Errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling in the following text have been left as in the original.
This year at Cross Keys has taught me much. And some of these things I’ll remember throughout the rest of my life. One of these things is that, if you want to be something in this world, you’ve got to work for it. I’m really ashamed I say that I didn’t realize it until this year, but it’s the truth. Now I’m going to tell you what made me realize it. It was you. Every day in a Study Hall I watched you, working away at whatever you could find. Later on I heard of your grades and got to know you a little better. And after putting 2 and 2 together, I realized that those good grades were a result of continuous study. So, in a since, you’ve changed my whole future. I could have grown up to be a secretary, or something of the such. You and others may think this is stupid, but I honestly think it was because of you. Thank you and may God bless you future with happiness that flourishes.
This message and signature were written in my high school yearbook at the end of my junior year. It would have been late May 1967. I’ve been through a lot of changes since then, not the least of which is to finally start living in my gender of choice in 2010. I was still “Steve” in high school, and no one was the wiser. Not even I was the wiser, since I was very good at suppressing my feelings.
I saved my old high school and college yearbooks, but not in a dry place. They got water and mold damaged and many of the pages got stuck together. But the end pages, which had all the autographs and related comments were intact. I thought of xeroxing the pages with my old friends’ signatures and best wishes, but in the end I threw them all away and only copied this page. I still remember the names of my teenage buddies, but I didn’t know Marie Elliott very well and might have forgotten her completely if it hadn’t been for the above message, which took up an entire blank page.
No, I did not ask her out. Call it a missed opportunity. I was afraid to get close to people for many years.
I’ve lost touch with Marie Elliott. I have no idea what became of her, but I like to think she did something with her interest in science. She might be a PhD with numerous discoveries and papers to her credit. She might be a technician in a highly prestigious research facility. Or she might be the best damn high school science teacher in some Georgia county I’ve never heard of. In any case, she was a trailblazer. Female scientists were rare when we were teenagers. She also had talent as a writer. Notice how smoothly her text moves from the general to the specific and the personal. Its structure is all the more impressive since it was spontaneous and was never revised. There are errors, but as a composition, it’s earns an A+.
It isn’t every day that someone tells you you’ve changed their life for the better, without intending to, just because of the way you lived your life. Marie’s words have always been with me. They are a precious legacy from my dismal high school years, which were hard on me in so many ways, and not just because adolescence is a tough journey for every adolescent. I’ll always be able to say that I changed one person’s life for the better, and I thank her for telling me so.