By Claire Wang
On my last day of being nine years old I crawled into my mother’s bed and cried because I didn’t want to turn 10. Most little girls love birthdays – it’s a time to celebrate and get presents and eat cake. Not me. “I like being a single-digit age! Tomorrow I’ll have lived a whole decade!” I wailed.
Now that I think about it, nothing much has changed. On the eve of my most recent birthday (I was turning 16), I again felt nothing but disappointment that my birthday was the next day. For as long as I can remember, I have never wanted to grow up, and I still feel the same now. They call it Peter Pan Syndrome. The fear of growing older.
Perhaps it’s because of the impending responsibility that I will have to take, perhaps it’s fear of change. But I am not scared of being independent or of change; in fact, I nearly can’t wait to leave my home.
What I am scared of is my youth slipping away, my time ticking down, my life wasted. I’m scared of waking up one day and realizing that I haven’t done nearly half the things I wanted to do in this life. I’m scared of “being old,” of losing the prime of my life and knowing that I’m on the way down. I’m scared of being near the end but still feeling unfulfilled. And I’m scared to hell of death.
Obviously, I’m still young. Obviously, I have got a long way to go before death even has to be considered. If you’re reading this you’re probably thinking to yourself that “Wow, isn’t this girl naive, I’m (insert age here) and I’m still doing what I love!” And I know you’re right, that just because I won’t be young anymore doesn’t mean that I can’t do anything. And yet, I’m still scared.
When I watched Peter Pan as a child, I was immediately spellbound. A land where no one at all had to grow old, where I could be young and free forever. Where I could fly and play and never have to worry once about anything else. Of course, you think, who wouldn’t love such a place? And yet, at the end of the movie, Wendy returns to her own home, where she will grow up eventually, marry a man, and have children, when she could’ve stayed with Peter Pan, forever. When I watched the ending, I thought Wendy was the biggest idiot to ever live. Why on earth would you give it all up?
Today, my friends all around me have seem to gotten their lives at least somewhat figured out. Talk about colleges and majors is abound, and I am the only one still not participating. My friends know they want to go into science, engineering, business, while I’m the only one still without a clue.
There’s constant pressure to make a certain plan to life, a pressure to know what you want and stick with it, a pressure to just grow up already. But through all this talk about the future, and colleges, and majors, and jobs, all I can think about is how terrified I am. I am terrified that I will choose wrong, that I’ll end up growing up somewhere where I am unhappy. So to say that I am scared of growing up may be wrong. It might be more accurate to say that I am scared of living an unfulfilling life.
But it’s easier to say that I am simply scared of growing up. It’s easier to hope that I can stay young forever. It’s easier to imagine finding my own Neverland, where I can spend my days feeling the sun on my back and the breeze through my hair and never worrying about anything else for the rest of my life.
But the time for my choice is near, and Neverland nowhere to be found. And I am petrified.
Claire Wang is 16 years old and a junior in high school. She’s written ever since the ripe old age of 5 when she decided to write a story about Santa to prove that he was real.