For my big brother... a Q & A from Quora. com

As computer apps go, I kind of like Quora. Sure there's a bunch of troll-esque questions, paid questions and other assorted nonsense. But there are also some real questions from real people. And unlike most any other "social media" app, you get kicked off if you're an asshole. God if all of life were so easy. I like to think of it as a place where smart and caring people commingle with trolls, bots, advertisements, and other smart and caring people. 

Unlike, say Facebook, where smart and caring people interact with the same, coupled with assholes that quite often they didn't even know were assholes! And then they block them and soon think that the whole world thinks as they do. Ahhh the filter bubble. It's almost as if our Government secretly invented it, gave Zuckerberg all the credit and money, and then chuckled "bwahaha, we've got them right where we want them, divided 50/50 and we get to run away with all the power." All the while, they just point at each other as the bad guys, knowing in their soul that they are always in the right!

I don't talk much about being on Quora because, even though my name and details are there for all to see, there's relative obscurity in that I don't know any of these people. And I have had some fascinating conversations with complete strangers that I don't know how I would have given my situation. I don't travel like I used to, get stuck in elevators like I used to, sit next to people on planes like I used to, etc etc etc. 

I love talking to strangers! I'm that guy in the elevator, trying to get a smile out of whoever I'm stuck in it with. Yeah, that guy. For the record I'm pretty fucking good at it too.  Just sayin. 

When Ma said "Billy, don't talk to strangers!" I considered it a dare. I practiced it frequently and still do.

So I'm kind of giving away a secret here. For God's sake don't tell anybody.

I titled this "for my big brother." Even though it's not too or from him. But as the clock ticks louder and faster, I think of him more and more.

Anyhow, here's a question from a kid named Kaden. Don't get caught up on his/her phrasing, you'll get the gist of it.

Q: Ever since I started smoking like once a week I feel different.. It feels like I’m slightly high in a way when I know I’m not and I just feel different than my old self and I don’t of this is cus I’m 15 and all that but yeah can someone answer this?

A: Hey Kayden. Good question! And My answer speaks from almost exactly your experience.
That feeling you're feeling is your body telling you that it likes that sweet sweet nicotine! I remember the day that I felt it myself. I was also 15 and sitting in the back seat of my friend Bobo's car on the way to school. Bobo and the other two guys lit up and offered me one.
I'd smoked cigarettes here and there before that but that was the first time that I ever got the “rush" you describe. From that moment on I knew that cigarettes and I were going to be good buds.
Sounds promising eh?
Well, Bobo died the year after we graduated from high school. Alcohol poisoning. What a loss.
And for me, I smoked up until 10 years ago. I'm 58 now. I figured that I was 48, lucky that I'd never developed that smoker's cough, been relatively healthy and it was a good enough time to quit. I had been recently divorced and whattaya know, I realized that women don't dig smokers. At least the ones I wanted to be around. So I quit. Regardless of what anybody tells you, every smoker ever thinks about quitting from time to time.
That feeling that I got in the back of Bobo's car and that you are feeling right now may last another month or so. Then you'll smoke for years and years trying to get it back. It happens now and then but nothing like when you first start.
I had always been in great shape. In fact at age 45 I took a bunch of tests to become a police officer in North Las Vegas. Part of the test was a 2-mile run. I lapped a bunch of kids that were only a few years older than you. Trust me when I tell you, there aren't many better feelings that you'll ever get in life than beating a bunch of kids in a 2-mile run.
Anyhow... 2 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I was given a 24 to 36 month prognosis.
So, do that math and try to picture yourself with a year or less to live.
You owe me that. I sat and put myself in your shoes for 15 minutes before I wrote this. I wish I was you right now.
You're 15 years old. You have no idea how amazing the next 70 years could be for you. Regardless of what you might be going through right now. Yeah yeah you've heard all that before. But guess what… It's really true. And the part they don't tell you... It flies by as fast as the Summer does between school years!
I have lived an amazing life. As far back as I can remember up until this very moment. I've lived in over 50 places around the USA, been around the world twice, taught PhDs and advanced degreed people - as a college dropout, and been surrounded by the most amazing people you can imagine.
And somehow, I am and was connected to a family that most people could only dream of having. They must have switched me at birth. There's no way that I deserve my family.
You'll have plenty other feelings throughout life that will want to reel you in just like that nicotine is trying to do right now. Don't let the nicotine hook you like it did me and millions of other people. I know they loved life as much as I do - every single minute of it. Even the shitty minutes!
You seem smart, I could tell by your question. Surely you're smarter than I was when I was 15. Because I kept smoking and I'll be dead soon. But you're going to quit and never look back. And hopefully forget you ever even asked this question or read any of these answers.
Life is way way bigger than cigarettes could ever be. Grow old and let life kill you like it does all the other smart people.
Good luck Kaden. You got this!
Tic tok, tic tok, tic tok.
Bill

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