You might think that the villain I’m going to describe to you
is something I have known,
seen,
and felt personally.
You might think that the enemy on my mind
is something as sorrowful as sin,
grief,
or the stony, unsteady roads of writer’s block.
But I am going to paint a picture
of an entirely different horror,
one that I hope to never experience.

Have you ever received directions
to Neverland?
“Second star to the right,
and straight on till morning.”
I say follow the first star you see.
It will not take you to Neverland
(or teach you how to fly),
but Peter Pan is not the wisest of leaders,
and if you wish to find yourself,
a crackling campfire amid those who claim to be lost
is far from where you must seek.

You must grow up,
taking as deep a breath doing so
as on the day you blew out eighteen flickering, dripping candles.
But you must not lose
everything your childhood self held so dearly,
especially the only fitting frame of mind humans were born with:
your sense of wonder at the world,
a trait that rarely accompanies adulthood.

This is the villain
that creeps in the enticing shadows of independence,
of new jobs and plastic cutouts of driver’s licenses,
determined to make you forget the magic
of glittered, chipped snow globes and a sky scattered with stars.

I hope you do not let it overtake you—
I hope you are able to laugh
the next time someone shoves cake in your face,
and I hope that when you bring a book outside,
you are so distracted by the fresh air that you forget to read.
I hope that the forecast of a wet, windy weekend
does not keep you from camping in the woods with your best friends,
and I dearly, dearly hope
that you still smile when your old favorite songs are played.
I hope that somewhere on your scribbled-out, tight schedule
is a note to watch the trees dance in the wind.
I hope you still get excited
to see a sunflower through the car window,
and that you find the moon still follows you
on the dark drive home.

This world is not in need
of more schedules and suits,
clocks and checklists;
but is rather short
of empathy and enthusiasm,
forgiveness and fascination.

So many different shades were created:
the entrancing arrangement of colors in a simple fruit bowl,
every hue of a rainbow seeping into the next,
and each iris of a soul’s window.
But although there is color in our eyes,
I am not convinced
that enough of us see it.

But if you are determined
to learn to fly
(and oh, I hope you are),
follow the second star to the right,
and straight on till morning—
but promise me
that you’ll take the time to watch the sunrise.