My Motivation - An Escape from Depression

Before getting into some of the more French-oriented topics, I figured it might be best for you to get to know my personal motivation behind this whole movement… So here we go…


I’ve done a bit of cool stuff in my life to date… I’ve won a couple of national University football championships, twice received academic all-Canadian status, founded a national not-for-profit organization, given a bunch of keynote speeches around the country, got invited to Rideau Hall by the Governor General to meet with him… I’ve even won a national award from the Commissioner of Official Languages.


In doing all of that, there’s one key factor that I can say has contributed the most to this success… Stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something I’d never seen myself doing before!


Why French is another example of just that… Who woulda thought that this dumb jock from the rhubarb capital of Ontario, who failed English five times in high school (yes, you read right… “5” :o) and who’s spent his entire professional career in search of a communicator to write for him, would ever start blogging :s


Well… Here I am!! Stepping out of my comfort zone yet again to bring you all the “Why French” blogsite, crossing my fingers, and hoping that I’m not going to fail miserably at this writing stuff… And also hoping that not too many of you will poke fun at me along the way.


But before I go any further, I want to let you all in on a little secret… Something that’ll allow you to understand why I do what I do.


Not many people would sacrifice 7.5+ years of their lives doing something that barely pays them anything, that drives them further and further into debt without any real path towards solvability, that governments have spent billions of dollars trying to rectify, and that brilliant minds have been studying for almost half-a-century… Only someone with some screws loose would try something like that.


Yet, here I am again… Sacrificing just about everything to see the day on which the majority of Canadians will speak both English and French!


As you go about reading my blog posts, you’re probably going to wonder why… I get asked this question quite often, and I usually tailor my response to whoever’s doing the asking, but after a fair bit of thought, I’ve determined that there’s only one "true" reason that explains why I do what I do…


When I was in my first year of university in Vancouver, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. 

That was back in 2002 when mental illness was barely on the radar… I had no idea what it was, but after doing some research, it didn’t take me long to realize that this illness described exactly who I was, and had been since grade 5, when my marks went from almost straight A’s to C’s and D’s.



As I struggled to figure out how this came about, I was also dealing with issues in the one area that’d kept me sane for some many years, my athletic abilities… Due to a couple of different things, I ended up failing out of university in the middle of my second year, and after taking a year off to figure out where to go and what to do next, I moved to Ottawa to give my football career a second chance.


What started off with a lot of promise ended up exploding into a ball of flames just a few days before the first game of the season, and that ended up spiralling me back into depression again.


At this point I’d all but resigned myself to “society’s” life by quitting football altogether to concentrate on my studies, graduate, get a job, a wife, a dog, a house, some kids… You know, all that good stuff… But at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to not give up on my dreams by shopping around for another university to play football at.


Fortunately for me, it didn’t take long before I heard from two of the most respected coaches in the country, and shortly after that I found myself committing to learning French, and completing my business degree in French, at Université Laval in Québec City, even though I was like most high school guys and dropped French as soon as I could after grade 9.


This ended up being a turning point in my life… After more than 15 years of ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys, I was stable, and I was going places… People no longer looked down on me as that dumb jock, they were looking up to me as that English guy, who must be really smart, because why else would he be here…


This gave me a sense of self-confidence that I'd never had before... And that is what allowed me to achieve all of that cool stuff I mentioned earlier, and what will allow me to achieve whatever I put my mind to, for the rest of my life!!!!


Depression has a way of smothering us, and preventing us from being who we want to be, or even who we can be… But it doesn’t have to be that way! We all have the potential to to achieve great things in our lives, there are just two elements that we need:

  1. We need to believe in ourselves, and
  2. We need to find the environment that allows us to be ourselves, and brings out the best in us!



The unconditional love, support and trust instilled upon me by my grandpa provided me with enough confidence to believe in myself, no matter the obstacle in front of me. And learning French in Québec provided me with the environment that allowed me to throw off the shackles of depression for good, so that I could begin to explore my potential.


So, if you're still wondering why I'm doing what I'm doing, the one true reason is because French saved me from depression, and gave me a new lease on life.

If just one other person escapes their depression because of my efforts, all my sacrifices will have been worth it. But I’ve got a feeling that, if done properly, my efforts could have major, long lasting effects on hundreds, if not thousands of Canadians, those struggling with depression and those who are simply motivated to fulfill their potential in an environment that brings out the best in them, so I’m going to keep fighting until proven wrong!


So, there you have it… Now that there’s no mystery as to the motivation behind my blog Why French, and why I’ve committed my life to increasing the number of bilingual Canadians through French Finder, I'd like to hear your story... How has the inclusion of French impacted your life? 



2 Comments on “

  1. Thank you for sharing this personal story and enjoyable read! It’s incredible what learning another language can lead us to do! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it forced you to live outside of your comfort zone. Learning French (or any language for that matter) is a gateway to vulnerability and growth. All of a sudden we find our talents and depths mirrored back to us in new ways. It’s been one of the most affirmative, challenging and eye opening experiences in my life as well. A bit short on space to go into detail, but similarly I dropped French before the end of High School, and a couple years later ended up a bilingual activist in Brussels of all places, and now I live in France. Thank you for keeping this dialogue open, I am delighted to see you online and look forward to following your wonderful blogging adventure!

  2. Thanks for sharing Justin … I had no idea. I know your story will impact many. Your vulnerability is honourable. Merci 🙂

Leave a Reply