To This Day
“To This Day” is an animated poem written by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan to explain the profound, and long-lasting effects of bullying on an individual. The video has reached over 7 million views on YouTube and has gone viral all over the world. Shane was bullied as a kid, and was inspired to write this beautiful poem to speak to bullies and victims alike. Unlike other attempts to stop bullying, “To This Day” tells the story about his life experiences, and the experiences of others he knows. “My hope is that the video would reach some of the people who were just out there looking for something to get them through another day. When I wrote the poem two years ago and people started coming to me because they just needed to talk after hearing it, I realized this is not a Canadian problem, or an American Problem. It’s everywhere.” Shane explains.
The full interview with the poet can be found here: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2013/0221/To-this-day-Poet-talks-about-his-viral-animated-anti-bullying-video-video
Watch the video here, or read the poem below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY&feature=player_embedded
“To This Day”:
When I was a kid, I used to think that pork chops and karate chops were the same thing. And because my grandmother thought it was cute and because they were my favorite, she let me keep doing it. Not really a big deal. One day, before I realized fat kids were not designed to climb trees, I fell out of a tree. And bruised the right side of my body. I didn’t want to tell my grandmother about it, because I was afraid I’d get in trouble for playing somewhere that I shouldn’t have been. A few days later the gym teacher noticed the bruise and I got sent to the principal’s office. From there, I was sent to another small room with a really nice lady who asked me all kinds of questions about my life. I saw no reason to lie. As far as I was concerned, life was pretty good. I told her “whenever I’m sad, my grandmother gives me karate chops!”.
This led to a full scale investigation, and I was removed from the house for 3 days. Until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises. News of this silly little story quickly spread through the school, and I earned my first nickname. Pork Chop.
To this day, I HATE pork chops. I’m not the only kid who grew up this way…Surrounded by people who used to say that rhyme about sticks and stones. As if broken bones hurt more than the names we got called, and we got called them all. So we grew up believing no one would ever fall in love with us. That we’d be lonely forever and that we’d never meet someone to make us feel like the sun was something they built for us in their tool shed. So broken heart strings bled the blues as we tried to empty ourselves so we would feel nothing. Don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone! That an ingrown life is something surgeons can cut away, that there’s no way to metastasize.
It does. She was eight years old, our first day of grade three when she got called ugly. We both got moved back to the back of the class so we would stop get bombarded by spit balls, but the school halls were a battleground. Where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day, we used to stay inside for recess because outside was worse. Outside we’d have to rehearse running away or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there. In grade five they taped a sign to her desk that read beware of dog.
To this day, despite a loving husband; she doesn’t think she’s beautiful because of a birthmark that takes up a little less than half of her face. Kids used to say “she looks like a wrong answer that someone tried to erase but couldn’t quite get the job done.” And they’ll never understand that she’s raising two kids whose definition of beauty begins with the word mom. Because they see her heart before they see her skin, that she’s only ever always been amazing.
He was a broken branch grafted on to a different family tree. Adopted, but not because his parents opted for a different destiny. He was three when he became a mixed drink of one part left alone and two parts tragedy. Started therapy in 8th grade, had a personality made up of tests and pills, lived like the uphills were mountains and the downhills were cliffs. Four fifths suicidal, a tidal wave of anti-depressants and an adolescence of being called popper. One part because of the pills, and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty. He tried to kill himself in grade ten when a kid who still had his mom and dad had the audacity to tell him “get over it” as if depression is something that can be remedied by any of the contents found in a first aid kit.
To this day, he is a stick of TNT lit from both ends, could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends in the moments before it’s about to fall. And despite an army of friends who all call him an inspiration, he remains a conversation piece between people who can’t understand sometimes being drug free has less to do with addiction, and more to do with sanity. We weren’t the only kids who grew up this way.
To this day, kids are still being called names. The classics were “hey stupid”, “hey spaz”. Seems like each school has an arsenal of names getting updated each year, and if a kid breaks in a school, and no one around chooses to hear, do they make a sound? Are they just the background noise of a soundtrack stuck on repeat when people say things like “kids can be cruel?” Every school was a big top circus tent and the picking order went from acrobats to lion tamers, from clowns to carnies. All of those were miles ahead of who we were, we were freaks. Lobster claw boys and bearded ladies. Oddities… juggling depression and loneliness, playing solitaire, spin the bottle trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal. But at night, while the others slept, we kept walking the tightrope. It was practice, and yeah some of us fell. But I want to tell them that all of this is just debris leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought we used to be. And if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror. Look a little close, stare a little longer! Because there’s something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit. You built a cast around your broken heart, and you signed it yourself, you signed it “they were wrong”!
Because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a clique, maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything. Maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth to show and tell but never told. Because how can you hold your ground if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it? You have to believe that they were wrong! They have to be wrong. Why else would we still be here? We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them. We stem from a root planted in the belief that we are not what we were called. We are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway. And if in some way we are, don’t worry. We only got out to walk and get gas. We are graduating members from the class “we made it”. Not the faded echoes of voices crying out names will never hurt me. Of course they did. But our lives will only ever always continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain, and more to do with beauty.