Who I Was in High School
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Who I Was in High School

Gooood morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. So, we’re undergoing a pretty significant
office reorganization project, and along the way I found a lot of documents from my past
like, uh, this old picture of me. Good news, little me. Your braces are going
to come off! In six more years. I also found this somewhat newer picture of
me. I’m not sure if this is a photograph, but it’s definitely realistic. And from 2006, my favorite fan mail ever,
“In regards to Looking For Alaska I can honestly say that after putting your book down I felt
a feeling that I had not felt before. It was not a sickness, like I was going to throw
up. Or a feeling like I had to take a crap or anything. But I felt something.” Your book made me feel something, man. Not
the two main things I feel: the urges to defecate and vomit, but something new. And Hank, I also found, from way back in 1994,
some of my report cards. This is from my junior year of high school,
Hank. I got a C- in Latin, “John went into a tailspin in this course during the last
6 weeks. He missed too many classes and seldom was prepared for the daily lesson.” Yeah, that’s Latin; that’s a dead language.
This is from my, uh, French – got a B- in French, not to brag. “It’s safe to say that
John underachieved this year.” Hmm. American history, I got a B, “John managed
to get to class more often during the final trimester, and his grade came up – a bit.”
That wasn’t necessary, to say “A bit.” Could have just ended it at my grade came up. It’s
technically accurate. I got a C- in Pre-Calc, which frankly, was
probably generous. In chemistry, C. And in English I got a, uh, C-, “Incredible potential
as an English student, but he’s reached a juncture where he just can’t mail it in anymore.” Hank, I don’t talk much about what a terrible
student I was in high school. I think partly because I’m still embarrassed about it, 20
years later. I did miss a lot of classes, you know, because they were early, or because
they conflicted with my schedule of smoking cigarettes in the woods. But even when I attended class, I was still
a pretty terrible student. Hank, you know how you become the third best
C-student in the entire state of Alabama at academic decathlon? First by getting terrible
grades so you’re not an A or B student. And that’s who I was in high school. I underachieved,
and I skipped classes, and I didn’t do my homework, and I didn’t do the reading, and
I was always behind and stressed out. Meanwhile, Hank, you were getting great grades, and not
smoking cigarettes, and then you’d get a scholarship to college and everything. Anyway, Hank, coming across these report cards
made me think a couple things. The first is that I was incredibly lucky. Like I didn’t
just get a second chance — I got hundreds of chances. And even though I was a crap student,
I still had excellent teachers who continued to believe in me despite my not giving them
a reason to. The other thing these old report cards made
me think about, Hank, was this: High school is not destiny. It’s part of life, but I feel
like when you’re in high school, people act like it’s the most important thing you’ll
ever do, and like the whole course of your life is being decided. But at least so far as I can tell, the course
of your life isn’t decided. Ever. Most of the time it’s not like there’s one fork in
the road, and you choose one, or you choose the other. There are hundreds of forks in
the road every day that you’re alive. College is also not destiny. For the record,
I was a much better college student than I was a high school student. Also your 20s are not destiny! Your 30s are
not destiny! Like, destiny is not something that happens all at once. It’s something that
happens only in retrospect. Hank, when I was in high school, I thought
I was just, kind of, a screw up. You know? But in the end, Hank, people aren’t just one
thing. Like I WAS a screw up, but I was also a pretty good reader. And looking at those old report cards, I just
want to thank my teachers for knowing that I wasn’t just a screw up – even when I didn’t
know it. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Who I Was in High School

  1. John Green. Thank you so much for never making me feel alone. The kind of high school student you were is how I am now. And just because I'm not a perfect straight A student and have given my family and teachers every reason to not believe in me, they still do for some miracle. I have had and continue to get a billion chances because I and everyone else deep down knows that I am not a screw up. Even if I don't show it the best way. I am not defined by my mediocre grades, lack of consistency and lack of determination. When my depression has takes such a tole on my educational and personal life. High school is just a small chapter in my life and I will grow from it no matter how it long it takes me. I am getting there slowly but I am getting there. And because of you I have hope. And for that I will always be grateful for you and all you the good you do for everyone.

