Frowned upon activities bring unfair effects

Infographic+by+Renata+Williams

Infographic by Renata Williams

George Sarafianos

Infographic by Renata Williams
Infographic by Renata Williams
I never smoked on campus during my sophomore year at RBHS, but all too well I remember those who did. Every day as my school bus approached the northernmost parking lot of RBHS, I would see the same group of students huddled together against the fence dividing the Columbia Area Career Center from Angelo’s Steak House.
As the year progressed I noticed they seemed to be their own school club. All someone had to do was refer to “The Smokers” and automatically everyone knew who was being talked about in the room. It wasn’t until even later on in the year that I noticed the disdain in my peers’ voices when “The Smokers” were discussed. The moniker somehow made them appear lesser in the eyes of the student body, or so it seemed.
The contempt this label held made me feel as if I would be treated with hostility if I were to smoke at school as they did, so out of fear, I refrained for the remainder of the year.
By the time my junior year had rolled around, I had begun to smoke on a much more regular basis, and I thought it acceptable to indulge the occasional cigarette in the north parking lot of RBHS. This was not my wisest choice since smoking acts as a stress reliever for most, and as many know, high school can be quite stressful sometimes.
Before I knew it I was walking into almost all of my classes smelling of smoke, something that at the time I could have cared less about, but eventually it caught up to me.
Until someone acknowledged it verbally, I had been oblivious to how strongly of smoke I actually reeked. At that moment, I began to notice things happening to me that I had feared in my year prior. People whom I had at one point been civil acquaintances with, now treated me as if we had never spoken. My teachers seemed more standoffish, and my friends who did not smoke became increasingly distant.
As someone who has never had strong intimate relationships, I definitely took these reactions to heart. I thought, ‘What gives them the right to judge me?’ From my perspective, I was doing all that I could do right: I was still in school, I didn’t bring drugs on campus, I was respectful and civil towards everyone, yet I was treated as a leper.
I’d had enough of people passive aggressively saying, “It smells like smoke…” while looking directly at me. I was sick of people associating me with “sketchy” people simply because we held a mutual habit. But the tipping point was definitely when one of my classmates accused me of abusing drugs. Although a press release from casacolumbia.org states that 17-year-olds who smoke cigarettes are 13 times more likely to smoke marajuana than those who don’t smoke, I felt the accusation to be inappropriate and intrusive. From my perspective my peer had no place to assume such a thing, seeing as how she knew little to nothing about me other than the fact I used tobacco products.
I became paranoid that people might be thinking – not bad thoughts necessarily about me, I just didn’t enjoy the idea that people I knew almost nothing about had a piece of information about me that they could think about. This paranoia turned into self-consciousness as I thought about other students’ opinions more and more. I became a social hermit, acknowledging the existence of only my close friends. The thought of people thinking negatively of me was now all that I could think about when walking through the hallways.
I thought that the remainder of my time left at RBHS would be this way, but once I began working, studying for the ACT and having numerous other factors of stress in my life, I began to think less and less of what people thought.
Eventually, the opinion of others became something that I rarely thought about as I gained more and more responsibility.
In hindsight, I think that the insecurities I felt were normal, seeing as how all young adults go through a stage of social awkwardness. But I do stand by the point that, other people’s habits should be no one’s business, as simple as it is, I think that, that is all that can really be said.
By George Sarafianos