I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If there’s anything college has taught me, it’s how little I know about anything. Turns out, I’m not nearly as smart as I thought it was, and there is a significant amount of people in my life who are far more intelligent than I am.
I also have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve been a legal adult for less than 6 months. Between car trouble, financial concerns, computer issues, finding employment, and seeking a church, I have found that there is much more to being an adult than I thought there was.
All of a sudden, I can vote, buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and lose my protection as a juvenile in court, and when I’m in Kazembe, Zambia, I can drink Amarula (don’t, its disgusting.) I plan on taking advantage of only one of these new privileges, but the thought that they are all present and accessible is totally foreign.
My parents did their best to prepare me for this. My father has been my spiritual leader since I was a child, and my mother taught me everything from how to drive to how to budget. They did everything they could, and then they let me out on my own. Turns out, there is no handbook for things you need to know as an adult. Life is so much more complex, so much more organic than it sounds. For the first time, my decisions have real, irrevocable consequences, and that’s a startling fact.
When I was a kid, I was in a play with a community theater in Virginia. It was Peter Pan, and I got to be Peter himself. (Don’t judge – Peter Pan has historically been played by a woman.) I’ve always identified with Peter – the little boy who defied conventionality and refused to conform to the world. In his world, he can continue being a child forever. There is bravery in this audacity. But it is also, after a while, immensely foolish. Peter is a child, and thus behaves childishly. Like Paul in 1 Corinthians, he “talks like a child, thinks like a child, and reasons like a child.” But as Wendy realizes, there comes a time when every child must grow up and “put the ways of childhood behind” him. It is Peter who risks life and limb fighting pirates and wrestling with crocodiles, but it is Wendy who is, perhaps, the more courageous of the two. For it is Wendy who puts aside the selfish imagination and embraces the real world with all the strength she can muster in her small heart. It is Wendy who sacrifices for others, giving up an eternity spent in child’s play to give life and guidance to her children.
We can’t go on believing in fairies forever. At some point, we have to grow up. We can’t impact the real world if we refuse to believe it even exists.
And yet, although this transition is a scary one for many of us, it is also incredibly thrilling. The freedom is intoxicating and the experiences are unforgettable. I’m learning more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible, and its fun. Growing up is exciting.
While it is true that we all have to grow up, I’m not planning on letting go of my dreams. It was only by holding on to imagination that Peter and Wendy managed to fly. Perhaps the key to growing up is found in a formula made up of willpower and creativity. If we let ourselves grow up all the way, this would be a terribly boring world indeed.
The real world is a hard place to stomach. It needs a dash of wishful thinking, a scoop of hope, a heap of faith, and a sprinkling of laughter to make it bearable.
It needs a little pixie dust.