The Peter Pan Plague

In Consciousness, Pronoia by Amanda Tan

We live in an age where youth, and a weak grasp on reality is glorified. Somehow, everyone I know is commitment phobic, and afraid of growing up. Perhaps it’s just the circles I run in or something, but I find myself around people who put an inarticulate, romanticised version of life on a pedestal. I mean birds of a feather flock together right, I can’t deny that I, myself, have had many a #lanadelcrayfish moment, filled with sweaty Singapore days of Summertime Sadness and feeling like I was Born to Die (in some hottie’s arms while a mustang burns in the background, obviously).

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die

“You like your girls insane.. Cause you and I, we were born to die.” – Um, screw that.

So this has been a topic that’s on my mind recently because I’ve been making personal improvements in my life and trying to figure out this balance between living the crazy, beautiful, whatever the fuck life I’ve always fantasized about and well, living healthily. And also, mostly so my friends don’t text each other asking if I’ve died from alcohol poisoning yet. Preventive measures really, so that I don’t wake up with a massive hangover, after a night of hot and sexy HAND HOLDING with some indecisive, hot and cold Peter Pan, wondering where my sanity and my phone are. I mean my hair’s all tousled and shit, Banks is on Spotify Beggin’ For Thread, my Pinterest is filled with moody Plath quotes in typewriter font, I’ve left a trail of broken hearts and champagne glasses, I’ve got an online magazine and an impending art show, I’m my dream girl, right?


So what is it that makes being elegantly wasted, a lost boy or a manic pixie dream girl so appealing? Perhaps its the fact that so many subscribe to the notion that some of the most brilliant artists and writers died young, and lived through depression and messy lives. And that it somehow makes you more unique and more interesting. Talented, even.

I mean, look at the sheer amount of ridiculous bullshit people post on Instagram and Tumblr. Ooh, tumblr. Where stir crazy poets and artists can be original and repost manic pixie depressive mountains of bullshit.

Here are some examples of the worst kinds of romanticisations in my books:

  • Burn baby burn
  • At least someone does
  • Calligraphy is officially dead, thanks hipsters
  • Walk around with tea and socks and nothing else and let's see what happens
  • LOL, reallu?
  • Omg, stawpit!
burning man

Burning yourself for your ~true love~, really?

Um, gross. Where’s your self-respect? What is it with this age of young adults and their collective co-dependency on bonding over the lack of ability to take some responsibility for their own lives?

So what is the balance between living your life to the fullest, aka #livefastdieyoung, experiencing every facet of adventure, emotion and mess, and well, actually living a good and healthy life? Are they even mutually exclusive?

I think what might be a necessary living condition for the potential Plaths, Van Goghs, Deans, and Marilyns of the world is to understand the pendulum in which they swing. Take Plath for example.

The same woman who wrote; “I desire the things which will destroy me in the end”, also wrote; “Go out and do something, it isn’t your room that’s the prison, it’s yourself”. I believe when she stuck her head in the oven, it was the pendulum swinging toward destruction and that one time, she never let it swing back.

And imagine what else she might have written if she did let it swing back? Plath was 30 when she died. She’d only written one novel, and was in the middle of working on the next. She was probably a literary baby in what could have been years of amazing writing. If she wrote that brilliantly at such a young age, imagine what a confessional poet could have come up with if she didn’t spiral into a mess of herself. Yes, it may have been that same mess that made her so brilliant, hence I stress; the necessary pendulum. And, um, a good dose of a reality check.

Moments in time in your life, you just got to suck it up and grow the fuck up bitches.

As for those that are just merely playing up this facade, you aren’t a concept, you are a person. You don’t need a literary proxy and pipe dreams about how complicated you are to define yourself.

No, being a beautiful mess is not going to fuel you forever. No, it isn’t romantic to shoot yourself to love someone. No, it’s not a beautiful flaw if you can’t commit to anyone. No, it’s not awesomely #YOLO if you wake up wondering what happened the night before every weekend. No, being self-destructive doesn’t make you somehow more complex.

Yes, you just might be a coward.

So the answer to balance? I really don’t know. I’m a swinging pendulum myself. And I find myself drinking through my messes and failures, but also creating through them. More importantly, taking my ass to camp after I realized that at the end of the day, I’ve done myself a disservice by indulging in the immature fantasies of an immature artist and human being. I yearn to know what comes after manic pixie. My head in an oven? Oblivion? What if I could express more than this box I’ve put myself in? That’s what I’m interested in.

Being Peter Pan is appealing to many, and I’m surrounded by so many of them lost boys and girls who can’t get their beautiful fucking shit together. But seriously, at the end of the day, who are you kidding here?

Just yourself.

Featured Image Credit: Mabel Lucie Attwell, 1921 edition of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan & Wendy

About the Author
Amanda Tan

Amanda Tan

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Amanda Tan is a filmmaker, VJ, writer and artist based in Singapore. Amanda is currently the director of Empyreal, a creative company specialising in film production, live visuals, and content creation. Amanda writes mostly the ratchet things that appear on Psymbiosis.

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