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Peter Pan Syndrome’ infects those trying to stay in college

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. Aside from wearing the tights, I could see myself doing all of those things and tried to emulate him in many ways.

Now that I am an adult, I know I should not act or be like Peter Pan. We must beware of Peter Pan Syndrome. This is a disease which causes us to believe we can remain in childhood forever, like Peter Pan. It preys upon college kids who believe their lives parallel the life of this hero of children’s literature. Those afflicted with this syndrome believe Never Never Land exists and it is called college. Peter Pan Syndrome is the epidemic of our generation.

Manifestations of Peter Pan Syndrome include a refusal to grow up. It is fear of the next stage in life. This is an understandable fear, especially when those who are afflicted with this syndrome are children. However, most of those attending classes at Texas Tech do not fit this category, yet still fill the criteria for Peter Pan Syndrome.

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, we have to recognize the problem and then we have to make that next step. Change can be scary. It is ironic we as a nation voted on the platform of change in 2008, but yet fear change in our own lives. However, we must make that next step.

Life occurs in phases and we do not need to fear the next phase. Perhaps it is time to devote yourself more to your schooling, get married to your 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 and we find that happiness does come from successfully providing for those dependent on us.

The message is simple. We need to grow up. Things that the are most important in life should not suffer for those things which are not. We need to put the pursuit of fun and entertainment on the bottom of the totem pole, below family, responsibility and personal development.

Those who join this ship of responsibility must beware of going overboard. We need to remember what happens in Disney’s sequel ‘Hook.’ It is important to keep outside responsibilities in moderation. 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. It is still a prioritization problem.

In college students, this is manifested by being fulfilled in 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. We need to understand that happiness stems from our identity, not from our accomplishments. 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, which is one of the purposes of your time in college.

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 is time to grow up, to remember Never Never Land does not exist, and to keep fun and responsibility in moderation to those things which matter most.

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