Putting the hammer down: One graduate’s incredible tale of resilience

Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I really began to understand Laurent Lavoisier’s famous line, that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed,” around four years ago.

On the morning of August 9, 2017, I could not have been happier. I was accompanying a group of clients biking the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, one of the most beautiful, panoramic routes in the world. A dream job! I was actually a bike and ski travel counsellor and I was lucky enough to accompany clients.  What more could you ask for? Our office was between two mountains.

Blissful existence turned into a blistering whirlwind

As well, I had been promoted to director of the ski travel department — plus I had the most wonderful spouse, who accompanied me in all my adventures and with whom I had just bought our first house. It was smooth sailing, on a soft breeze. But that breeze turned into a veritable tornado on August 9, 2017.

« In a few seconds, I’d suffered head trauma and — I didn’t know this yet — my life had just been turned upside down. »

Fifteen interminable minutes passed on the side of the road before my eyes opened once again to the light. I’d fallen off my bike. In a few seconds, I’d suffered head trauma and — I didn’t know this yet — my life had just been turned upside down.

After eight long months of convalescence, I finally was able to return to work, but unfortunately, my return was very short lived. The noise, light and stress to work faster and better to get back to my old rhythm quickly got the better of me. I started making an unbelievable amount of inadvertent mistakes, having daily nausea, migraines and vomiting, and not being able to get through the day.  So, I made the tough decision to bring this part of my life to a close.

A renewed sense of purpose

I then had to draw on my other passions to find new meaning in my existence. Finally, my 22 years of teaching groups, as well as a University of Ottawa open house where I learned about the second language teaching program, opened my eyes to my future! I had a new goal in sight: to become a French teacher and spread the language of Molière in Ontario! Gathering up my courage, I began studies in September 2019 at the University, where I soon realized that my cognitive difficulties hadn’t disappeared just because I’d quit my job. After my first month at university and receiving a D in one of my exams, I had to acknowledge that I was recalling absolutely nothing from my classes. I felt like I was good for nothing now, that my life was over.

Then, with the help of specialists, therapists and accommodation measures from the University, I managed to reorganize my way of working top to bottom to better stimulate my memory. While I put everything I had into getting my degree, I wouldn’t have been successful without the invaluable support and assistance of my professors. Their dedication really made all the difference in my university experience, and my heart was never bursting with as much pride as when I finished my Bachelor’s with a Major in Second Language Teaching and a Minor in French Literature. This Major is offered in collaboration with the Faculty of Education. What a surprise it was when I found out a few weeks before convocation that the Faculty of Arts had given me its Award of Excellence! There could not have been a better way to bring things full circle. 

So, like a caterpillar who turns into a butterfly, I now fully understand that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”!

While I have to say that this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I’m now proudly aiming for a bachelor’s in education, with every intention of going on one day to graduate studies. So, like a caterpillar who turns into a butterfly, I now fully understand that “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”!

Each year, the Faculty of Arts gives out Awards of Excellence to recognize students who have distinguished themselves by their high marks, social involvement, and perseverance. 

The Second Language Teaching Program opens doors to the world of second language teaching and learning. Discover it!

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