Peer Pressure's Pull

January 25, 2010
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Some time in every person’s life, one has to face the struggles of peer pressure. For some, succumbing to the pressure is the only option they give themselves, while others stand strong and defiant, thinking that they would never give in. I was one of those people. Three summers ago, however, when my family was vacationing at the beach, I was surprised in finding out how much peer pressure really affected my judgment.
On Fourth of July weekend, my dad’s side of the family was going on vacation with us to our beach house on St. Simons Island. I was excited about this because we only saw my dad’s side of the family twice a year, during Christmas and summer break. My cousins, Cydney and Hunter, had no other cousins besides me and my younger brother Taylor. They were very excited about seeing us and agreed to almost anything we said.
It had been this way forever. In our younger days, I was considered “the leader” because I was the oldest, so I trouped around our grandma’s house, proudly displaying my procession of followers right on my heels. Over the years this tradition had changed, but I was still very used to getting my way in almost everything we did together.
The weather was perfect for being outside, so my mom and aunt decided to take us to the beach. It was low tide, when the sandbar looked its best, a huge contrast to the murky brown ocean water surrounding it. The sandbar was at least one hundred yards out, leaving a channel between itself and the shore that was sure to be the home to many a shark. In fact, I knew this to be true because earlier that summer my uncle had caught several small sharks while fishing in that same area. Over the years, my mother had told me I was not to go to the sandbar for this very reason. She needn’t have bothered though, for I’d never wanted to cross, and the shark factor made crossing even more undesirable.
Hunter, twelve, with a huge frame and athletic build, went to my aunt and asked if we could swim to the sandbar. My aunt, who very rarely went to the beach, said yes without thinking twice. Cydney, always ready for any new activity, greeted this idea with much enthusiasm, and Taylor, seeing forbidden fruit within his grasp, quickly shouted his approval. All eyes turned to me. “No,” I said flatly. “I don’t want to go.” I waited for the usual submission. “Fine!” said Hunter, eyes blazing. “It doesn’t matter! We three are going whether you want to or not!” With that, Hunter took off plowing through the water, with Taylor and Cydney right behind, all three clinging to a cheap zippy mart float, certain that nothing could go wrong.
The tides had turned against me, and I was shocked. In that moment, all of my authority as oldest had been cast out, leaving me in a dazed stupor that soon turned into anger and worry. Although I was mad at all three of them, I was more afraid of what might happen to them if I let them go by themselves. Against my better judgment, I set out after them and soon had my own cramped space on the cheap float. The crossing was terrifying! Having been warned of rip tides and undertows, I’d never before wanted to venture out where my feet couldn’t touch the ocean floor. Plus, I couldn’t stop envisioning what might be swimming beneath us in the murky depths.
Eventually we reached the sandbar, and I’ll admit that I started to have a good time. It was fun scavenging the beach for colorful shells and looking into the small tidal pools that were scattered here and there across the sandy bank. After a while, however, I noticed that everyone else who had been on the sandbar with us had already swam back across to the beach. “We should probably swim back now, guys.” I said, and after looking around the deserted sandbar, the others readily agreed with me. The tide was rising, making the sandbar disappear as the waves picked up strength. We started paddling towards the shore, and then realized that we were swimming against the tide and were therefore not making any headway. Frantic, I ordered that we should turn around and go back to the sandbar. I remembered that half a mile down the beach, the shore and the sandbar almost connected. I figured this would be our only chance to get back to the beach without emergency assistance. So I started sprinting down the sandbar, avoiding holes and tidal pools along the way, the others silently following close behind. As we sprinted, we soon were immersed in ankle deep, then knee deep water, slowing our progress down substantially. Soon we were forced to swim for shore, but by then we were close enough to make it across, right into the arms of our very angry mothers, who had followed our procession down the beach. Our trusty “life raft”, long since deflated beyond use, was discarded. Though my mom didn’t punish me for going against her rules, she said she was very disappointed that I would dismiss her warnings so easily.
I’d struggled against peer pressure and lost. I knew that crossing was wrong, yet I allowed my judgment to be swayed very easily. My “followers” had led me to where I knew I shouldn’t go, and the tide had turned against us all. I realized that I did care what people thought about me, and I was sad to discover that their opinions affected me more than I believed they should. Now, if someone asked me to do something that I felt was wrong, I would remember that day at the beach and say no. I’ve learned that going against what you feel is right can have severe consequences. When I look back at this incident, I wish I would’ve held firm to my decision and prevented them from making a choice that could’ve ended badly. But hey, who knew that peer pressure had such a pull?

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