I walked into my dusty, stuffy room after yet another failed exam. Laying on the queen-size bed with blue sheets, the last three years replayed in my head. Bad grades, poor health, no friends. I was a black hole: a shell of my former self. But to understand why, I need to start at the beginning.
In September 2014, I began studying chemical engineering at the University of Ottawa. I was on my own, at last. As soon as my parents left my field of sight, I said to myself: “Freedom!”
I went to almost every deafening, boisterous party and ate every fatty food you can think of. I finally understood what it meant to be free, but I would abuse it to the nth degree. I went to all my classes, but I never completed any of the homework or assignments.
By the end of the first year, my GPA was 1.4 out of 4.0. A day after my 19th birthday, the Faculty of Engineering expelled me for my abysmal work. This was a new low, but I had to remain in Ottawa for the summer to fix it. I managed to find a place to stay for the year with a few friends, but I had to change. I had to figure out what went wrong and avoid making those same mistakes.
That didn’t happen. If anything, things got worse.
I had to register as a “special student” and take only two courses. I had lots of free time, but I never left my small, plain, white room – not even to go to class. Most of the time, I would wake up at noon, order some food in, surf the internet all day, and go straight to sleep in a tiny bed. I became an overweight hermit (without the religious aspect).
That Christmas, my parents laid down the law. If I wanted to stay in school, I would have to change. If not, I would wind up a fat high-school graduate with no future. I begged the university to take me back. But it said it would have to be in the Faculty of Social Sciences. That was fine with me. All I wanted to do was leave home and get another chance.
After Christmas, I was a student of the International Economics and Development program. And, for the most part, things weren’t bad. I had earned a GPA of 2.7 with my troubles in engineering behind me. That’s still not impressive, but it was much better than a GPA of 1.4. I had to take a few summer courses to try and catch up with the students that started in September. Thanks to a connection from my father, I had also found a part-time job.
Things were going much better, and I thought that, this time, I would make things work. My grades were the same, but at least I had a steady income for the summer. I had to find a new place for the next eight months. But I was ready for the school year, and I thought nothing would stop me.
That’s all they were. Thoughts.
I thought that a new environment would change me and I would attack my studies with a renewed focus. Sadly, the old habits came back with a Charles Bronson-like vengeance. What should have been the start of a comeback became a nightmare. Sitting in my room and surfing YouTube seemed to be my only talent.
At this point, I had spent three years away from home – with nothing to show for it. My GPA was a paltry 1.5. I had gained a lot of weight. I had lost all my friends. I had also frittered away $40,000 of my parents’ money. When I first left home, I would call my parents at least once a week. By the time I came back, I had not called them once during the semester. My history wound up repeating itself, with the Faculty of Social Sciences kicking me out at the end of the school year.
I was broken. I had had enough. I wanted to go home.
I made a teary phone call to my parents after my final exam, and they knew even before I could get the words out. We made the arrangements to bring everything back, and a week later, my parents and I drove home in silence.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I found a job until I figured out what it was. I worked as a customer service agent for an insurance company, and I also started volunteering as a grassroots hockey coach. Both things helped me improve as a person, and it helped that in my first-ever coaching season, we won the season and playoff championships!
The year off from school allowed me to reset, and I came up with a plan. I was a good writer in high school, so I decided to pursue journalism. So far, it has been the only good decision I have made over the past five years.
I had finally learned what I had not learned when I first left home. I was too immature to live on my own. I still had a lot of growing up to do. But maybe we all have to go through something like this. Maybe we all have to suffer for a long time in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I still have work to do if I want to avoid being my old self again, but I’m finally becoming who I should be.