Do you remember the moment you no longer felt like a child?
Perhaps it's not a moment. Maybe it's a series of them, or actually, maybe it's in hindsight. Yes, maybe it's always in hindsight. I don't think it's something we realize quite in the moment, per say, but after. When it's too late to go back. When the skies to Neverland have quite nearly covered themselves in clouds, when you watch your childhood slipping away, like sand between your fingers.
Yes, I will always feel like a child inside, at least in some ways. But sometimes the mental switch from child to adult hits me like a wave, quick and somewhat unexpectedly, as if I've had my back turned to it unknowingly. It wasn't conscious. It snuck up on me a few years ago, and continues to develop, grow stronger, as the time passes. I wonder, when did my mind make that switch?
It hit me at the beach this week again. Beach holidays always felt so magical growing up, a time for me to immerse myself in books and heavy but hopeful thoughts. I had all the time in the world. The days dragged on slowly and happily, as I pondered myself and my ideas and big questions and little details. This one felt different. These days, I feel like I can never catch up. I can't run through all the questions in my head quite as quickly, or perhaps the questions are bigger now, more consequential and real and here. At the end of the day, I know there is more tomorrow that I won't be able to sort out like I could when I was younger. And I accept that. There is more reality, yes, but with that comes satisfaction. Contentment.
In some ways, it's a relief, knowing that I'm where I wanted to be all those years growing up, at the point where I'm finally taken (more) seriously for my ideas and opinions. But in other ways, I feel a bit like Wendy from Peter Pan, hesitant to let go and and say goodbye to what was. As much as I would love to, I can't read YA fiction with the same innocence. My imagination, while still alive and well, is different.
I wonder if everyone feels like this. It's as if I can still appreciate the naivety, the sweet innocence and hope of childhood, but I can't embody it firsthand in quite the same way anymore. There is a distance.
But it was still a beautiful vacation. It had its fair share of new experiences--I could finally share Bloody Mary's and conversation at the bar with my parents without feeling out of place, spend the afternoon reading short stories on the beach and enjoy a sunset from a different perspective.
That's all it is, really. Neverland still exists, and will always exist, but my perspective of it will change time and again. And that's perfectly okay.