This week, I was supposed to write a post reviewing / making fun of the frothy new A-list holiday film New Year’s Eve. I normally volunteer for movie reviews and the like, because personal stories and insights kind of freak me out. The other girls can handle that stuff, I thought; just let me stay over here in my corner where I can cloak myself in fourteen layers of sarcasm and pop culture references.
Several sleepless nights, however, have stripped me down to my essential, constantly-panicking core. It was in this weakened state, browsing Netflix in the wee hours, that I foolishly chose to revisit one of my favorite films of 2003: Peter Pan.
The brilliance of this adaptation is that it doesn’t just reexamine the story of Peter Pan, but the psychology as well. When you’re a kid watching the 1950s Disney version, it doesn’t really occur to you to think about the subtext; you’re just like HELLZ YEAH, FLYING AND PIRATES AND NO ONE FORCING ME TO CLEAN MY ROOM, SIGN ME UP.
But the live-action P.J. Hogan film doesn’t focus on the fantasies of childhood. It’s about the ephemeral nature of youth—how small and delicate and precious it is, and how it must eventually be shattered irreparably to make room for ugly, hulking, all-too-real adulthood. This process is scary and daunting and really kind of gross, but it has to happen so you can live a full, real life.
When I first saw this film in theaters, I was 18. I had just been accepted into Arizona State on a full scholarship. I had a plan for the future; I was going to study Journalism and be a copy editor at a magazine or a newspaper, like Josie Gellar in Never Been Kissed but with better clothes. I was still pretty okay, I think. I wasn’t afraid, and Peter Pan was just a cute movie with an awesome giant crocodile.
I’m 25 now. I graduated two and a half years ago, with a degree in English Literature and a vague notion that someone should hire me, since I had gone through the trouble and expense of obtaining a university education. I’ve had a few gigs and a few opportunities, but none have really panned out. A lot of the time, this is due to my own insecurity and lack of drive. Some weeks, I don’t even leave my room, and I often sleep backwards, morning to night, because I have nowhere to be during the day. I don’t ever call my relatives back, because I don’t want them to know how little I’m accomplishing. My clothes are actually worse than Josie’s, and even though I’m shy and book-smart and awkward and I quote Shakespeare, I’ve never had anything even close to a Mr. Coulson. (I’m also terrified of men, so maybe it’s a good thing that no Michael Vartans have crossed my path, as I would hardly know what to do if one did.)
So now, it’s different. Peter Pan is suddenly way too on the nose. Basically, I wish I could have pulled Lost Boy, fallen out of my pram when I was a baby and floated away to Neverland, where money doesn’t matter, where good and evil are as simple as Pan and Pirates, where nobody’s ever even heard of dating or sex or marriage or low-sugar diets, where puberty never would have had the chance to come blazing in with its polycystic ovary syndrome and its 60 extra pounds and its crushing, energy-sapping disappointments. There, I would still be the bright, happy, imaginative kid that I remember, who arm-wrestled boys and built snow forts and never once wondered what was wrong with her. There’d be no expectations to meet, no beautiful sister to compare myself to, no Mom or Dad to disappoint over and over again.
I know everyone has to grow up, but I honestly don’t know how. I feel like the fraud whenever I try, and most of the time I’m so overwhelmed with the idea that I just end up plugging in my laptop and watching seven episodes of Star Trek in a row, or checking the Comic-Con International site for registration dates.
Because I just want to hear stories about love and adventure, instead of seeking those things out in reality. I want to dress up, play pretend, and not acknowledge the fact that I don’t feel like an actual person yet—even though the date on my driver’s license says I’m supposed to. I’m in stasis. I’m in hiding.
I’m Peter Pan, and it’s seriously pathetic.
So, New Year’s resolution: grow the fuck up. I’m going to have to force it, because I don’t see it happening any other way—just get out, open up, and make myself part of the world. Childhood may be beautiful, but stagnation is just horrifying. As my favorite character in my favorite Joss Whedon movie once said: “To hell with this. I’m gonna live.”