Thursday, October 22, 2009
That's Actually Not Cool...
I was part of the "Smoke Free Class of 2000." The lofty campaign was deeply embedded into our lil 7 year old minds complete from a jolly jingle, demonstrations with stained cotton to depict the images of our lungs after just one puff and brightly colored yellow t-shirts.
Unfortunately, like many kids, I did try smoking and though smoke free now, missed the point of the campaign by trying it.
I was 14 and wanted to look cool so I begged Gege, my oldest cousin six years my senior, to let me take a puff and "play baseball," the code word he used around adults when he wanted to go smoke a cigarette. I remember it vividly. We were outside of my parents old house, the sun was just setting and it was a breezy fall evening. I stood on the sidewalk watching him smoke and politely asked for a menthol, the mint flavored cigarette. He refused. I begged. He refused again. I tried to persuade him by using logic. Why could he smoke but I could not? Didn't he want to share his fun with me? I decided bugging him would break him down and he'd eventually give in. "You're too young," he told me. "But all the kids are doing it!" I explained. "Have you?" he asked. Without hesitating, I told a white lie. "Yes... tons of times! So it's not a big deal... I just want to try a menthol versus a regular cigarette." "You already tried it before?" he looked at me incredulously and sternly. "Well.. sorta..." I replied.
Upon hearing so, he handed me a cigarette with much skepticism, his eyes growing wider as I took it into my hands, his head tilting as if to focus on me more carefully. I wasn't sure how to light it.. I just held it in my mouth while he lit it right? He fidgeted with the lighter and frustrated, eventually snapped the cigarette back into his mouth, lighted it, and gave it back to me. I wasn't sure how it all worked but I had seen it tons of times on television and on the streets so I took it in between my fingers, brought the cigarette to my lips and took in a puff, trying my best to look seasoned at the art of smoking. As I held the cigarette, thinking for a brief moment how cool I looked, Gege's eyes grew large and he turned around and screamed, "Xiao Gu Gu! Zhong Cheng Jia zai tsou yan!" which translated to Auntie!! Daisy Chou is smoking! (the full name is always used when trouble ensues...)
My mom never heard... never stormed out of the house in anger.. never did anything.. but the fear of what she would do was enough for me to promise Gege never to smoke ever again. I didn't understand... he did it, he looked so cool doing it, why couldn't I? I wanted to know what he didn't know. I begged him over and over again to not tell on me and he struck a deal with me. "If you promise NEVER EVER to smoke, even when other people are pressuring you or telling you it's cool, then I won't tell your mom," he said. "Okay! I promised.
We pinky swore and after we did, he let out a deep hearty laugh. "What's so funny?" I asked. "You didn't even inhale." "Huh?" I replied, utterly confused. "If you smoked before, you'd know when you take a puff, you actually breathe it into your lungs." "What?!" I yelled. He tricked me! I eventually worked out a deal to actually take a puff, actually inhaled, and ended up coughing until I wanted nothing ever to do with a cigarette again. And he eventually told my mom and I got yelled at but promised NEVER EVER to smoke again. I'll never forget that day. It was a pivotal point for me.. the moment I decided smoking was really not cool and that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I'm so glad that moment happened because it helped me avoid smoking on the patio at college parties, in happy hour settings, and at any weekend outing.
After being in Vermont for a week with two chain smokers, I've been reminded of how uncool smoking is. I'm not ashamed to make blatant comments about how disgusting it is or how their second hand is killing me and my future. Then, at lunch today, I found myself starting a conversation about why they smoked. "Does it make you feel better or taste good or what?" i asked sincerely. Before they even began to answer, I interjected with.. "because when I was younger... and I tried smoking, it was seriously.. because I thought it looked cool. Before I could get addicted, I realized how gross it was and got over the whole cool thing and I really think every single person who smokes, does it because they think it's cool and then are stuck doing it forever and not by choice!" I paused. I had said a lot. I felt immediately guilty of the over critical attitude I had exhibited. Oops. Time to repent.
One of the co-workers is from Japan, is in the US on secondment and speaks very little English. He is pretty quiet most of the time. My question brought about a smile and he looked at me and replied, "Actually, that is true." Woah. Not what I expected. He continued. "That's why I started smoking and sometimes, even when I smoke now, I think, I am looking cool." Again, not what I expected. The other co-worker chimed in, "Well, I personally didn't start smoking cuz I thought it was cool, I just saw my mom doing it my whole life." I nodded, thought for a second and responded, "But you respect and look up to your mom and I'm sure growing up, you probably imitated her, so maybe you thought it was cool, subconsciously?" He shook his head and responded, "I don't respect my Mom though!" and my response was silence. "Just kidding!" he said. Whew. But I couldn't stop. "Isn't it interesting that everyone knows how bad smoking is and there are even laws against doing it in certain places but not with drinking when they're both not unhealthy habits?" I asked. Both my co-workers know I'm LDS and though I wanted to go on about how accurate the prophecies were... I decided that was enough for the day. Our conversation quickly changed to how awesome the homemade hot sauces, ketchup and cola at this uber green restaurant we were dining at, but I continued to ponder.
We all know examples are important. We all try to be a good example. We also all look for good examples around us. So just think, how much more important is it to be a good example to your kids? And how much more important is daily scripture study and daily prayer for your kids who will look up to you, will imitate you, and will think you're cool (even if they don't vocalize it)?! Like Elder Bednar said during the past conference, "Consistency is key!" Start building those good habits now. I read this morning that "good habits are the soul's muscles, the more you use them, the more they grow." You better believe it, plus the Prophet said it .. duh. Sometimes it is a big duh in our own lives. I mean, until I realized how stupid it was to smoke, I 100% thought it was cool and I am so grateful that someone I looked up to, told me blatantly...how stupid it was! Thanks Gege. I am reminded everytime I smell second hand smoke and everytime my coworkers take a smoke break. And on top of that, I've committed to making sure that my own definition of what is cool should be what is "cool" in the eternal sense, because that's what really matters and that's what really is ... cool!