  2. As someone who isn't doing very good in school right now (understatement) this makes me feel a little better. But there's something that bothers me: you didn't do well in school because you just didn't care but were still a smart student. I'm not doing well because I'm dumb. Your teachers cared, and mine think that my bad grades mean I'm not trying. But I am trying SO HARD. I just can't GET IT. And it's frustrating and sad because everyone is giving up on me and I hate it. I just want to graduate high school but know one knows how to get me to understand the material. I just want to be someone who isn't the dumb kid for once.

  3. Being currently a junior in high school, this makes me feel a million times better because I'm a screw up too. My grades aren't all that great, I'm a bit overweight, I don't do a lot of homework, I'm still procrastinating cleaning my room, and I haven't touched my guitar in months. I am a screw up, just like you thought you were John. But I also like to read. My room isn't clean at all, except for my bookshelf which I always try to keep nice and neat and I just bought 5 books yesterday and I'm halfway done with one of them and I've watched every crash course lit video so many times I couldn't even tell you. So this makes me feel like maybe things will be okay. Maybe I will be okay.

  4. this actually made me tear up because I suck at school. Someone so successful also "sucked" at school give me hope I can actually be somthing. I've felt like a screw up for awhile now so now I have hope. thanks!

  5. i hecked up a lot in high school and almost didn't graduate and now i'm 24 and trying to go to college
    thank you for this video

  6. This video has made me feel a lot better. High school was really hard for me, and I was bullied a lot. I had terrible anxiety and didn't always show up for class and didn't usually do my homework. I also didn't make friends. This video made me feel a little hopeful, and that is more than I've had in a while.

    Keep being Awesome.

  7. this video is old but I probably watch this every time I’m overwhelmed since high school and now I’m college, basically just to remind me to not break down and instead understand the bigger picture in life

  8. If any of you are in Highschool I can attest to this; high school does NOT define your future. The beautiful thing about life is you are never the same person you were a year ago or even a month ago. Life happens to you and changes you.

  9. This "thought bubble" has so far given me the best hope for my life yet. I too hardly cared about academic learning, or learning in general, until some time after high school. I only wish I saw this video, along with crash course, five or ten (though crash course didn't exist) years ago! Thank you!

  10. Never would've expected this, you seem so responsible and smart that it seems to follow that you would've been a good student. Really interesting…

  11. It’s always great when you have a D in precalculus even though you are doing al, the homework and studying…

  12. I'm over three years late to the party, but wanted to say that I did even worse in high school (almost all D's), but I'm currently working on my PhD dissertation. Just a reminder that the correlation between high school grades and college (or university as it's known here in Canada and in the much of the rest of the world) grades is very weak. Some of us are just bored by the high school system and don't really get the intellectual stimulation we crave until university.

  13. Wow I have never identified with anyone's high school experience like yours. I feel a little less alone

  14. As someone who was a godawful student (like much, MUCH worse than a C-student) and took five years off to work and be in a band and live my life and figure out what the hell I wanted to do after the band broke up, re-stumbling upon this video is really encouraging and relieving… especially since I'm heading back to school this Autumn with the goal of getting stellar grades and then transferring to film school. Thanks for the honesty and wise words, John.

  15. This is a rant by the way so nothing important here
    I just noticed this.
    On the top right hand corner you can see it’s a picture of John and his bro bit it just bothered me me until UNTIL I saw a supercarlin bros. Vid that I noticed it’s in that format drawing the two brothers with only up to their glasses it shows their faces…..
    like I said sorry it’s just a rant nothing important here.

  16. Hey Soo I'm new to the channel lol and I'm going to your Alma mater in August and when I found out that my fav books were actually written by the same person I was dumbfounded but when I found out that you actually went to Indian springs I was so happy bc I have had heard so many good things about the school alone and how the curriculum and teaching methods are so, well to be frank awesome I was extremely glad to be given the chance to go the school that produced such a great writer and also to be lucky enough to get a scholarship. I already knew that most that go to Springs don't need a scholarship and having immigrant parents it felt like it was a gift from God to be able to go to this school. So I came to your channel to see if you had talked about your experiences there so ik what I'm getting into and yeah. Ur cool

  17. Your books have really inspired me to write. I have had the worst experiences in school. How did you get through it? Also, thanks for being such a great inspiration!

