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Under Pressure: Part 1

The first part of an ongoing series by Trapeze to explore different aspects of pressure at OPRF

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Under Pressure: Part 1

Senior Noah Tennison and Freshman Eli Tennison pose outside of their house

Senior Noah Tennison and Freshman Eli Tennison pose outside of their house

Senior Noah Tennison and Freshman Eli Tennison pose outside of their house

Senior Noah Tennison and Freshman Eli Tennison pose outside of their house

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It is a common feeling.  A big family dinner.  Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, and anyone else who found their way to the house.  These get togethers are fun for many, and often lead to treasured memories.  However, these events drag on for hours, and sometimes never seem to end.  In many families, high school age students can begin to feel nervous about the work they could be doing instead of making small talk with extended family.  For seniors, the thoughts are generally college application related, while younger students might stress over grades and friends.

In this hypothetical, the senior is Noah Tennison.  He is Student Council president, vice president of Spirit Council, a casual member of Model UN and French Club, and an honor roll student.  His younger brother, Eli, is a freshman who is still getting acquainted with the school and trying to find ways to get involved.  

The elder Tennison has found many ways to keep himself busy in and around the school.  Despite his heavy workload, he has managed to keep a positive outlook on his high school experience.  For example, his junior year, the year most students dread, was actually his favorite.  “Even though I was working hard and I was constantly studying for stuff… I was just having fun and finding out who I was more… I was able to be myself,” said Noah.

He didn’t always have such a positive outlook on life, though. The elder Tennison struggled early on in his high school career.  “So as a freshman I wrestled, and I wasn’t particularly good, but I kind of got caught up in the feeling of being on a nationally ranked team.”  

Cut to sophomore year, and Noah just wasn’t ready for the season to begin.  In fact, he was dreading it.  “It was almost like a cloud hanging over my head.”

Things got even worse once the season began.  “I went into my sophomore season just feeling like there was no hope.”  Unfortunately for Noah, the winter went as bad as he expected, and his life suffered because of it.  “It was awful.  I didn’t hang out with people, I had no motivation, my grades slipped, and I feel like I lost relationships with friends because I had no motivation to see them.”

To make matters worse, his parents were little help.  In fact, “One of my biggest issues with them to this day is they said to me, ‘We don’t care, you’re a part of this (wrestling) and you’re going to see this through.’”

This was not an isolated incident of pressure Noah felt from his parents.  Like many high schoolers, he deals with pressure from parents on a daily basis.  “Ever since I was little, they’ve put this unrealistic pressure on me.”  

At the heart of his problems with his parents is the idea of expectations versus support.  “They said to me, ‘You’re smart,’ not ‘You can do this if you work hard,’” he said.  “This really screwed me up, especially in math.  When I would have trouble in math, I’d just be inclined to say, ‘I’m not smart enough, I can’t do this’ instead of just working harder at it.”

That isn’t to say Noah’s parents intentionally hurt him.  “I know they didn’t mean to do that.  I know they thought they were doing what was best,” he said. However, he does believe this well intentioned, albeit negative, pressure is fairly common.  “I think every parent wants to think that their son or daughter is a genius.” This way of thinking can often lead to the stress felt by teens.

Noah is so used to pressure from his parents, he sometimes imagines it.  When it comes to college, he said, “I just feel so much pressure at this point to go somewhere where they’ll look at me and say, ‘I’m glad my son goes there.’”

As for the younger Tennison, Eli, the pressures he feels are a little different.  “The level of work and the challenge of stuff you (between middle and high school) has definitely changed,” said Eli.
Another change that comes with the first year of high school is an increase of social pressure. For possibly the first time, students are in different classes than their close friends from elementary and middle school, so friend groups are in constant flux. “There’s definitely more of a pressure to hang out with the friends you don’t see in school because as you are making a lot of new friends, it is important not to forget your old ones,” said Eli. “It’s a lot harder, especially if you don’t have a class with them, as you don’t see them in school and hang out with them,” said Tennison.

Although these pressures surely resonate with many freshmen, Eli faces a pressure less common: being in the shadow of a sibling.  When joining clubs, he took what his brother did into consideration.  “Because of my brother, I’m in Student Council and Spirit Council, and I’m also debating joining Model UN,” he said.  Eli continues, “I feel a little bit of pressure to keep the family dynasty going with my brother just because he is involved in so much.”

Ultimately though, the Tennison family is not an exception to the rule.  Most of the school feels pressure from all angles, and is struggling to keep afloat.  In a perfect world, all the pressure on  students is immediately alleviated, but that is impossible.  Therefore, for the time being, students just need to make it through year, and maybe try to enjoy that family dinner.

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