Sometimes I wonder whether smoking pot when I was so young was the cause of all my current failures. I ask this in the interest of honesty. could I have been successful, not by other people’s standards, who would consider me successful right now, but in the way I always wanted. It helps with depression but it also contributed to a change in what I thought I wanted out of life. I split my focus that year, I enjoyed different things stoned than I had without, and became confused about what I wanted to be. It may be culpable for my infamous (in my own mind) lack of direction.
My older sister introduced it to me when I was at the end of the 8th grade. And then I smoked with her more or less daily throughout my 9th grade year. It was not so uncommon a thing in NYC, in 1979. That year pot use in the US peaked and that aligns with my personal experience. I made new friends some of whom also smoked, but I didn’t get peer pressure from them, except sometimes to take another hit, which I usually did. I could have said no, I just didn’t. One of my friends from then, with whom I am now reacquainted through social media told me that her parents would give her the shake from their own weed. The pot had a lot of shake then and fewer buds. As young as we were, I know it seems young to me now too, we were effectively allowed it. My parents knew too, although I might have preferred they didn’t – it was my older sister who told them.
Outside, we could light up walking down the street. Inside bars too, where cigarette smoking was still common (yes we were also inside bars) and a few of us were even surprised by our English teacher when unknown to us, we were smoking in front of her apartment building. She laughed and said something as she pushed quickly by us, and into the building, we, too startled to register what she said.
We even smoked in an elementary school, after playing there with the middle school band to impress upon parents or their children what a great school their kids would be rising to. Not cool, I suppose not. It scared me when someone else lit up in the cafeteria after the “gig,” but I gave in and lit up my own joint, I guess I wanted to be just as cool, right when the janitor arrived. I showed him my profile with fingers and joint to my mouth taking a big drag. He said, “hey!” and we tried to run. At least everyone but our teachers were already gone. They were still sitting and talking in the auditorium. The back door to the outside was locked, and we had to walk out in front of them all. We were never specifically called out, but I have to believe that in some ways this disappointment was not forgotten and it may have affected our relationship with the teachers and even opportunities we never knew we could have had.
But this was a neighborhood school with a lot of underprivileged kids. We were not, by a long shot, the most at risk, and in that our relative freedom was founded. That’s where the adult perspective came from, I think. And we all turned out well, those of us who limited ourselves to pot and alcohol anyway, even if I’m not as happy or as free as I think I could be, and still sometimes wonder whether I would be happier if I had never smoked. Or it could be, what I usually think it is, that I didn’t smoke enough, that I should have kept it up. Because that was a good year. I still think of it as one of my happiest.