Leaving Neverland

Lean in close, dear reader, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m afraid to grow up.

Now, before you roll your eyes and stop reading, let me assure you this isn’t a post from a self-entitled twenty-something millennial who doesn’t want to deal with the lackluster responsibilities so often attributed to adulthood.  On the contrary, this is a story about how life, yet again, has me caught in a period of transition.

What is this transition you ask? Well, the first time in a long time I’m about to leave my Neverland, an island on which I’ve been a never-ending student.

Peter-Pan-and-Pirate-Ship-peter-pan-2106192-799-528I’m 24 years old, single, and a graduate student.  In other words thus far I have not really had to be responsible for anyone but myself.  In many ways my inner Peter Pan directly personifies my forgetfulness, self-centered behavior, and carefree attitude.  Does this make me simply a product of my generation, the so often stereotyped  millennial, a margin of young adults not yet wanting to settle down and give into former societal expectations, such as marriage, children, and a house to call our own?

Maybe, or maybe Peter Pan had it right all along.

This weekend, I will graduate from my master’s program.  I’ve spent the last six years on my island of Neverland, earning a bachelor’s and an advanced degree.  And, I don’t plan on stopping there; in the next few years, I want to start a doctoral program.  But first, I am stepping out completely, packing everything up from my sanctuary, and moving halfway across the world to work at a university in Germany.

The thing is, unlike Peter Pan, I am not as confident when faced with the danger of uncertainty.  If I let it, uncertainty, along with its partner doubt, will surely sail me straight back to my Neverland, and because I’m not a skilled sword fighter like Peter Pan, I don’t have the best means of warding those terrible twins off.  Honestly, I’m afraid to leave, even though I know I can’t stay here forever.

But what if I wasn’t afraid to leave?

What if, instead of being afraid, I use a combination of lovely thoughts and a little bit of fairy dust, and I learn to fly?  All make-believe aside, I think transition periods in life are needed for real growth to occur and I am ready for that next uncomfortable growth spurt.  Growth doesn’t mean I’m growing older, but rather, I’m gaining the courage and confidence to grow into the person I want to become.

During these transition periods, we all need a little bit of Peter Pan in our lives.  Perhaps fearlessness shouldn’t be associated with youth and childishness.  Seriously, have you ever considered what might happen if you had the audacity to follow your dreams?

You might fail, but then again, your dreams might come true.

tumblr_n4cjskJFGD1tsttfdo1_500As I prepare for my departure from Neverland, I’m thankful for the time I’ve spent here.  I’ve learned that the real secret is that we never really have to grow up.  However, we do have to put fear aside to accomplish our dreams in life, no matter how big or small they may be.  And, if I look at my little secret from this perspective, growing up doesn’t seem so scary after all.

About the Author

NoelleNoelle Ponasik is a Master of Science in Education candidate in the Student Affairs Administration program at UW-La Crosse and will graduate on May 10, 2015.  She has a Bachelor of Arts in History and German from UW-Stevens Point.  Noelle has studied and worked in Germany, and plans to move there permanently, or at least for the foreseeable future.  When Noelle isn’t plotting various ways she can spend her life in Germany, you can find her reading about higher education, watching ridiculous rom coms, drinking New Glarus beer, and trying to convince herself to go to her yoga classes.


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