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The Perils of Peter Pan Syndrome

Editor's note: This is the campus perspective from our partners at UWire.com. Author Roy Long is a student at Texas Tech University.

Peter Pan was my childhood hero. He had every quality a kid could want.

He could fly, hang out with fairies and fight pirates in Never Never Land. Except for wearing the tights, I could really see myself doing all of those things and I tried to emulate him in many ways.

Now that I am an adult, I know I should not act or be like Peter Pan. Though it seems that many in my generation haven't figured this out. They have Peter Pan Syndrome, a disease that causes someone to believe he or she can remain in childhood forever.

This disease preys upon young adults especially, and those afflicted with this syndrome believe Never Never Land exists -- and it is called college.

Peter Pan Syndrome is the pandemic of our generation. Manifestations of Peter Pan Syndrome include a refusal to grow up. Symptoms include a refusal to go on dates, spending hours upon end playing video games and eating pizza every meal of the day. In short, it is a refusal to take responsibility for life.

Undiagnosed and untreated, Peter Pan Syndrome will result in years wasted in the pursuit of things which do not matter.

There is a cure, but it requires more than just a pill or a workout regimen. First, those afflicted have to recognize the problem and then make that next step. Change can be scary. It's ironic young adults as a nation voted on the platform of change in 2008 yet fear change in their own lives. However, to be cured, they must make that next step.

Life occurs in phases, and we do not need to fear the next phase in life. Perhaps it is time to devote more to schooling, get married to a long-time boyfriend or girlfriend, or get a job. 

Whatever that next step may be, taking responsibility is a good thing. It makes us more capable individuals. We might find that happiness does come from successfully providing for those dependent on us. Young adults need to learn to put the pursuit of fun and entertainment on the bottom of the totem pole, below family, responsibility and personal development.

Those who join onto this ship of responsibility must beware of going overboard. We need to remember what happens in Disney’s sequel “Hook.” In the film, Peter Pan grows up and in a trip back to Never Never Land realizes he has become a jerk. He placed himself and his pursuits ahead of his family. This is yet another manifestation of Peter Pan Syndrome: selfishness.

In college students, this is manifested by being fulfilled by what they do, instead of who they are. For example, some actually believe they will be fulfilled through their vocation. While we should do those things we enjoy, work is not the purpose of life. Students need to understand that happiness stems from identity, not accomplishments. The shadow of our accomplishments should never overpower the reality of our own selves.

So, my advice is simple: Re-prioritize. To those of you who spend the bulk of your time pursuing your own happiness, look to others. You will find deeper fulfillment in relationships with others, in personal development -- which is distinct from the pursuit of fun -- and in devoting yourself to your studies.

To those who always seem “too busy” for these things, I advise you to simplify your life. Close the books, clock-out of work and reconnect with those who matter.

Whether we relate more with Peter Pan as a young boy or as a man, it's time to grow up, to remember Never Never Land does not exist, and to keep fun and responsibility in moderation to those things that matter most.