Years before I graced the Trude household with my presence, my dad and grandpa used to smoke. Often, according to them. But they quit, my father instilling the reasons why smoking was bad every now and then during my childhood years, long after he quit. I can easily remember the “Just Say NO!” campaign held at my school in second grade, holding my breath when walking through a veil of secondhand smoke, and being internally judgmental as a child towards those I saw puffing away outside the local Target. I vowed to never inhale.
Fourteen years later, and I’ve still never had a cigarette. Those recent anti-smoking commercials on TV? Super effective.
Though I don’t regret not having ever smoked a joint, I do regret the prejudiced outlook I had towards those who did.
Let me just say, this is not an anti-smoking post.
They say that childhood innocence is a shame to lose when that child grows up. Generally, children are seen as being non-prejudiced creatures early on, not taking race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. into consideration when scouting out a playmate at the sandbox. Blind to the stereotypes and cruelties that the world will grow them into with each passing year.
I still believe this is all true. But I also think that in childhood, everything was simplified. Babies came from Mr. Stork. Blue was for boys, pink for girls. Naptime sucked. Sharing, caring, and coloring inside the lines were good. Lying, hitting, and name-calling were unacceptable. Black and white.
It wasn’t just smoking that I had strictly black and white views on as a young little thing. There was stealing, discourteousness, gay rights, women’s rights, dropping out of school, addiction, blah blah blah.
For example, with stealing: Wrong. But I won’t be so quick to point a finger when I see a poor boy in a war-ridden third world country sneaking a loaf of bread into his knapsack for his family.
As for dropping out of school…As nerdy as it sounds, I like school. I hate writing research papers and tests, but I love learning. But I know not everyone shares this mentality. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes you have to work three jobs to pay rent for an overpriced studio apartment. Sometimes backpacking in Europe after high school is preferable to going straight to college. Sometimes we just don’t know what the story is.
Now, whenever I’m with a group of friends and a few of them start to feign-cough loudly as we pass by some smokers on the corner, I feel embarrassed. It might be true that the kids we encounter are ditching class in favor of this “study break.” It could also be true that the headaches from quitting were too much, and they relapsed. Perhaps we caught them at their weak moment. Unlikely, but not a possibility I can totally rule out, because I’ll never know. So why jump to childish black and white conclusions?
Throughout high school and now college, I’m proud to say that I’ve become a very open-minded individual thanks to various encounters and experiences I’ve come across. Of course, that’s my own opinion; you’re free to think whatever you want. Some people in my life might consider this a dangerous path to tread, but I regret nothing. Freeing my mind (no, not with drugs or anything like that) to base my opinions on a gray scale rather than a black and white chess board has given me more shades to work with in shaping my views.