The rise of Eric Evans has been decades in the making.
For the last two and a half years the 53-year-old has been working toward not just his high school graduation, but toward a better, more fulfilling life and a bigger contribution to a society in which he, admittedly, took a lot from in his youth.
“When I was a kid everything started really bad for me,” Evans explained. “So I did what anyone would do when life was that bad, I got into drugs.”
He wasn’t even 10 years old at that time.
“I was told that once you start doing drugs, you stopped maturing so basically I stopped maturing when I was seven or eight years old,” Evans said.
School had never been his strong suit — he was dyslexic, but didn’t find that out until he was in his mid-20s and still couldn’t read or write even his name.
About 10 years ago, however, he’d had enough.
“I started changing where I wanted to be in this world,” he said. “I knew I had to do something to make it worthwhile.”
A couple of years ago, he was given the opportunity to go back to school and he jumped on it.
The decision hasn’t disappointed.
“In the past two and a half years I’ve matured more than in the past 51 years,” he said.
But it was a long time coming.
“I worked at it and I’ve accomplished what I never thought I would be able to in getting my diploma. I always had that dyslexia thing over my head and didn’t want to put in the effort to even try.”
But then something incredible happened.
“When I did finally put in the effort and realized I was able to do it, I did amazing,” he said. “The teachers in the university here were unbelievable. They gave me the confidence to be able to do it and keep moving forward and if it wasn’t for them I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going.”
Evans received his high school diploma last week at Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus.
“I think what I needed was the right confidence from the right teacher and when I got that I felt like I was able to do it and the more I did, the more I was able to do.”
Now he’s on track, Evans has no plans to stop now.
“I’ve applied for a course in horticulture,” he explained.
His math score was not up to snuff though so he re-did the math class to increase his mark. He had the support of his math teacher at a meeting in Nanaimo with the head of the course, so things are looking good that he’ll be accepted, he said.
“To get a job where I’m making above the poverty line,” he said. “Most of my life I never worked, I never did anything. I was too busy wrapped up in my drug addiction that there was no actual even thinking about doing anything else. I got really comfortable in that kind of life.”
Evans said it’s a really big decision and it takes a completely different perspective to get off drugs.,
“All my life I’ve heard people say ‘I’m doing crime or I’m doing this because of the drugs.’ How I looked at it was the drugs didn’t do me. I was the one who went out and did the drugs. I am the one who went out and did the crime so that I could go do the drugs. It was my responsibility. I made that choice. Once I looked at it that way, I realized it was my choice to stop.”
But stopping drugs wasn’t enough to change his life he said. He also had to start something.
“Just because I stopped, it didn’t make things better. I had to make a choice that I had to do something to make things better. I really decided that I have to do this myself.”
Growing up, all he wanted was to go to work.
“It’s always been in my mind that’s what I wanted to do but through my life I felt that I couldn’t because I felt that my dyslexia will always have control of me and in some ways it still does. But I’m of an age now where it’s easier to move forward than when I was a kid.”
The future is bright for Evans now, and he feels his story is worth sharing in the event it inspires somebody else to change their lives too. All that hard work has been worth it, he said.
“I finally feel secure in what I’ll be doing. In my whole life I never have. I never believed I could do anything. I looked at the way people looked at me and I understand that I was not putting in an effort into society — I was just taking from society. Now I’ll be contributing.”