Thursday, June 27, 2013

Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan was never my favorite movie growing up, something about Tinkerbell I think- homegirl’s too sassy. But as I grow older I’m realizing that it’s definitely my favorite message. As a kid, I was justifiably obsessed with The Little Mermaid and I strove to be like her in every way. In hindsight however, binding my feet together with a diving ring to emulate a tail, jumping in the pool, and immediately proceeding to drown was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had (although regrettably not the worst). But how could I resist being drawn to the thought of a magical life under the sea with perfect hair, spontaneous chorus lines, and 20 dinglehoppers at my disposal? I was obsessed to the point of manipulation. My older sister, Kaitlin, and I shared a room once upon a time and I distinctly remember conversations such as these taking place:

Kaitlin: “Mojo, mom says we need to clean our room.”
Mojo: “I don’t wanna clean it. You clean it.” (I was a caring child.)
Kaitlin: “Well I would... but ARIEL alwayssssss cleans her big sister’s room...”


Flash forward to an hour later while I’m child laboring it up in our room while Kaitlin’s off creating a fake library in the den or whatever intellectual playtime activity she had planned for the day. And she’ll try to refute that story, ohhh she’ll try, but DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT. It got to the point of classical conditioning where, to this very day, if I hear “Part of Your World” gearing up somewhere in the background, I swear I can smell the scent of Pine-Sol the air.  

Anyway... back to Pan!

Just think about Pete’s life for a moment. The kid has it all. The ability to fly, a gang of ragamuffin friends ready n rarin’ for adventures at anytime, pirates to fight, mermaids to hang with, and the unbelievably functional-yet-comfortable combination wardrobe of tights and swords!

But the most amazing perk of all?


That’s the dreammmm man. To have youth the rest of your life! Sittin’ pretty in that comfortable slot between childhood and adulthood; old enough to go out on your own but young enough to have no responsibilities. Young enough to still believe in fairy tales, heroes, and the undeniable fact that people are ultimately good and just.  

Youth is something precious; something you can never get back. It reminds me of the summer I worked as a bartender at the local restaurant on the canal in my hometown. The most diverse and eclectic people would wander through the crooked front door, sit at my stools, and spill drinks and words alike. I soon developed a habit of asking these strangers for life advice or words of wisdom that they could share with me. The answers were as varied as the clientele:

For example, Old Man Walter gave me indispensable advice on the joys of marriage:
You turn an old man loose from his wife, you’d be surprised what he can do-- honest to God.”
(talking about the 2 week cruise he went on... without his wife)

Or Nelson who lent me his wisest business tip:
“You wanna know the secret to making more money? Wear a lower shirt.”

Or Jimmy speaking on the sanctity of love:
“You can make more money in a five minute marriage proposal than in an entire lifetime of working.”

But amidst these terrible tips that made me question the overall decency of the entire human race, every so often someone’s life advice would strike a chord with me. I remember one particular rainy evening when an old man walked through the door, sat down, and ordered a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. I slide him his drink and he downed the liquid in one fell swoop. He placed the glass down on the withered bar and let out an audible sigh, raindrops still dripping from his hat. While the scene in front of me had all the makings of the next big country song, I decided to dive in anyway and ask him for one peice of life advice.

He looked up at me under the brim of his hat and in a course, crackled voice (like the one you’d use after just waking up) I’ll never forget the words he said next:

“Time is the only true commodity in life. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Youth is a precious thing darlin’ and it’s the one thing in life you can never get back. No matter how much you want it...

you’ll never get it back.”

Apart from making me want to run home crying and go dig my barbies out of the shadows of my basement so that I could cradle them while weeping in the corner... his words made me think. We spend so much time wishing for tomorrow. Impatient to what lies ahead of us while never appreciating all that we possess right now, in this very moment. We long for the future until we reach a certain age where suddenly we ache for the past. Where is the desire for the present? Where is the longing for the here and now?

Peter Pan never has to worry about that. Never has to yearn for lost youth or the glory days of yesteryear. He enjoys every moment of life because there is no fear of losing what cannot be lost.     

My mom has always said that I have “Peter Pan Syndrome”. A constant stubbornness where I refuse to grow up, refuse to abandon the ideals of childhood (boring people like to call it “immaturity”). It’s weird but for me, the word “mature” has always been the one that possessed the negative connotation.

Let me explain it this way: I am a 24 year old with bunkbeds and my idea of being responsible is forcing myself to turn my clothes right side out before washing them. So you can understand why someone like me sees the allure in finding Neverland.  

But maybe Neverland isn’t some distant world far away second star to the right and straight on til morning. Maybe it’s more a state of mind than an actual state. Maybe it’s in that big pile of leaves that you just can’t resist jumping into. Maybe it’s riding your cart down the cereal aisle luge-style in your 3-piece business suit. Maybe it’s the fort you build with your two year old nephew for no other reason at all besides fun. Maybe it’s not as far away as we think.

And maybe youth never has be mourned... because it never has to be lost.  

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