A forgotten Neverland: my struggle with growing up
February 17, 2022
It seems there is a time in every child’s life when they must grow up, accepting the responsibility and hardships that are adulthood and forgetting the joy and innocence of their youth. When I started high school in the fall of 2019, I began to truly feel this transition into adulthood. I knew that entering high school marked a new chapter in my life, and I was terrified.
I was always a very imaginative child. While many of my friends loved sports or just running around, I lived for playing games with my imagination. I reveled in playing house, restaurant, spies, and a number of other games of make-believe. Whether I was at the store or taking a car ride to school, my entire life consisted of some element of imagination. I loved being a child, and for a time, I thought it would never end.
I began to notice the change as I started middle school. Not only did I begin to physically grow, but my mentality did as well. I spent less and less time in my imagination and no longer immersed myself in the make-believe. Despite these new changes, in my mind I was still a kid and the future of adulthood was far off. That changed when I started high school: I felt like I was shoved off the deep end into the beginnings of adulthood without a warning. People started asking me questions like:
“So, what college do you think you want to go to?”
“What do you think you’ll do with your life?”
“Have you thought about career options yet?”
Suddenly, adulthood seemed less far off and more just around the corner. Sure, four years looks like a long time, but here I am in my junior year of high school and feeling no more prepared to enter adulthood than I did in my freshman year. The fear of leaving my family and friends behind, the unknowns of what I want to do next, and the knowledge that nothing in my life would ever be the same again terrifies me. I often don’t even want to think about college or my life beyond high school right now. I want to just be.
The rational part of me knows that these changes are natural and a part of every person’s life. If everything remained the way it was, for forever, we would never find anything new worth living for. I trust that this new chapter of my life will bring many different and wonderful things that I wouldn’t get to experience if I stayed in this one moment. Life is like the sky. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it shines, but each type of weather is beautiful and necessary and each day looks different than the last.
Something that helped me come to terms with the inevitable changes in life was Sir James M. Berry’s Peter Pan. Most of my younger years were spent watching the Disney version of Peter Pan and listening to my dad read me the book. I always loved the idea of Neverland: a place where you never have to grow up and worry about grownup things; a place like that seemed perfect to me. For a very long time, the quote that I focused on was, “the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” That idea terrified me. I was afraid of not being able to “fly” anymore; I was afraid of losing my childhood and the joy that came along with it. Now, I am starting to focus more on the quote, “all of this has happened before and will happen again.” I’ve realized that even though my life will not be the same again, I can still view the fun of childhood through the kids I watch and play with. One of the things that gives me great joy is to be with children. I might have lost the “Neverland” that was my childhood, but they are still in the midst of that. I am lucky enough to be able to participate in their childhoods, even though I’ve moved on from my own into different, wonderful things. This has even helped me see some clarity into my own future. I love working with children, and I am considering looking into jobs in that field, such as in child psychology.
Even though I’m still afraid of the future and miss the simplicities of childhood, I am learning to find peace in these big changes in my life. I know that whatever changes come my way, I will be able to face them head-on with the people I love. Peter Pan once said, “to die will be an awfully big adventure,” but I think to grow up will be an adventure even bigger.