How a Video about Perspective Changed How Hopeful I Feel

Where were you 1 million seconds ago?

Justin Bennett-Cohen
5 min readJan 1, 2021


There’s a YouTube video I like watching every time I’m feeling low; I think everyone has one of these. It’s a video, podcast, or maybe a song that helps you get into a different mindset. Usually a better mindset.

John Green is one of my favorite authors and people of all time. He and his brother, Hank, have created some of the best YouTube channels on the platform; they help kids, teens, and adults become better educated, and for me, feel less alone in the dark void that is the world.

On their main channel, Vlogbrothers, John tends to create more serious videos. These videos focus mainly on economic and public health issues in the world, as well as more personal things where John talks about his mental health, family life, and his past. The video I’m going to be focusing on today is a video titled, Perspective.

In “Perspective”, John begins talking about how long ago one million seconds was. With no calculations, he guesses it’s equal to 12 years. To no surprise, he was incorrect, as one million seconds ago is the equivalent of 12 days.

This caused John to think about where he was in life 12 years ago at 24 years old. This is where I start to get extremely interested, as I love hearing about the past of successful people, at least those that are successful in my eyes.

A photo of John Green taken for an article in the NY Times

At 24 years old, John was living in a small apartment in Chicago with a cat that belonged to him and his ex-girlfriend, who had recently dumped him. He had a great job at Booklist, and great friends and family who loved him, but he was really losing it.

Depression hit John hard. He wasn’t taking care of himself, and he didn’t know where he was going with his career, so he did what any rational, depressed 24-year-old would do: quit their job and move back home closer to loved ones.

John was thankful that he had a great boss who recommended he just take a leave of absence until he was better to come back to work. His boss left him a kind note, telling him to get better soon, and to watch the movie, Harvey.

The poster cover for the movie Harvey

We don’t need to get into exactly what Harvey is about, but it’s one of those movies that can give you a different perspective on life, which is exactly what John needed.

After trying a new medication, getting into daily therapy, and of course watching Harvey, John began to feel a little less hopeless than he had been. Soon after, he wrote part of the first draft of the story that would become Looking For Alaska.

This video helps me realize how different my life can be 12 years from now, depending on what I can do to change my life today. This fact of course also makes me feel extremely anxious due to the fact that I don’t exactly know what thing I should do today that will affect my eventual 12-year future, but it’s still something I think about a lot.

Nowadays it’s even more difficult to not compare yourself to others, especially in your twenties where there are so many people our age on YouTube and TikTok showing off their businesses that are successful enough that they can afford their own place to live, a nice car, or just enough to live comfortably and be “overall happy”.

The reason I put that in quotes is that we don’t actually know if they’re happy overall. We just see these glamorous videos of people our age smiling, running a business that encompasses all of their hobbies, and they have all the nice things that we also want to have!

Where I Was 221 Million Seconds Ago

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This video of John being extremely transparent about his life at 24 years old helps me imagine my life in 12 years, and how I don’t need to have life figured out right now. If I look back 12 years at my life at 13 years old, there’s not a whole lot to say other than parts of the normal awkward phase that every 13-year-old goes through; however, I like to look back at who I was 7 years ago when I was 18.

I had just begun my first and only semester at college, my long-term high school girlfriend had broken up with me, and I was severely depressed, self-harming every day, and not going to therapy. I would have multiple breakdowns per day at school and at my job, and I didn’t know how my life could get any better.

After seeing family at Thanksgiving the next year, I decided to go to therapy to get better. I started to hang out with new friends more, coped with depression in much healthier ways, developed a better, more optimistic personality, and I began to love myself and feel more hopeful about life, even though nothing drastic in my life changed, other than my mental health.

Today, I wouldn’t say I’ve reached many of my life goals, but my head is much better than it was 7 years ago, and I’m living life every day to the best of my ability to remain happy and focus on tasks that will affect my future.

We cannot compare ourselves to other people our age. We need to focus on our hobbies, who we are as people, and live life one day at a time. It can be hard to do that with all of life’s responsibilities, but the more we say we can’t, the more likely it is we end up actually believing it.

Today, say that you can make time for your hobbies, writing an article on Medium, or whatever makes you happy. Let’s start saying that we can, keep those positive vibes going, and reach those goals for our eventual 12-year future selves.



Justin Bennett-Cohen

I’m a Writer, Photographer, and lover of food and bad puns.