Finding Your Neverland

Debbie Brown, SPHR, MBA, MSW

Everyone is familiar with Peter Pan, the book by J.M. Barrie, the Scottish playwright, about a boy named Peter who never wanted to grow up. In the recent movie, “Finding Neverland”, inspired by true events, we learn that Barrie drew inspiration for his most famous work from four boys and their widowed mother who he met in a park. The movie begins with the opening of one of his plays which flopped, and Barrie’s observation that “play” has indeed become serious.

In his interactions with the boys, Barrie gets in touch with his inner child that he was forced to give up at age 10 when his older brother died, and Barrie dressed in his brother’s clothes to cheer up his mother. Barrie and the children play games dressed up as pirates, cowboys, and Indians with understated special effects.

We learn from Barrie that even though there is much pain, loss and grief in the world, as witnessed by Barrie’s life and the lives of these boys and their Mom, we can still nourish our imagination with play though out our lives. We see this as adults when we let down our guard and play with our children and pets, as Barrie did in the movie.

There is a difference between acting like a child and being child-like. In a brilliant strategy, Barrie invited 25 orphans to the opening and scattered them throughout the theatre. In the first scene, when the dog, Nana, entered the children’s bedroom, the children laughed and seemed to break the ice as other adults joined in the laughter, and later the clapping to save Tinkerbell. (“Clap if you believe in fairies.”)

We can still nourish and cultivate our dreams and our spirit even though we are busy, responsible adults. We sometimes get so caught up in the seemingly mundane activity of our lives, dealing with house repairs, raising a family, the never ending errands, and health challenges as we get older, that we do not make time to dream and indulge ourselves in activities that stimulate our imagination. My clients often tell me that they are not creative, yet when we remember our childhood, most of us have fond memories of creative play and talents that got buried as we aged, and focused more on developing careers, making money and supporting our families.

I work with many people who yearn to express their talents and knowledge in the workplace, and be appreciated for their contributions. But I also see those who give up, who compromise their values, and are held captive in demanding yet financially lucrative jobs that sustain elaborate lifestyles. Working more but enjoying it less, they cater to demanding clients and superiors in toxic environments with constant pressure to please.

But even our aspired Neverland is not devoid of pain and trouble. Remember the pirates and the Indians? The crocodile with the ticking clock in his stomach reminds us that we are all mortal beings. Life can be difficult. And it can also be short. That is why it is so important to know your ideal life and work to hold to that dream. We can then more easily set our priorities, and navigate our way through life’s challenges.

So my wish for you is that you find your Neverland. That you spend time every year dreaming and scheming for the life you want. Set boundaries and develop goals so you only let in the work and the people who can nourish you, and quality of life that you desire.

Do you believe?