  18. Incredible potential as an English student was like the permanent comment from my English teachers. I was also extremely lazy and couldn’t be bothered to take school more seriously.

  19. If I was making this video i would just laugh awkwardly, say 'I'd rather not talk about it' and then off the camera.


  20. Three years later, this is something I needed to watch. I was the kid who did everything right in high school, but I've been complacent in college and haven't tried nearly as hard. My high school valedictorian status had been demoted to a 2.9 GPA college student. It's hard not to beat myself up and not feel like I ruined my life based on 1-2 years of mistakes & learning & growing as a young adult in this day and age. I know that everything will work out

  21. This made me really emotional. I'm entering my senior year of high school in a couple of weeks, and it feels like the end of everything. My parents have been telling me the same things you said in the video, John, and my teachers say they love me, but I just feel like everything's going to go downhill. Like my fate has been decided by my first two years of school (which were less lackluster than yours).

    Thank you, John. Thank you very much.

  22. I saw this video for the first time today. I ultimately did pretty well in high school, but my teachers were always badgering me about missed potential. Tests and quizzes were always fine, but homework was always a tremendous struggle: I'd stay up late just to get most of it done, not all. If I would've had a social life, homework kept me out of it. In college, freshman year, I got B's on tests and F's on homework, which gave me my first report card full of C's. For me, my moment of clarity was much more sudden than it is for most: I was diagnosed with ADHD the next summer. That's not to say it wasn't difficult sometimes, but now I'm medicated and way more self-aware. Still, high school and freshman year of college took a chunk out of my self-esteem, and I'm still sorting through some after-the-fact frustration and shame, and I may always hate the word "potential." But I appreciate this video, I think mostly for its acknowledgement of the humans on either side of the report card more than the not-actually-world-altering letters themselves. Thank you.

  23. you give me sooo much hope I rly love learning new things but I HATE school! I just graduated and my grades are not as good as they could've been but hey at least I graduated! I hope I can oublish a poetry book one day

  24. I relate to having siblings being way better academically than me… I have sisters in 8th grade taking Algebra 2. I’m two grades ahead of them, still in advanced classes, and taking the same class. Last year they took Algebra 1 and passed with high A’s while I was struggling to balance not failing geometry and not having an absolute mental breakdown. High school SUCKS… and I’ve only finished one year of it.

  25. Your life is full of choices but certain ones matter a lot more. Certain events open a LOT more doors than you'd open on any random day. Take the PSAT. It's arguably more important than the SAT. You only take it once and it is the only way for you to earn the most ubiquitous and prestigious academic award (National Merit) in the USA (arguably the only national academic award that means anything). That single day in high school probably matters more than any ten others. Is your life decided that day? No. Obviously not. But that day is a really significant fork and to just write it off as, "Well everyday has lots of forks in the road" is a grotesque oversimplification.

  26. Listen, don’t drop out or be lazy in school, school is an opportunity to a life of more opportunities but if you see that using what school taught you isn’t really anything you’re gonna wanna use then you can do something else but still do good in school, trust me I know a few people who regret doing bad in school.

  27. I'm stuck in highschool for a few more years. I am a freshman as of now. I tend to hate the fact that everyone around me has planned for colleges, what they want to be, who they are. Yes, they've planned who they are. All I know is that I might want to be an art or an author, 'cause I'm kind of good at art and kind of good at writing and reading… Everyone thinks to far ahead in highschool, even though we are all still children. I can already tell that I will enjoy Halloween for years to come, and I dread that they may not.

  28. We in America have endless reasons to hate our schools. How everything is done feels wrong & ineffective so it ends being up a good way to get stressed for very little benefit. Even if I could go back in time to those years which would give plenty of advantages I don't think I would want to. I look on my school years with as much fondness as an inmate for their prison.

