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Am I Suffering From Peter Pan Syndrome?

“So, are you going to look for work when you get home?” she asked.

The semester was winding down, and it was only a few weeks before exams wrapped up and we were all released from our year of studying Chinese in Shanghai.

“No, I think I’m going to travel around Asia a bit and learn Muay Thai,” I replied.

She laughed.

“You’re really running away from grown up life, huh!?” she said, smiling.

I didn’t really think about it too much after that, but sure enough, the semester ended and my classmates all returned home to their jobs and studies, while I somehow ended up in the Philippines, living on Boracay and learning martial arts, just like I’d wanted to.

Yet as I lay in my bamboo hut on the first few nights, I began to wonder what direction my life was heading in. Back when I quit my job I had dreamed of travelling the world, and despite two years of full time travel, I still didn’t quite seem satisfied. Those adventures had only fuelled my wanderlust even more, and my bucket list had quadrupled in size. After my Africa, China, and South America journeys, I now wanted to learn French in France, Russian in Kazakhstan, jiu jitsu in Brazil, salsa in Colombia, Thai boxing in Thailand, Swahili in Tanzania and of course, complete my cross country pancake tour of North America. When I thought about it, it seemed like travel was just a never-ending black hole of distractions, and a perfect escape from the life that was waiting for me back home.

That’s when my friend’s comments began to press on my mind, and, quite unexpectedly, struck a sensitive chord.

Was I running away? Why didn’t I want live the life of a ‘grown up’? Why was I trying so hard to not get a job? Was I just immature, or lazy? Did I somehow think I was just better than everyone else? Why did I feel such an impassioned desire to do things so differently?

And then one day, an article popped up on Facebook. I don’t remember exactly, but it was something along the lines of “10 signs your man suffers from Peter Pan syndrome.”

While the article itself was quite crap (it was really just some middle-aged woman complaining her boyfriend didn’t want to marry her), the Peter Pan part of it intrigued me, and soon I discovered people all over the web were talking about it; 20-something men who refused to grow up, refused to hold down jobs, refused to buy houses and get married, have kids and basically avoid most of life’s “responsibilities” altogether.

And, funnily enough, it seemed I fit the mould like a glove. Just 2 years earlier I had a great job and lucrative career in front of me. I’d been dating a wonderful girl for several years and marriage was probably just around the corner. I’d saved diligently and wasn’t far from being able to buy my first home. Mortgage, kids, a nice stable job; it was all waiting for me, whenever I was ready for it.

And then I ran away.

I boarded a plane to Kilimanjaro. I wanted to go as far away as possible, to a place where hopefully accounting wasn’t even invented yet (newsflash: it does exist there, and I actually ended up teaching it). After that came South America. Then, China. And then Hong Kong, Thailand, The Philippines. And then Africa again. And then Thailand again. And then Cambodia. And then New York. And then South America again, and on and on it went.

I was running to as many different places as I could and, unsurprisingly, it made me the happiest I’d ever been.

My life that was once confined to a cubicle not even wide enough for me to stretch out my arms was now a worldwide adventure full of possibilities. The road was my Neverland.

And then I started to think, why was that a bad thing? What’s wrong with not having a regular job? What’s wrong with travelling? What’s wrong with not getting married at 25? People get the misconception that I don’t work and just piss around all day, but that is far from the truth. I work harder today than I ever did at my 9-5, the only difference is I enjoy it, and I also enjoy the freedom to travel and live life on my own terms.

I’m happier, healthier, more motivated and more excited about life than ever.

Is that what Peter Pan Syndrome is about? Not working a crappy job, not getting married before you’re ready and not settling for a life you don’t want? Well then, shit, you can make me the face of the franchise if you want to. I think all men should be Peter Pans.

Every day I grow more and more amused at how powerful social conditioning has been. Somehow we all grew up with ideas ingrained into us that there are “good” and “bad” paths in life, and that if we don’t get jobs and pay taxes and have families that we’re irresponsible.

Well, here’s my take on being irresponsible. The universe gave you one life. It doesn’t matter how ‘successful’ you are. You could be a serial killer or the president or the next Bill Gates, it doesn’t matter. You still only get one.

So perhaps, instead of using your one, precious life doing what everyone around you says you should do, don’t you think you should probably use it to do what you want to do?

It’s your life, isn’t it?

