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Duration:03:40
Uploaded:2017-10-20
Last sync:2019-07-22 23:20
In which Hank goes back to Winter Park High School after 20 years and a lot of things are the same and also nothing is.

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Good morning, John. This week I did a thing that doesn't fit well into brain: I went back to Winter Park High School, a place where I had good times and bad times, but mostly just times. Like, a lot of times.

Some of my old haunts were gone, covered over in new buildings, but my lunch spot was still there, now covered over in John Green tote bags. This is where I sat every day with my geek friends, doing math homework 15 minutes before class and being happy that the school was big enough for us to be beneath the notice of most of the other groups.

Going back was a deeply weird experience. It wasn't that I had, like, one super intense feeling about this; it was that I was just having a lot of different feelings all at once. Like, not deep, broad. I kept looking at places and remembering two or three different things that I hadn't thought of in years, like the spot where there used to be a soda machine that someone had poured salt water into so that it spat out free Mountain Dews, but also where I once sat with a girl who I had a crush on while she carved a peace sign into her ankle with an X-Acto knife.

This is a massive place; when I was there, three grades, 2,000 people; now, over 4,000 people. Labyrinthine, mile-long hallways, no distinguishing features; no wonder I still have nightmares about wandering around campus, trying to find my classroom.

(speaking) I mean, I always knew in my head that this school had thousands of students, but my head didn't make it as big as it needs to be to have fit all those people. I'm lost now. We'll see what happens. Oh, this is C-lot! Oh, I know where we are. You know how when you're reading books you will occasionally put real-life places into the - into the book place where the book place happens? This is the place where that happens for me the most. This parking lot / walkway down to where the school is.

(voiceover) Eventually, I found a door that wasn't quite closed and I wandered into the school proper. This is a space built for a lot of people, and there's something uncanny about seeing it empty, like the husk of some enormous insect that dies every night and is magically refilled with life every weekday at 7 AM. And the life that fills this place is really what this place is; like, not this empty shell.

Which got me thinking about what I filled it with when I was here. I mean, I was just one of thousands of students, but I kinda wish I had brought more to this place. I think I did okay, but I also remember defining myself by the people and the things that I hated rather than what I liked and thinking that it was cooler to be jaded than to be careful with other people.

Some places are not themselves; they are the people that they're filled with. That's not true of everywhere. Like, the run-down park by my house that was more a place for flood waters to go to than for people to go to, that place was and remains itself.

But not this place. Winter Park High School is made of the people who inhabit it. And in that way, it becomes kind of an entirely new place every three years or so. Maybe if I better understood that these walls and these buildings weren't really the place, but that place was more the people who inhabited it, I would've been a better steward of that. And maybe that's true of all of the places we inhabit. John, I'll see you on Tuesday. 

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Hank: (to squirrel) You live in a high school. That's weird, man. 

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Hank: Look, they brought us a yearbook - there I am. Hi, me.

John: I'm using this. This is for my video tomorrow. 

Hank: (laughs)

John: You cannot use this. 

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Student: You were in band, right? For -

Hank: I was. 

Student: I heard. Oh my god, this is crazy. This is crazy. 

Hank: I was. I was carrying a timpani right here one here one time and I got a bone spur.

Student: I was just watching your video today and I was like, "Oh, wow, that sucks, I can't go see John and Hank."

Hank: Now, well, here I am.