Thought Catalog

Why This Generation Suffers From Peter Pan Syndrome And How To Fix It

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Tim Gouw

There seems to be a large part of the current generation that is not particularly interested in growing the f$%# up.

We are a generation of wanderers, stragglers, travelers, procrastinators, and those looking to put off adulthood for as long as possible. We have no ties to our current city, have no real responsibilities, have finished school, and working in a completely unrelated field – making it very easy (and tempting) to pick up and leave.

Many of us – generally in our late twenties – are not married and are without prospects, do not have money management skills, do not have a solid career path, and definitely do not intend on reproducing spawn (not on purpose anyway). We say we travel in order to “find ourselves” and end up absorbed in the possibilities of life abroad, lack of obligations, and absence of familial pressure, thus, losing ourselves in the very process. We almost become addicted to the search rather than the result of “finding ourselves” – because we do not actually want to.

At our age, or even younger, our parents were already married, educated, immigrated, and raising our ungrateful assess. That being said – and as any immigrant parent will tell you- our parents did not have the same choices and freedoms as they intended to give to us. However, now that we can reap the benefits of our parents’ struggle to give us better opportunities, there still seems to be pressure to do things in a certain order and by a certain age.

As my first year in Australia wraps up, I am left craving for more time, and anxious at the thought of returning home. I physically could not be farther from home (which is Toronto) and it is an exhilarating experience to be in a place where no one knows you – you can quite literally be whoever you want to be. Australia does not feel like my home, but that is what is enticing about it. There is no commitment here –  everything feels temporary. Maybe we are just here to simulate the experience of freedom and independence – an orchestration of hospitality work, communal living space, and bare minimum fiscal responsibility.

Although this lifestyle sounds free-spirited, unattached, noncommittal, and consequence free, a lot of my time in Australia has been spent worrying about how much I have postponed a career, wishing I could have done things sooner, contemplating how I could have managed my priorities more efficiently, wondering whether I made the right decision to move abroad, and questioning why the fuck I am working at a job that is draining my soul and leaving me starved of intellectual stimulation, just so I can live the coastal life. Not only have I exhausted these worries in my head, I constantly think about how I will feel when it all ends – cue the fear of nostalgia.

Social media is the most obvious culprit for perpetuating misconceptions of life abroad to on-lookers. Of course life looks cruisy when you see a photo that is worthy of a corona advertisement. Sydney is beautiful, and transient, and seems to be populated with the people that I am writing about. Everyone is in transition – coming from one place, on their way to the next. Every day is saturated with meeting these people and quite literally having the same conversations over and over.

I find myself filtering through surface encounters, shallow friendships, countless acquaintances, and more facebook friends than I care for. However, then there are those moments, and those people, that resonate with you so deeply – pretty much the shit people write songs about. Like meeting a friend from your hometown who shares your slang, knows your favorite cross streets, and can feel your homesickness. Or connecting with someone from a completely different place who teaches you about life, love, culture, inspiration, and adventure, through their perspective. Or seemingly endless days lounging by the beach, leaking into nighttime festivities. Maybe these are the moments in time that we try to hold on to, or that we cannot move on from.

Perhaps this “syndrome” is our inner child trying to tell us that they do not have the necessary tools to make confident decisions, that they are ill-equipped to deal with the expectations that come with adulthood, that they do not believe in themselves and their goals, that they are missing something and do not have the ability to self soothe and move on from overwhelming experiences. Perhaps our inner child is trying to tell us that they need some attending to in order to move on to adulthood.

In a way I envy those who can make practical decisions instead of emotional ones, those who chose partners realistically and with longevity rather than coasting through relationships with expiration dates, those who are optimistic about their future rather than haunted by the mistakes of their past, and those who can recognize that making hard decisions will be advantageous in the long run. Avoiding these is symptomatic of refusing to grow up.

Or perhaps we can consider “adulthood” a social construct – an imaginary set of guidelines that dictate what it means to be grown up. We are socialized to believe that adulthood is synonymous with certain milestones and there is palpable pressure to get your shit together by certain age. However, this generation might possibly be the first to find real happiness by going against the grain – if we can let go of the pressure and really slow down to enjoy ourselves. We are not putting off life – we are living it. There is no doubt that we need structure and goals but allowing fictitious rules to dictate our choices and direction in life seems to be creating an adverse effect.

In the end I suppose what we are looking for is a compromise. A compromise that nurtures the needs of our inner child and not only allows us to move forward, but encourages us to live in the present.

For myself, this means living a life that is adventurous yet structured, finding love that is youthful yet mature, making choices that are spontaneous yet pragmatic, abandoning expectations and trusting my decisions, and most importantly, savoring life’s beautiful moments – then gracefully accepting their end.  TC mark

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