Peter Pan Land

Jenna Mahaffie
2 min readNov 30, 2023

In the eight years I’ve lived in the Tetons it’s only recently occurred to me I’m living a real life. Somehow, time sort of just happened between age 21 and 29; much of which felt like a placeholder until an arbitrary change of seasons when I’d “re-evaluate.” Jackson has that effect. We enter it bright eyed and optimistic. Everything is a possibility; nothing is irrevocable. We also enter knowing how it will eventually end: housing, politics, personal politics, the financial burden, the emotional burden. We do it anyways, with the understanding that the only irrevocable thing now is that maybe nothing will ever compare. A catch 22.

I sat next to a woman at a bar a few days ago who asked me what it was like to live here, “like really live here.” I thought about lying and saying how hard it is; I thought about lying and saying how easy it is. I thought about all the times I’ve had this conversation with friends and family who ask the same thing. The answer feels less like a polarized spectrum and more like a novel; anyone who’s visited even just once knows that the stories of this place are written everywhere. They’re engraved in the grimaces of “being out of shape” but skiing top to bottom anyways; the first of summer’s roadside peaches in Driggs that are too ripe; how I’ll always take a photo at the top of Ferrins; the people who tell you “what this building used to be;” the people who stay; the people who leave; and of course, the wigs.

Barstool conversations during deep winter only exacerbate its literature. I wish I could have told her that becoming an adult in Peter Pan land is a paradox in and of itself. I wish I could have said I regret nothing, but of course I regret some things. Mostly though, I wish I could have described what it looks like at 4PM in late January, when everything turns purple but the sky stays orange; a light that wakes up the little hairs on your shoulders and becomes so neatly variegated with the romanticism of open spaces. And then all of a sudden 3 months becomes 8 years and so much has happened but when did it happen and is that what it means to be an adult? Or do I still need to buy a couch at full price? Life; on repeat.