What Is Peter Pan Syndrome?
By Evan Bailyn
Peter Pan syndrome is a deep-seated belief that one will never, and must never, grow up. It is named after the legendary character of the same name who lived in Neverland, a place where kids are immune to aging.
The story of Peter Pan fascinated me as early as five years old, way before I knew what it was like to feel like an adult. I still keep an image in my mind of a particular moment in the play, when Peter Pan flew into the children's window while they were sleeping and brought them off to Neverland. I think that scene delighted me because I, like other kids, had fears associated with sleeping - probably some combination of darkness, robbers, and dying. The act of sleeping itself is such a mystery to me even now that I can understand why my young mind would see it as fertile ground for something mystical and unknown to happen.
The very idea that one could be saved from the creepiness of sleep, from the powerless grasp of unconsciousness, was not only plausible, it was too wonderful not to believe. In that protected, naive state that characterizes children, I hazily imagined the eternal playground where Peter Pan lived, with its lush flora, children swinging on vines, parties, dancing, laughter, and complete removal from that other dimension known as everyday life.
That picture in my mind is still there. It has been weathered by the army of adults who have politely tried to tear it up with their rules and reminders about "the real world," but the stubborn five year-old inside of me has resisted. In truth, I don't believe that we are damned to honest Christian work ethics and middle class toil. I believe that I could be walking through the streets of New York City, turn a corner, and enter a jungle with raging rivers, sparkling waterfalls, and fairies swooping through the sky.
I am in love with childhood and with Neverland. I only wish I could find a way to bring back the vividness of that magical place that I knew best when I was five. If I could re-build Neverland exactly as I remember it, I would - anything to reclaim the hope of living forever as a child.
This is Peter Pan Syndrome. Those who don't have it are missing something vital. After all, as Peter Pan said, "Fairies only exist if you believe in them."