By Amarachukwu Okpunobi
There were lots of teenagers in the hood I grew up. Most times we worked and played and of course, fought together. There were lots of trees around especially fruit trees. These trees served many very important purposes for us then. When they had no fruits, we stayed under shades to play ncho, ‘Swell’, football, and seriously discuss issues we thought should be of national interest. On the days we felt strong, we ran races, on the trees!
I had (and still have) very popularly long legs as a kid. So I was an undisputed king of track race, in my hood then. I had wanted to participate in this tree race, but my mother had warned me never to try it. Attached to the warning were series of very serious sounding punishments that I can’t remember. To help you understand the inherent danger, this is how the race goes;
First, everyone climbs on the tree except one person chosen by lot who climbs up when the others might have settled on their preferred branches. Once the race starts, the last man climbs up and tries to touch any of the racers. The racers on the other hand try to climb to spots and heights where the last man can’t reach. Whoever the last man touches replaces him and tries to catch another person.
There was a big pear tree, very close to our house that we normally used for this race. It was so tall that you can easily see someone in our house from the top of the tree.
Girls (who always wear skirts) do not join us in this race, for obvious reasons. So whenever the race starts, I am left at the foot of the tree, with the girls. I really wanted to join them in the race, but my mother’s warning always stopped me. Such a nice boy! Again and again, I was taunted for not joining in the game. I really wished and wanted to climb this pear and join in the race, but my home training was (and is still) strong. My friends kept urging me to climb up and one day, the pressure was enough to break my home training.
I checked, no one was in our house. I checked very well, there was no one! Lot fell on me that I was to be the last man. I waited anxiously for everyone to climb up. Once they were up, I pursued swiftly. It was hard for me to catch someone as they had already mastered the game. So when I finally did, I swore never to be caught again. So I decided to perch on a branch high up in the tree where I felt no one could reach. That was my nemesis! Sure no one could reach my buncker, but little did I know that I just landed myself into an ants’ cubicle.
I started to feel something crawling on my legs and hands. Then the bites started. I was being bitten on my legs and back, and even at the center of my head! At first I wanted to fight them off, as the little MAN I was. I was running from the ants and also running from the chaser who is now patiently waiting for me to give up and come down. The other children were laughing at me, including the girls. But once the ants started biting their way into my pim pim, I started shouting for my dear life! I did not care anymore if I was caught by anyone. I started climbing down, missed my steps and gbaaa! I was on the ground.
My mother heard my yelling voice and started coming to the arena. I was in pains when I saw her coming, but I was more concerned about the awaiting punishment. But my mother, lovely woman, she never punished her lastborn that day. I have already learnt the lesson.
No matter how much anybody tries to pressure me into joining the tree race, I didn’t bulge.
You may or may not have noticed that recently, there is an increasing cloud of peer pressure among youths. This time around, no one needs any one to apply external pressure, you yourself are the one pressuring yourself with a deafening intensity. But my personal experiences had taught me that most people starts underperforming once they are under pressure, whether they know it or not.
Before, most people are only exposed to their economic class until social media came. Now I can see the type of phones and clothes and cars and tooth brush that very very rich people use. Some people pick inspiration from this and work harder and smarter. Others begin pressure themselves and start making decisions and actions that may harm them or other people.
One of the things that fuel peer pressure is the mentality that other people have figured it all out and I am the only one left! Sweetheart, everyone has not figured their whole life out, you may never figure it all out. Do not be pressured by fake people or on the other hand, persons celebrating their little wins. And to be frank with you, not being comfortable with your present level is a good feeling. But do not allow it to pressure you to loose your mind and focus.
Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. Move away from social media noise and everything that invites negative energy into your life. Remain positive by all means. Never let go of hope. Celebrate your little wins.