By Matthew Hacker-Teper
Over Christmas, I went to New York City with my family. We had great time, eating, skating and site-seeing our way through the city. At the very end of the trip, we needed a taxi back to Newark Airport. We were picked up by one of the thousands of taxis in New York; you know the kind: yellow on the outside, black vinyl upholstery on the inside, video embedded into the back of the passenger seat and driven by someone born somewhere other than New York City.
On this day, our driver was particularly engaging. He had come to New York within the past year, from Camaroon. He has a brother and sister-in-law in Vancouver and is planning to visit them when he has the money. In the meantime, he is going to school to finish his training as a petroleum engineer. He has to drive at least 30 hours per week to be able to afford his food, rent and tuition so he operates his taxi 15 hours a day, two days per week. On the other days, he goes to school and studies. He shares an apartment in Manhattan because, although the rent is a bit higher than in the boroughs, it saves on transportation costs and time to and from the city. He is fluent in English and French. Taxi driving is a means to an end, to a career as an engineer.
I never asked our driver what his name was; but as I sat on the plane ride home, I couldn’t help but think about his story. He embodied what I believe:
I believe in hard work. There is no substitute, and it will almost always be rewarded. The best way to jump from a 5 to a 6, to build your resumé, or to make that next team is to work hard. Hard work is never a bad choice because, even if it does not lead to the original intended goal, it will always be respected and recognized. This is because hard work implies passion, effort and motivation, all of which are drivers of success. It is hard to define hard work; how much work is enough? I am not sure I can say how much work constitutes hard work but I believe it has something to do with always doing your best, always going that extra mile, feeling like you have given all that you have to give to the task at hand. I believe that if you really work hard, good things will come to you.
I believe that, in order to be your best, you have to put yourself into the best situation for the task at hand – whether that means immigrating to a foreign country in search of a better education, or leaving your friends for an hour to study. That usually means making choices, some of which are not easy. I believe in making the right choices even if that means going against popular beliefs or community pressures. I believe in making the choices that allow you to be and to become your best.
I believe in being like that Cameroonian taxi driver – in working hard and in making good choices to be the best you can be.
Matthew Hacker-Teper is an IB2 (Grade 12) student and academic steward at Upper Canada College. He is the co-chair of the World Affairs Conference and plays in the senior wind ensemble. He is also a peer tutor and a member of the entrepreneurial club. Matthew’s passions in school are science, math and economics. He hopes to study medicine and one day become a doctor.