How peer pressure affected close friendship

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“You’re such a Debbie!” my roommate yelled.

Confused, I looked around our messy hotel room. Although I had only met most of these girls just a few hours ago, I was positive none of their names were Debbie.

“Who’s Debbie?” I asked innocently.

There was a silent pause. She took a hit of her Juul, exhaled, then replied, “I mean you! You’re a Debbie Downer!”

Of all places, who would’ve guessed that I would be pressured to vape at a church retreat?

Just a few weeks before, I found out I would be attending a mandatory three-day church retreat with a bunch of strangers, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t looking forward to it. Since the “mandatory” label immediately prevented me from getting out of it, I scrambled to find two other girls to room with. Luckily, there was a girl in my class I had remembered briefly talking to before, so I reached out to her. As it turned out, she needed a roommate too. She invited one of her friends too, so we quickly had a full group.

Or so I thought.

Her friend invited two of her closest friends, and they invited yet another friend. What was once a comfortable, small group of three had turned into what would be a cramped room of people I’d mostly never met. On the morning of, we all gathered in the church parking lot, and I made sure to get there early so I could grab a whole row for myself.

About an hour-and-a-half later we finally arrived at the hotel where the retreat was being held. Attempting to find my new roommates, I got off the bus and made my way through the crowd. We met up and started to head to our assigned room, but were stopped by one of the leaders. Although it was already 10 p.m., we were supposed to attend a meeting over the agenda and rules for the next few days. The rules were what I expected to hear: no drinking and smoking, no inviting other people to your room and no leaving after 11:30 p.m. They also mentioned they would be putting tape on the outside of our doors so they would know in the morning if we had left or not.

It was well past 11:30 p.m. when we were finally allowed to go to our rooms for the night, and although I had only met most of my roommates a few hours ago, I was looking forward to getting to know them over the next couple days. After a long day, I started to get ready for bed.

“I invited a few other people and their friends to come to our room,” one of my roommates announced.

“Tell them to bring their Juuls,” another said.

Having overheard their conversation, I was very surprised because I didn’t expect people to be bringing their Juuls to a church retreat. I didn’t want to be a downer for saying something, but I also didn’t want to get in trouble with the leaders for inviting people down to our room.

“Tell them not to come down,” I tried to say nonchalantly. “I don’t feel like getting into trouble.”

After I said this, there was a lot of back and forth of whether or not anyone would be coming down to our room. And for a while, my roommates and I argued about it, which ended up in one of them saying I was being a downer. It ended up working out when a leader came by and put tape on all of the doors anyway to keep us from leaving, but for the rest of the night, we didn’t really talk.

When I first met my roommates, only a few hours ago, I was unsure of how the weekend would go. But as I spent more time with them, I grew excited to get to know them over the next few days. This all changed very quickly when we started arguing about inviting people into our room. The different opinions we each had made it difficult to connect with one another and my relationship with them became more distanced. We didn’t sit together at lunch, when we passed each other we would wave, but no one would stop to say hello. Although I had gone into this retreat thinking it would be a bonding experience for my roommates and me, it actually ended up driving us apart. The different perspectives and mentalities we each had made it difficult to connect with one another, but made me realize that I shouldn’t change my views just to fit how I want other people to see me.