From Dropout to Motivator (Part II)

“My thing I’m proudest of is that I chose to build my life rather than destroy it,” says Nicolas Legault. At 35, this young man had some difficult challenges to overcome before realizing that a positive, perseverant attitude would lead him not only to go back to school, but to excel.

By Sarah-Émile Nault

Beginning at age 17, Nicolas started using drugs. As he got older it got worse.

“Up my nose, pills, hard drugs, injections, I did it all,” he recalls. “I was digging my own grave. There were only two possible outcomes: either I’d die of an overdose, or end up in jail. I was really destroying my own life. All my dreams, like becoming an artist or a hockey player, none of that existed any longer.”

Suicidal, he came close to death on four or five occasions. He also did some spells in psychiatry. “I didn’t care if I lived or died,” he says, “I even ran after death a little. I just put it in my own head that I was no longer part of society.”

Nicolas, age 35, with his Governor General of Canada medal

The Strength to Say No

His best friend on his drug trips became schizophrenic. The price of drugs increased drastically. So one day, Nicolas started saying “no.” He recalls: “I had to go back to being the little boy I once was, to retrace my steps and change my mentality in order to get on the right foot and move towards the light. I needed help and support to re-establish myself.”

Around the age of 28-29, Nicolas went back to live with his parents, far from the city. The presence of children living on the same floor did him a world of good. So did regular visits from a teen from a neighboring family. “She was a serious, studious girl. I owe her my motivation to return to school,” he explains. “I saw her as being on the right path. Whenever she asked me what good I was doing, I came to realize that I was doing nothing. She was the one who talked to me about the adult ed school near her high school.”

In 2016, at age 29, conscious that his life was going nowhere, Nicolas adopted a more positive attitude and went back to school. He also stopped consuming drugs. “School is a tool for building your life. That’s what that young girl put into my head, and I understood. I returned to school by telling myself: it’s begun! I was going to first get my high school diploma, then, nothing could stop me. There was no limit.”

The Award for Excellence

 His first big moment of gratification? He got a perfect mark, with which he obtained his high school diploma. Then he set new goals: study environmental sciences, get good grades, and prove that he could succeed. He earned scholarships, thanks to his professors, who encouraged him to enter competitions.

“At adult school I won a prize, five scholarships and the Governor General of Canada’s medal,” he says proudly. He was the only student who won the scholarship for perseverance in natural science at his Cegep. “I left there with the medal as well as $1,000 in my pocket. That’s when you see that when you want something, in life, you’re rewarded for your efforts.”

Impressed by his positive attitude and his progress, his teachers suggested he give presentations to classes so he could recount his story. He did this in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.

Today, on top of offering tutoring services to elementary and high school students, he’s completed a diploma in professional writing. He’s also going after some of his dreams: buying a piece of land in the country, building a house, and finding a government job “that will allow me to write a lot.”

He says: “Since I developed perseverance, nothing can stop me. Young people must understand that their life belongs to them. Your life is in your hands. It’s you who decides whether you destroy it, or build it.”   

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 6, août (August) 2021, pages 22 – 23

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