On Telling People How Incredible They Are

The professor was about to pass me.

She’d been one of the best teachers I’d had. Tough, fair, brilliant – and not in some lofty, removed sense, but in a generous sense, as if we could all be like that if we only committed to what we believed in.

So, here I was back on campus, 10 years after her class, with a chance to tell her all this. Except I was intimidated. What would it matter to this brilliant academic? I was one of hundreds, maybe thousands of students she’d taught.

She was just about to pass me. And as my chance nearly vanished, it dawned on me that she deserved to know the impact she had made on me. This wasn’t my information to horde. It was hers to know.

Professor! I called. She turned. Professor, I said, you wouldn’t remember me, but you taught one of the best classes I ever took. It changed my career trajectory. Thank you.

And her face, it could have lit up a decade’s worth of night skies. Which can happen when we tell people what they’ve meant to us.

What’s your name? she had spirited, caring eyes.

Caitie Whelan.

I remember you. Good to see you. Thank you. Thank you.

She smiled at me. I smiled back. She went on her way. I went on my way.

And I felt all this gratitude towards her. For being such a great teacher and for reminding me, Don’t let the chance to tell people how incredible they are pass you by.

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