The Curious Case of Peter Pan Syndrome


You might be wondering what this heading is about. You clicked this and thought ‘that’s unusual, is it a real condition?’ Well, no. It is not. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel about a man who is born old but keeps getting younger. Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, also deals with the desire to remain youthful. I merged two classic tales (as a literature student) to discuss the main theme of this article – growing up. I have realised that, as a final year student, it’s time to think about my future as an adult in the working world.

Can you recall the classic tale of Peter Pan? How can you avoid it? When I used to watch the Disney adaptation I thought it was childish to avoid growing up. It’s inevitable. Yet, as I have been a young student for most of my life, and now reaching the stage of thinking about career options, I can identify with and recognise the whole issue of not wanting to grow up. The realities of being a young adult are finally kicking in, and it’s frightening. It seems that the choices we make as young students will set us on our journey in life.

I get nostalgic when I look back on my childhood and constantly wonder ‘where did the time go?’ Life was easier as a child. There is nothing to worry about, no pressure, no exams, and no need to find work to financially support yourself.  Sometimes, we take childhood for granted when we’ve complained: ‘I can’t wait to be older.’ Once you enter university, you will have to fend for yourself. Whether it’s learning to cook, washing clothes, spending and managing money, doing independent study or finding work. It is a ‘taste’ of adult life. As if it isn’t bad enough getting into debt for going to university in the first place, we also have to consider the ‘what happens after uni’ stage.

Many graduates leave university with degrees but remain unemployed. I’ve sometimes wondered whether going to university is even worth it. People spend money for higher education and some find that don’t get to the stage they want to be in. The job markets are more competitive – especially now, after Brexit.


This is why many students feel pressured into spending more money for postgraduate study. Some do have a genuine passion for learning, but sometimes  people feel pressured to simply have a CV which stands out from everyone else.  Some are pressured by family, others simply wish to study for a Masters as an excuse to prolong going to work!

As a final year student at university, I’m feeling the pressure more than ever in terms of deciding what will I do after uni. I hate thinking about it. But, I do catch myself thinking about the ‘what if’s’ – What if I don’t do a Masters? What if I don’t get a job straight after  finishing my degree? What if I find a job and I hate it?  What happens then? I don’t want to finish university and feel lost. I’ve grown so accustomed to studying, it will feel weird when I stop.

Student life is an excitingly memorable time. We get discounts, make friends for life, we also learn about ourselves; gain invaluable skills and knowledge that can change our lives. Yet, there are high expectations set for us as young adults – it’s no wonder Pan never wanted to grow up.

I – like many other students – seem to have a case of  the ‘Peter Pan syndrome.’ The condition of not wanting to grow up. We all slip into childishness from time to time. I even saw a tweet that sums up these conflicting attitudes to ageing- it said: ‘kinda wanna be 6 kinda wanna be 21.’ It’s the issue of wanting to be grown and living the illusion of having it all together but not actually doing the growing up, because it’s challenging.

Despite the qualms of getting older, it doesn’t have to be daunting. It is okay to not have everything figured out just yet. I learnt that through speaking to the QM careers advisors. They help to ease concerns because they can relate to us as they were also students. We are still growing and learning physically, mentally, even spiritually – hence why we are in higher education. Of course, it’s scary if you feel unprepared. It’s the fear of the unknown. But, there are people who can give professional advice to support us, and they also give opportunities to network at QM.

We should take advantage of our youth because our age is a time of exploration. As much as we want to remain forever young, we can’t fly off to Neverland. With age comes new experiences. It’s all a part of growing old gracefully. C’est la vie.


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