Why are you letting someone else tell you what to do with your life? If it’s that important to them, they can use their own life to do it. But the life you were given is yours. So don’t you think you should be honest with yourself, and use it to do what you want to do?

Remember, you’re only given one. That means you need to use it responsibly. And if you were to spend it doing anything less than what you truly want…well, in my mind, that would be incredibly irresponsible.

They say Peter Pans should grow up.

But what for? To be like you? To be like everyone else?

I look around, and everyone else doesn’t look happy. Everyone else doesn’t smile. Everyone else is complaining all the time. Everyone else is in a horrible mood. I don’t think I want to be like everyone else.

Peter Pan, he has fun. He smiles a lot. He’s happy. He has a lot of friends, and they do cool stuff all the time.

Yeah.

I think I’ll keep these Peter Pan shoes on a little while longer.

What do you think? Am I running away? Are we seeing too many Peter Pans in the world? Is that a good or bad thing? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit: [email protected]

 

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11 thoughts on “Am I Suffering From Peter Pan Syndrome?

  1. Thanks so much for this post! This describes me perfectly! I’m 40 and have no plans or desire to marry, have kids or buy a house! Having time and money, getting to indulge in world travel and practice martial arts are much more important to me!

    I gave up searching for the “perfect life” of a wife, middle management, house and kids since I was 33. I have not been happier with my life since then! Turning my attention on my hobbies and interests have changed my life for the better!

    Naysayers argue that I’ll be all alone when I’m older. I’m far from lonely now! I have plenty of friends and family. I’m quite happy spending time by myself. It’s time I very much cherish. Keep living the life you want! You said it perfectly! It is your life after all!

    1. Hi Tony. There is no such thing as a perfect life, so it’s good you gave up on it. We think similarly, I can’t say I’ve given up on marriage and a family, but I do know I will not pursue it until I’m ready to. That said, if you ever change your mind, it’s never too late. Glad to see you’re chasing the dream.

  2. You know what, you’ve thought about what makes you happy and you’re doing it. That’s going to be different for everyone, but that’s ok! This is probably the only time in your life that you can do this (if you end up settling down with a family it gets trickier) so I say go for it! If you love what you’re doing it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks 🙂

  3. Hey Bren,
    you gave me a fright there for a moment, I really thought you were double guessing yourself but then I kept on reading, phew!
    It is terrifying to think about what our society has shapped us to be and how difficult it is to break free from the rat race.
    I am currently working the last week of my notice before starting on my new journey of discovering the world and myself.
    Just like you (I believe) I am not running away from anything but the idea that I should live like everyone else.
    As my wisest friend once told me “sacrificing the present for the sake of the future is a trap!”.
    I choose to persue happiness and bringing meaning to my life, to the ones pursuing money and status I wish all the luck, but I will be running away from them too.

    1. It’s good to double guess yourself. That’s a part of reflection and no one can ever stop learning about who they are and what they want. I’m sure you will end up doing it a lot on your travels.

      Congrats on taking the big leap from corporate to traveller! You won’t look back. Maybe I’ll see you out there on the road somewhere.

  4. I kinda ran away, I got made redundant from my boring Insurance job, broke up with my long-term partner and thought fuck it, I’ve always wanted to travel so I’m gonna do it! Don’t get me wrong I want to get married and have kids one day, but for now I’m doing what I want to do, on my terms. Its a challenge but you gotta be true to yourself 🙂

    http:;;hausofsarahrachel.com

  5. I’m the same way, but I am a married woman with two young kids. There is also a community of families like this that travel constantly/frequently. I am a firm believer that everyone should do what makes them happy, but there is no reason that you have to fit the mold of a young man with no attachments to have this dream. Food for thought.

  6. I am a free spirited wandered. I also have a career and responsibilities. I believe it is ok to explore life, your place in it, and to not conform to some tailor made societal suit. I do, however, believe that a lot of men are evading responsibility and causing some frustration and suffering in the process. I believe that there are men out there who want all the frills and fun of life without having some accountability and responsibility in the process. So long as you are looking at yourself, your impact on others, and making sure that you are not a drain on the resources of society; then I believe you are fine. For the 40 year old who is probably dating multiple women and does not know how to turn a sock right side out, you cannot hide under a blanket of not choosing to conform to society. You are just an idiot.

    I feel like you may enjoy or hate what I have to say:
    https://escapingpan.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: @escapingpan

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