  29. I come to this for comfort, I’ve had a difficult high school career and hardly tried. Now it’s the time where kids are getting scholarships and I’ve never felt more hopeless

  30. Thank you so much for making this video. If John green can go from a crappy high school student to an absolute hero may e I can make something of my life too. It really helps to see people that i can relate to pull themselves forward. I hope my college years can help me become a better person maybe nearly as cool as John green

  31. My new favorite video. I can relate to this so much. Not the part of smoking cigarettes in the woods – I'm not that badass – but high school is being such a hard phase to me. I'm making it throught. Sometimes I'm able to open my book and pay attention to what my teachers say, but there are days that even the idea of getting off my bed to go to school and try to understand the fucking math sucks. Anyway, I think I'm making progress compared to last year.

  32. I’m having terrible flashbacks watching this video. I am John, except I didn’t smoke. I loved knowledge, just not the kind attached to the confines of a particular building/class. I hated high school

  33. John, thank you for giving kudos to your teachers. Most of us really do care and want to help students like you. Keep up the great work you do.

  34. Saving this video to watch for when my
    parents yell at me about having a couple B’s
    “2nd place is first loser”-my dad

  35. If you drop out of med school, your can an actor Doctor, so you can diagnose & treat fake disease, such as Bipolar & other creations of crooked Christian media

  36. At a time in my life when I am absolutely crashing through decisions about where I’m going to get my PhD, it is incredibly comforting to hear John say that at any juncture in life, it’s still never decided.

    Thank you.

  37. I feel like all that focus on highschool is a USA thing – we don't have it here, in Belgium. Although people do look to university too much.

  38. I was the target in school. I remember hitting a punching bag in a locked room next to the gym with a window and the bullies banging the door daring me to hit them like that. Parents divorce also screwed with the head a bit and changed to an more remote school senior year. Constantly crammed in trailer classrooms due to construction and you kinda sum up a feeling of perpetual punishment. Went to community college but my mind kept tuning out so dropped that then to tech school which felt like a scam but finished. Now here I am in a job I can't be proud of or feel any sense of control or accomplishment. Yeah not a great life but better than many stories from Reddit.

  39. I'm the same I am the same in high school now that John was when he was in high school. I love learning new and interesting things about pretty much everything but I'm just not a great student. There are many days where I couldn't be vothered to do the himework assignment that really my teacher and I both knew were trivial but also for some unfounded reason had a major impact on my grade. This makes me feel a little better about not having to be the best, despite the opinions of all the authoritative figures in my high school career right now telling me the exact opposite. Thank you

  40. Im going to graduate next spring in 2020 and I’m so afraid and anxious just to think about going back to school and to graduate in a few months. My grandma somehow thinks, that it’s her life and she gets to decide what I’m gonna study in Uni. My mom doesn’t care at all. And I have to try to get a scholarship, bc working while studying? Idk if I’m able to do that..
    So, this has really helped me.

  41. John: I got a C- in Latin.

    Me: Oh, sure… Rub it in… My school didn't even offer Latin, something I'd have preferred instead of wasting 2 school years learning French that is as unintelligible to native speakers—whether French, Quebecoise, or Swiss—as it was in my first two weeks.

  42. You know, I was a C/D student in high school. I felt the same way as John. I never went to college, but I excelled in other areas. I am only 3 years younger than John and at 39 I have been in IT and Retail Management, a Network Engineer(CCNA Collaboration) for Verizon Wireless and currently a Systems Admin in both Windows(MCSA) and Linux(RHCSA) for a company I'll leave nameless. I really think that we were just bad at structured education, but left to our own devices, we found our passion.

  43. Despite the fact that I frequently think about leaving the US and moving to Europe (where I lived for a couple of years), there is one great advantage to life in the US. I too screwed up in High School. I too got many, many more chances to change my life and succeeded. This wouldn't have happened in France or W. Germany. There, High School does often determine the rest of your life. You get one shot.
    I knew two women in High School in France who failed the baccalaureate, their big end of High School test. One went on to be a political assassin (look up Georges Besse) while living with anarchist squatters, the other realized she would never have anything but boring jobs. She moved to the US and started a marketing company with her husband, something she says could never have happened in France.
    It would be easy to say I succeeded because of my own efforts, but it wouldn't be true. I had luck. I had parents who had money and could support me. Others here don't. But I did have something I wouldn't have had in many places: another chance.

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