“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.
“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.
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.
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