Who I Was in High School

Who I Was in High School

November 19, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


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.