Back in the day, well, maybe not so long ago, I was a smoker. No, nothing exotic like clove cigarettes or anything illegal, just plain old Marlboro Lights. Reds were too harsh, Camels too cool and menthol too much. I managed to last all the way till I went “away” to college before I really tried smoking. I say “away” because my college was only about an hour’s or so drive from the house I was raised in but I lived on campus anyway. It was the best of both worlds, away from home, but close enough to go back whenever I wanted. It was there at Southampton LIU I was introduced to many things, smoking, vegetarianism, wearing all black, being a radio DJ, and oh yeah, marine biology.
A guy I met from Vermont was my smoking downfall. I remember that we were walking across campus, he was a smoker. I tried and didn’t do it right. He taught me how to inhale (along with a host of other things). I remember that feeling, that first crazy, fleeting, all over your whole body nicotine rush feeling, like, well, like something that feels really, really good. Of course the only time you get that great feeling is the first time ever or if you stop for a while. It’s too bad. It would be even harder to quit if you got that good rush every time. So I smoked at college and when I came home I hid it from my Mom, who of course knew anyway. She was a smoker back in the day and hated it so much. I would smoke in my car with the windows open even if it was freezing. I am certain it did not mask that smoky smell that infuses your being when you smoke. Like when people at work get in an elevator and they just reek like a giant cigarette and don’t even know it. That was me.
I smoked off and on when I lived in Thailand. Buying these awful Thai cigarettes and lying on the floor of my house with all the lights off at night to do it. It was “mi rip roy” for women to smoke (not polite; acceptable) especially for a foreigner who was supposed to be there in a teaching a capacity. But I did it anyway. I smoked when I went back to New York. I met my ex at my favorite NY dive bar (the Checkmate) outside smoking. I smoked when we moved to Virginia and when we moved to Hawaii. I had cut down a lot but it was definitely still occurring. When said ex dumped me from Korea via email after a long relationship, I took up smoking again in earnest. I smoked on the rail of the Capitol before it became a non-smoking building. I smoked at bars and when I clocked my best marathon time ever (well, not during anyway). All of these solitary activities and nothing deterred me until I took up paddling.
Paddling, for the non-Hawaii types, occurs in a five-person outrigger canoe. Races can be shortish or they can be long distance. The five people in the canoe have different jobs but they all work together to pull the boat forward. Everyone should be in time and giving it all they can. It was then that I decided that I needed to stop smoking because it was unfair to my fellow teammates in my boat. I felt that I was not contributing enough; that I was not giving my all by not being as healthy as I could be. So finally I quit. It was not easy but I never went back. I never went back because I knew how hard it was to quit and I was afraid that if I did I would just start again. It was a good decision based on my family back then and stuck to for my family now; one that I will always be grateful being prompted into.