By Ian Runge
60 feet of forest lay below me. My feet dangled off the edge of the small wooden platform and ropes hung above my head, connected to the descending wire. My heart was racing, my breath was labored, yet the woman behind me continuously told me to relax. I couldn’t. At 12 years old, the zip-line was too much for me.
Somewhere in the distance were shouts and cries of encouragement from my fellow sixth-graders; however, all I heard were the words of my peers, pressuring me to leap forward into the unknown.
Even worse, a fellow student stood by on the mountain edge awaiting her own turn. I felt her silently judging me, waiting for the inevitable moment when I would step back and make my way over to the safety of the trail.
When that moment finally came, I felt a sense of shame wash over me. I made my way down the slope, now just as frightened of my friend’s disapproving comments and looks as I had been of the zip-line
Although I had been a timid boy before this moment, wary of adventures and excursions, I had never before felt humiliated by these fears. In the company of understanding people, like my family, I had no reason to be embarrassed.
However, under the hypercritical eye of my friends, preteens no less, I didn’t feel safe whatsoever.
Many describe junior high school and high school as times of new discoveries wherein students make choices about how they wish to conduct their lives. These choices are greatly affected by those whom we choose as friends, though, and often we make bad decisions.
Granted it is entirely possible to reverse one’s situation, the fact that one would or could give in so easily to the pressures of another is frightening in itself.
Though my position was seemingly harmless, in that giving into the pressures of my friends would have done little to corrupt my judgement, it is important to note that if I had submitted I may have been more susceptible to peer pressure in the future.
Pressure can be a good motivator as well of course, and a means of growing as a person. If I had given in to the cries of my friends I could have conquered on of my fears.
However, looking back I believe I made the right choice as I would rather have lived a few more years as a cautious person than give in to more, possibly dangerous pressures as I grew into a teenager.
Two years after that first attempt, I once again faced the dreaded zip-line. This time, however, I was older. I had matured and conquered childhood fears, such as that of heights. I hooked myself in once again, confronted the fall, and leapt outward into nothing, not once looking back.
Since then I have grown to enjoy the exhilarating experience a zip-line and other fast paced rides offer.
I have given in to certain pressures presented by my friends but have grown from them whether they were good or bad experiences. It is impossible to avoid influence from friends, but it is not impossible to say no.