Sitting across the table from Victoria resident Levi Gray, it’s clear the 22-year-old has become a different person over the last five years — he even has the evidence to prove it.
Gray, a former Vic High student, recently opened a personal reflection project he did under the guidance of his math teacher and mentor, Robert Ammon.
Written five years ago shortly after Gray graduated from Vic High, the letter contains the answers to 12 questions about his life philosophy, goals and general wellness, and was instructed only to open it after June 2016.
The project, which Gray admits he didn’t remember the answers to, came during a pivotal moment in his young life.
When Gray was younger, he and his sisters constantly moved around, making it difficult for him to make friends. As a result, he had a lot of social anxiety and often found he didn’t want to go to school.
“As a kid, I was really shy. I spent a lot of the time at lunch eating alone and that was kind of the way I was living my life,” he said.
“There were periods in my life where I felt I couldn’t make friends and had anxiety around that.”
That anxiety began to be reflected in his grades. He started skipping class, missing as many as 50 classes in his Grade 8 year at Dunsmuir Middle School.
Things remained the same during his first few years of high school. Gray was resigned to the fact that he would go into trades, more specifically, carpentry, just like most of the people in his family.
However, one day Gray woke up and decided this was not the life he wanted to live.
He decided to get his attendance in school back on track, and wanted to enrol in more math and science classes to eventually become an accountant.
“I wanted better for myself,” he said.
Almost every day after school, Ammon would help Gray with math, with some study sessions going as late as 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Eventually his hard work paid off. Gray’s grades improved significantly and he was accepted into the University of Victoria’s bachelor of commerce program, from which he graduated from last summer.
Gray’s social life, one he admits is still a work in progress, has improved as well. In post-secondary he joined a swing dance club, squash club and volunteered with the university’s student society.
Last week, Gray opened the letter, which painted a very different picture of the person he is today.
“When I was reading my letter, it was overwhelming. I even got a little teary eyed. I’m really grateful for making that decision and meeting my teacher. I changed from being someone that thought that my life was determined by other people,” he said.
“Ever since then, I’ve worked on things that challenge me or doing things that six or seven years ago I never would have done.”
Gray hopes his story will inspire others to complete their own personal reflection projects, as a way for people to set goals for themselves.
As for Gray, he is working to become a chartered professional accountant.