How Being Pissed Off Saved My Life & Career

Or, how being true to myself emboldened me to take steps to save myself from petty villains in positions of authority.

First: How I Quit Smoking in 1999

I had my first drag of a cigarette at age 13 while spending part of the summer at my family home in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. It was a hot, humid evening in 1980. Bruce Springsteen was playing on the Boom Box underneath the pier. My friend’s feather earrings blew around in the sea breeze as I decided to break my square streak and have a smoke. She was petite, blond and beautiful and I was definitely not. I was dark, brooding and quickly became hooked because my fictional hero, Holden Caulfield, was a smoker as were all the kids I was hanging out with. This includes the kids at home and at school so socioeconomic status wasn’t a barrier or predictor. I was smoking between one and two packs a day. I had a “smoking den” back at home which was the fire escape staircase at the end of the hallway with a window view of Queens. I started out with Parliaments, then Marlboro Light, then Reds. I smoked on the way to school, between classes and even when we walked from our school building on East 70th and Third to the Park for gym class. As you can imagine, this was very unhealthy and I frequently was winded when I tried to exercise.

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