I Grew Up to Be Peter Pan

The very real struggle of being a child trapped in an adult’s body


Adult. There’s something about that five-letter word that somehow frightens me to my very core. Being labeled or categorized as an adult has come to haunt me, and the worst part is, I think that, even despite my best efforts, I’m becoming one.

I wasn’t always this way. When I was a kid I dreamed about the day I would finally break out of my cocoon and become a beautiful adult butterfly. I thought being an adult was going to be so awesome!

Well turns out, that’s Disney shit. It’s a fantasy. It’s a dream. It’s not real. It’s a lie.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered the real truth of what adulthood would actually mean, and let’s be honest it doesn’t look pretty.

Prepare to work your life away. No more fun and games, little-to-no social life, bills, payments, being broke all the time, and worst of all…no time for reading.

See here’s the thing, I know I have it good right now, and I’m not ready to let that go.

I’m 23, I live under my parents roof, rent and cost free.

Now before you jump to any conclusions, this doesn’t make me lazy. In fact, I love making money from my own hard work. However, at my parent’s insistence, I gave up work all together to solely focus on my education.

And not to brag or anything, but so far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job. My GPA says it all. I’ve given up almost everything in order to work hard at school: my social life, fun, a lot of my reading time, not to mention my sanity.

However, when I got accepted into a university that’s when it suddenly hit me. I have to face facts, I can no longer deny it. I’ve become an adult.

Well, my age indicates I’m an adult, but my behavior still says otherwise, I reasoned.

Reading my acceptance email was both really exciting and terrifying at the same time. Immediately I began thinking about how great going to a four year would be, but just as quickly I began to spiral down the rabbit hole of self doubt. I started thinking about the very real possibility that I may begin to accumulate student debt and loans and how I would have to balance work and school at the same time.

No more free time, zero reading time, and there definitely wouldn’t be any time for fun. I also don’t know what challenges may lay ahead of me. It’s the fear of the unknown and the fear that my life is suddenly over now because I must become a responsible adult.

Let’s not even mention my fears for after I graduate. Will I be able to find a job? Will it be one I like? Will I have to move to a different, far-away state where life is more affordable than California? Will I be able to survive on my own at all?

I don’t know why it hit me at that precise moment. I mean the hints were there…

The fact that my family has started asking me, “When are you gonna get married and have babies?”

Or that my mom can only cover me in her health insurance until age 24. Or I should have noticed when I read that most colleges consider me independent of my parents income after I turn 24.

I’m going to be 24 next year…

The signs were there, and whether or not I saw them or just chose not to see them doesn’t make them any less real.

As I write this, I realize its not actually the word that frightens me so much as it’s what’s implied of that word. It’s what is expected of an adult that is terrifying.

As an adult who belongs to functioning society I’d have to start my own family, be financially independent and stable, and have a successful career. More importantly, I’d have to be able to handle a lot of responsibility. I would no longer be allowed to just sit back and let life take its course. I’d have to start making some pretty serious changes and adjustments very soon.

You’ve gotta see it from my point of view, my responsibilities thus far have been: go to school and get good grades. Basically they’re minimal, and I’m still stressed out beyond belief.

I’m no where near mentally or emotionally prepared to face these new exciting — yet scary — responsibilities. Being an adult means having your shit together most of the time.

The adults that I know seem centered, calm, in control, focused. Not lost and confused, which is basically me.

Which brings me to the core of all this, the actual root of my fears: I’m so deathly afraid that I won’t be able to figure things out on my own.

I’m afraid of failure, and I’m not talking about failing out of school, I’m talking about failing in life. What if it turns out…I’m no good at adulting?

What if it ends up that I’m a mess of a human being? What if university isn’t what I think it’ll be? What if I fail a class? What If I didn’t pick the right major? What if I can’t afford school? What if I disappoint my parents? — which, just the idea of disappointing my parents hits me so hard. They have worked their butts off to get me to where I am today, and to put me through school. I cannot fail them.

I think that’s why I panicked so hard while looking over my acceptance letter. It made everything I had been avoiding become instantly real and tangible. I couldn’t avoid it, or ignore it, and so I decided to accept it and just face my fears head on.

And I’m not doing this because I don’t have a choice. Technically, I could still drop out of school and become a couch potato who reads books and watches cool movies for the rest of her life, but I won’t. I’m facing my fears because I can no longer live like this, I can not live my entire life in fear. I want to be a strong independent woman. I don’t want to have to depend on my parents or anyone else. I want to be more secure about my abilities, my strengths, my choices, and above all, myself.

Although I’m nervous and afraid, it’s time to put my big girl pants on, get my head out of my novels, come down from the clouds, and face reality.

So, technically, I guess I’m still Peter Pan. I’m just the Robin Williams version in Hook. You know the one where Peter Pan grows up, has a family, and gets his life together but is ultimately still a kid on the inside.

And if you’re like me, and you’re more than a little nervous about adulating, it’s okay, we’ll just have to go out there and face it together. Especially since no one has discovered Neverland yet. All we’ve got is the real world. Yay.

Header Photo Illustration of Marta Barbieri by Massimo Barbieri.