Pursuing the improbable

Posted on Sunday, June 11, 2017

Brandon Gillet's son at age 3.

Spring 2017 Convocation: Decisive moments

Brandon Gillet (BA '17), who earned a journalism diploma from Algonquin College before studying at uOttawa, reflects on a challenging journey.

If you had asked me six years ago where I’d be now, holding both a college diploma and a university degree would have been pretty far down the list of probable scenarios. With a son almost two at the time, I was staring at an increasingly competitive world with no job, skills or education.

I didn’t have the normal high school experience, in which young people discover where their talents and interests lie. My youthful naiveté led me to believe that school wasn’t important – that I could drop out in Grade 10 and still make a living like everyone else.

I went back to finish high school, helped by a guidance counsellor and a teacher who saw my potential. Going to college and then on to university was as much about learning who I am as it was about developing a career. I took classical studies at uOttawa to explore my love of the ancient world, but I know it’s not the end of my educational story.

Along the way, I’ve met amazing people I thought only existed in movies or among the elite. And I’ve learned that perspective is a matter of choice. I first chose a negative path – but then I chose to escape it in order to explore my own self-worth and the opportunity for a better life.

I’m not a perfect student with a shining GPA, but I’m proud of my journey. For me, a mature student who has always felt a decade or so behind, just making it here feels akin to achieving high grades and accolades.

My post-secondary experience has taught me the importance of curiosity. Without it, what would humanity ever have achieved? Curiosity drove me to discover more about myself and the world, and is part of how I hope to approach future challenges.

After three years of working as a writer for the Gazette, uOttawa’s campus news service, I’ve learned first-hand about the extraordinary variety of people in this world and the remarkable things they’re capable of. For the first time in my life, I count myself among them.

True, for much of my time on campus, I felt I was scrambling – but quitting or failing were no longer options. My son is seven now, and there’s far more at stake than my younger self could ever have imagined.

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