I have a horrendous Peter Pan complex. When did it start? When I was six years old and solemnly walked upstairs to my parents' room to inform my mom that I would no longer be watching Barney each evening? When I was ten and read a juvenile fiction book about turning eleven, and decided right then and there that eleven would be a miserable year? (Fun fact: I'm turning 22 this year. Ugh. My favorite number times my least favorite number. And my golden birthday. Watch out.) Could it have been when I was thirteen and sat abandoned on the state house steps, and watched all the lobbyists and activists who I would never be? Was it when I was sixteen years old and decided I was unprepared for college and had to take a fifth year of high school? When did it start, really?
It's like this pattern of thinking just crept into my mind and I took it as a given. And so I've minimized the milestones as inconsequential, and labeled the emotional duress as typical, and framed my little life experience in the context of a meaningless childhood . . . All for the sake of my mantra, "Wait! You're not grown up yet." With each new experience, fear gripped my heart and it whispered to me, "This is too uncomfortable, you don't want to grow up." But it's too late, my twenties are upon me. I cannot stave off the passage of time; adulthood has already taken residence in my life. Now the fear is more overwhelming than ever, because with each passing day I realize that I have no freaking clue what I'm doing.
Regardless, I still want to do it right. This is one thing I love about reading Penelope Trunk. She tells you how you should live your life. This is, of course, entirely counter-intuitive to how life theoretically ought to be lived. If learning is the process of discovering what it is you don't know, following the life plan of someone who's lived and succeeded is not necessarily the most fruitful path to take. But I want to age successfully, you know? It's a field of academia that's exploding right now, as our society realizes that we've been doing aging clumsily all along. I want to be a competent, vibrant human being who brings glory to Jesus and not to herself. I want to be well-adjusted. Is that too much to ask of myself? Of sanctification? I don't think so!
Peter* told me once that growing up isn't about milestones and threshold-crossing. I was so incredulous. I thought growing up meant paying your own bills and living on your own and making appointments and having a real job that gets taxed and being separate and individualist and on your own. It seemed to me that if I was to learn to be an adult, I had to fake it by acting like one until my brain caught up with me. Instead his comment reminded me, if growing up is about maturity and responsibility, you can't force these things by going through the motions of being an adult. There is no "do this, and then you'll be grown up" checklist. There is no formula. There is no point of arrival.
There are so many things I just don't want to deal with. Making new friends (I like the ones I had in high school!), trying new things (I like the things I'm used to doing!), challenging myself by stepping into a world I've never visited before (I like the world I knew!). How curious that though my mind wants more than anything to be freed from itself, my heart wants nothing more than to stay the way it is. As though I trust Him only to be faithful in the here and now, and not in the future. My youth is my comfort zone, and as it has been yanked away from me, I can't help but wonder, am I blowing it? After all, I've only got one shot. What business have I messing around with things I know nothing about? I find myself panicked in a world that is demanding that I live well. How can I rise to this provocation?
Naturally, this fear is not constructive. It is paralyzing instead of promotive. It makes me cling to my Peter Pan complex instead of embracing the challenge of running the race with endurance. How do I begin to convince myself that I love change? Is there not a thrill in the calendar whipping forward, in the days ticking away? Isn't it a wonderful thing to see children grow into teenagers and your friends get married? Don't you love the satisfaction in completion; another year survived, another semester earned? Does not time and change bring depth with dynamics, that make us wiser and richer with experience and history? Is not the greatest joy found in seeing what it is God has done? And the picture of His plan for the world is revealed bit by bit every day. If in nothing else, I comfort myself with testimony.
He has always been there. The little girl who told lies and stole rings. The whipper snapper who was afraid of demons in the dark. The teenager who could not bring herself to pick up the phone. The college student who is cowed by routine. He has never washed His hands of me. In this is responsibility to make Him famous. Surviving this long is testimony to who He is; our Father God, eternally faithful. And He will get me where I'm going.
*Not Peter Pan, in case that was unclear.