youth and return to the warm safety net of childhood? Childhood was a dreamy and quixotic time when the hardest part of our day was trying to tie our shoelaces into perfect loops. For those who suffer from “Peter Pan complex,” the life of a grownup is nothing to lust after. Grownups suck the fun out of everything, grownups pay bills and grownups don’t believe in magic.

Peter Pan was the child who never grew up and gleefully wandered the paths of Neverland with the Lost Boys. After we graduate from university and find ourselves flailing, we wish we were in a similar position.

Most graduates left the safe confines of a university campus and found themselves stumbling into an unsettled economic landscape. We weren’t prepared for it to be this way, and we didn’t think it would take this long. We didn’t think we would be drifting along the shore of simply getting by, and not making a living.

There have been many hasty and shallow observations of Millennials over the last few years. It seems that because we are taking longer to find our step on the career ladder, and many of us still live at home, that we get (in many cases) an undeserved reputation.

Are we, as many presume, byproducts of overbearing baby boomers? Were we over-parented and over-protected? Are we lazy and self-entitled dreamers? Poppycock, as my father would say.

We coasted into higher education, and followed the path our predecessors determined for us. After checking all the right boxes, we assumed finding our dream job would be as easy as filling in our eyebrows.

We all know the story by now. The incessant complaints made by the unmotivated and unprepared Gen-Y, who are too “lazy” to accomplish what they set out to do. These aren’t flawed excuses, these are our daily truths. We are too inexperienced for our dream job, too qualified for a temp job, and too poor to move to a city where the job prospects are better, but still brutally dismal.

The bitter truth is, we tried. Heck, we even quit our jobs and fell into financial trouble to pursue the path of becoming something great. It’s because we tried that we are resentful of the broken promise of education. We are crippled by debt and student loans that will take us a lifetime to pay back, and we are damaged by the inability to accomplish the now unattainable goals that we set for ourselves. It is because of these challenges that nobody prepared us for that we don’t want to grow up. Adulthood is overrated and falsely advertised. Thanks for the heads up, guys.

Another issue that faces us is that time is our common enemy. We are hindered by the ticking clock, and it unnerves us. Just like in “Peter Pan,” Tick-Tock the crocodile is a very real threat. We feel as though we only have a few years to start our careers, or we will never get there. We feel as though we only have a few selfish years left before we are swallowed by responsibility. As J.M. Barrie wrote, “I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”

Don’t we all miss the days of getting a holographic Disney sticker for being a good girl at the dentist? I miss not knowing the pain of an overdue credit card bill hurtling through the letter box, and I miss having tea parties with the dog.

It is so easy to become so enthralled by the idea of the past that we are wishing away the most defining decade of our lives. Being in your twenties is challenging, tempestuous and, at times, disappointing, but it has to be. Life can’t hand you everything you desire, and you’ll never know how much you want it until you have to fight tooth and nail to even get a little bit close to it.

Marriage and children are not concrete benchmarks, and we have redefined the term adulthood. We don’t get married at 18 anymore, and we don’t always have children during our twenties. The idea of being a “grownup” is terrifying instead of being seductive, but today it means something different. It means admitting when you need help and taking conscious steps to get it.

We have to stop telling ourselves empty promises and threats, and we have to release ourselves from the cozy bubble of nostalgia. The past has no new lessons for you, but the present does. Put down those rose-tinted spectacles, and look at the life in front of you.

Getting to adulthood takes baby steps. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it took me two years to redirect my bank statements from my parents’ address. I have still yet to master the art of actually reading them. Like I said, baby steps.

There is one part of your childhood you need to hold on to, and that is the utter unwavering belief that dreams can come true. Peter Pan has to live somewhere deep inside of us all, because we all need a little hope sometimes.

When you can face the fear, and admit that life was easier “back in my day” then you are more grownup than you think. The absence of childhood is a cruel reality check to every single one of us, but just like in “Peter Pan,” “Absence makes the heart grow fonder… or forgetful.”

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