Friday, April 03, 2009

Advice from an Ex-Smoker

Several folks have commented recently about how good paper makes them feel.

I think that alot of things that are done on paper can be changed to being completed on the computer or a similar tool. However, I don't think I would like if everything became paperless! It just wouldn't feel the same!

I don't agree with getting rid of paper completely in classrooms. I just don't see the point. I agree that it might be easier to share and organize your work through googledocs and email, but the feelings of writing a document, printing it out, stapling it, and handing it in making sure there are no creases or tears on your paper are satisfying to many.

To the best of my recollection, I started smoking cigarettes back in Junior year of high school. I was 16 years old.

I fell in love with tobacco immediately. While a lot of smokers say that their first cigarettes gave them a light-headed or nauseating feeling, for me it was pure heaven. And at $1.09 a pack, it was exactly what I'd been looking for.

For the next seven years, friends rarely saw me without a smoke in hand. Smoking was the first thing I did when I woke up and it was the last thing I did before crashing for the night. I was playing in bands and working in bars at the time, so there was no problem smoking all through the day. Before long, I had a two-pack-a-day habit. On late nights, I could easily blow through three packs. Friends and I would often laugh about how impossible it would be to live without cigarettes.

Sometime around 1997 or 98, I caught a serious case of bronchitis. It was enough to put me in bed for two or three days. And that marked the first time since I'd gotten hooked that I'd been off nicotine. Four days into a withdrawl involving coughing up pieces of bloody tar, I made a decision: I was going cold turkey.

And so overnight I went from seven years of two-packs-a-day to nothing. And the first week was hellish.

But by the second week I was noticing something. First of all, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. Rather than stopping for a smoke break, I could actually get through whatever task I set my mind to. I felt like I was gaining time in the day. Second, I started getting mad. Not at anyone else, but rather I was mad at myself for wasting so much money and time having done something for so long just because I couldn't see myself feeling comfortable otherwise.

And that's the way I feel about paper.

If we take the long view, we see that this sort of thing has happened over and over through the centuries. I'm sure folks who grew up reading on papyrus said there was no way they'd ever read on goat-skin. And folks who grew up reading and writing on animal skin manuscripts likely said the same thing about writing on the pulp of mashed-up trees. It just wouldn't 'feel' right. It wouldn't be satisfying. It wouldn't be comfortable.

But 'comfort' is often a by-product of stasis. And this is coming from a former smoker who spent more than his fair share of time just standing around scared of what life might be like without the squares. I'm too smoke-wise to tell you to quit anything, but what I will tell you is that it's actually a lot easier on the other side, it feels good, and it's ridiculously satisfying.

So go cold turkey. For just a week or two. No paper. If you've got computers use them. And if you don't, then take the time to talk with your students. Give oral assessments. Or take some time to do that project you've always dreamed about. But just stay off paper for a week or two and see how it makes you feel.


  1. As long as nobody gets in trouble for doodling on the desk it might be okay. Can't doodle on the computer too well yet. Takes too much effort.

  2. I'll take you up on that challenge. I have 5 computers in my room and 32 students at one time. I will find a way to make this paperless thing work. Thanks for the push.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.