It’s Never Too Late to Say Thank You
by Jake Poinier
A high school classmate recently posted on Facebook that Mr. McGraw, my favorite teacher from those years, had retired. It caught me by surprise, because he couldn’t possibly be that old (since I’m so darn young!).
Mr. McGraw and I had sent letters back and forth for a few years after I graduated, but at some point we lost touch. In recent years, I’d been thinking of writing him to say thank you and to let him know that the lessons I learned in his English classes had stuck with me to this day.
My classmate gave me Mr. McGraw’s email, and I was confronted by one of the toughest blank screens I’ve ever faced. I’m not a particularly emotional guy, but I have to confess that memories came flooding back. He was the first English teacher who really encouraged me to experiment and play around with the written word beyond the mechanics. He wasn’t just inspirational as far as the books we read and the papers we wrote, though – he was there to talk to when you got dumped by a girl, ended up on the outs with a sports coach, or experienced any one of the dozens of small things that can crush an adolescent spirit.
And I’m guessing that he’s the only teacher ever, anywhere, who closed out a semester by breaking out a boom box and cranking up The Clash singing “Pressure Drop.”
So I just started writing, sharing a Reader’s Digest version of my life over the past three decades, and letting him know how important he’d been to me back then and how influential he’d been in my chosen career of writing and editing. He wrote back almost immediately, and we shared a few more stories of the old days as well as what’s happened since. And it made me smile that he forwarded a YouTube video of him singing lead for a student group in a Battle of the Bands. They were playing The Clash.
A freelance corporate copywriter and editor since 1999, Jake “Dr. Freelance” Poinier is the author of several books, including The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid. His publishing company, More Cowbell Books, recently published Juggling on a High Wire: The Art of Work-Life Balance When You’re Self-Employed, by Laura Poole, available in print and ebook versions on Amazon. Reach Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.