Year 12 is not the end – life begins after high school (part one)


The biggest thing that you need to know about Year 12 is that it is not the end.

I am not sure what prompted me to write this piece now but it has been 18 years in making and I’d always wondered when I would get the chance to recount my year 12 and end of high school story.

The reason being is that I really messed up. Although it was the catalyst that changed my life forever, it was also one of the worst years of my life. This was due to my poor choices and lack of insight. I was immature, selfish and hurt my parents deeply through my actions and more than that despite having the intelligence to succeed, I decided to do things my way, a massive mistake.

So no matter where you are in your journey, whether you are starting to worry about the end of high school or whether you have completely messed up your high school career or are wondering about your next step after a less than stellar high school effort, I want you to know that the end of high school is only the beginning of the adventure.

The present

Most people who meet and interact with me now on a professional basis would have never guessed that I performed so poorly in year 12, as most doctors are usually high achievers through their schooling years.

But I could have never imagined as a lost and broken 17year old, that I would be working as a doctor today, managing the complex health problems of my patients at the practice and anaesthetising patients for surgery at the regional hospital.

But there was a period of my life that I did think that everything was over and that I had messed up my life or at least it felt that way!

I know for a fact, that it is by the grace of God, that I was able to stand up, dust myself off and face the challenges that I that I had in my life at that time.

@thehealthyGP - waiting
@thehealthyGP  ICU days

The high school years

You see, year 12 was filled with parties, no homework, playing and writing music with my friends and smoking pot. Although in the summer of 1996-97 I made the decision to stop smoking and get on with the business of study, it did not last long. One day passed until a phone call from a friend led to a year- long stoner party. At the end there wasn’t anyone laughing.

My inattention to schoolwork had started in year 11 as I became increasingly distracted with music, parties and getting stoned. My smoking habit turned into a daily ritual, which would last for approximately 2 years until I started to work full time after high school.

As a result my judgment was consistently clouded and my behavior at home was atrocious something which I apologised for later fervently, when I was in medical school. But I continued along this path because it was my only escape from the mounting pressure that I felt about year 12 and my future.

Like any vicious cycle, my year 11 grades of B’s and C’s would have improved to A’s and B’s with diligence and focus, but the more distracted I was with my extra-curricular activities the more I slid into academic failure. This also coincided with mounting teacher frustration and suspensions for my bad behavior and unexplained absences from class.

The pressure that I felt in year 12 was overwhelming as it genuinely appeared like everything rested upon my performance in the end of year exams and gaining entry into university. I would like to note that my parents were extremely supportive and tried everything to connect with me and didn’t pressure me with high expectations (they never had – strange for Malaysian parents). They were more concerned about my health as a result my self-destructive behavior, which was the root cause of these issues.

The exams

Lets be real, I didn’t study very much at all in year 12 and for the time that I sat down to read my text books, I was distracted and most likely under the influence.

So it was no surprise that I felt the blood draining from my face and the churning in my stomach as I opened the letter containing my tertiary examination entrance (TEE) results. I don’t know why I expected for anything better than I received, having put in such a dismal effort over the course of the last two years.

My score was a dismal 272 out of a possible 510. I did try to look for an equivalent ATAR score but you can take my word that it wasn’t very good at all. It wasn’t something that you would feel comfortable sharing at a table with your peers, yet alone my parents with their friends!

I did want to attend university but with a score of 272, my options were extremely limited and feeling of failure was sickness in my stomach that I couldn’t shake.

It was a reality now. My poor choices and immaturity had led to this moment and for the first time I saw as a young man, that I was in charge of what type of life I would ultimately have by the friends I kept, the activities I engaged in and effort I placed into study, work or business.

To make matters worse I had lost my part-time job due to a number of indiscretions and had crashed my mother’s car, all of this in the space of two months of finishing school and exams.
In the next article in this series will I share about the aftermath of year 12 and my path towards becoming a doctor. We all have a past and what matters most is what we’ve done since then and how we are serving the world right now.

Thank you for reading and please feel leave a comment, I would love to hear from you, till next time.

Live intentionally
Love relentlessly
Serve the world individually
Leave a lasting legacy


14 comments on “Year 12 is not the end – life begins after high school (part one)”

  1. I’m gonna create a rule that if you write a cliffhanger then you better be swift with that follow up post – I’m hanging to hear how you untangled yourself. And we all know that the frequency of your posts should be driven by what suits me.


    1. Haha thanks John! Yes its written and ready to go, but we all know how it ends! “driven by what suits me” love it!


  2. so much emphasis, stress, anxiety and highs and lows in year 12 but your story is proof that achievements in high school don’t determine your possible future. hard work, passion and by the grace of God xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hear your pain at the pressure placed on Year 12 students in Australia. I have always felt that placing such high expectations and your University acceptance on only one year of high school is ridiculous. In the USA, College entrance is based on all four years of high school, a entrance essay and their “exams” are taken in the 40 mins during class time. They have term papers which take a full term to complete and you can use subjects such as choir, music, psychology and drama as your subjects. All clubs and sports are done within the school system so it builds a much more rounded person by the time they graduate. I wish the Australian system would change. My sister scored either 125 or 225 out of 510 when she did the TEE but went on to become the youngest ever manager of a Snity store at 21, was sent to London to open the store there, enrolled in University online and although it took 7 years, she is now a fully qualified Accountant with a double major in Business and Accounting. It is not all about Year 12 but using the opportunities to have a crack at what you want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more! It’s so much greater than the narrow focus, not to discount those who worked hard but there should be a broader emphasis on life outside of year 12. Thank you for reading my posts!


  4. Looking forward to hear your story. I remember your Dad but didnt know how you went in high school or progressed to being a doctor until someone shared this on facebook. Loving it


    1. Thanks Warren, yes I thought it was about time to share my year 12 experience. All by the grace of God, something that I am thankful for each day. Thank you for reading! Dad is doing fine, he is the biggest fan of my writing (next to my wife of course!).


  5. I used to be selfish but now I try to beat that trait. I think there is a moment (often, after a high school) in our life when we realize that life is different than what we’ve thought of it. And this awakening moment makes us appreciate others more.


    1. Dear Marta, yes what an awakening! I think that most teens experience this to some degree and we are often apologetic to our parents about our behaviour, its key to growing up and transitioning into independence. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this. It is important for students to see this.

    Those experiences were not wasted though.

    In the hindsight of your full and well lived life, I hope you see that your teen years helped make you who you are today; flaws, regrets, strengths and all.



    1. Dear Kate, absolutely. With these types of experiences, they add to the “flavour” and “experience” that we bring now as parents and to our circle of influence. It has made me significantly more empathetic with my patients who are going through tough times and I can’t help but sometimes shed a tear with them! I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you for that insight! Brilliant.


  7. Thanks again Jonathan. I wonder how your parents were feeling at that time ??? I know as a mother of 3 , and foster mum to another, parents feel the stress as well, and we have to almost walk as though we are treading on eggs shells around the students at that time. Really looking forward to the next instalment. Well done.


    1. Thanks Janet, I’m not sure what they were thinking! Gosh as a parent now I shudder to think! But since there has been an overwhelming response from parents I’ve since asked my parents about their perspective. I will definetly share their thoughts.


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